Monday, June 17, 2024

Fixing the Disconnect Between IT and Business

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In a recent study published by A.T. Kearney, the need for alignment

between IT and the rest of the organization was brought up yet again.

Their research shows there still is a disconnection between IT and the

business side. The Kearney study provides some very interesting contrasts

between IT and business perspectives — how IT aids the business and

makes some sound suggestions.

First and foremost, why is alignment an ongoing issue?

There is nothing special about IT, but the problem lies in the fact that

business people feel — either rightly or wrongly — that a

communications barrier lies in between. People who aren’t in IT are

intimidated by that.

Plain and simple, an organization must have an objective. The various

groups should then have objectives that clearly assist organization in

achieving these objectives. IT must aid the business in the attainment of

these objectives by adding value or mitigating risks. If it isn’t

assisting in the creation of value or the mitigation of risks, then there

is no reason for IT to exist.

This is problematic, to say the least, as organizations run, if not

exist, based on the management of information. It is inconceivable that

IT can not help a modern organization of any significant size.

One of the points made in the study is that 50 percent of the business

would adopt immature technology, as opposed to only 30 percent of IT. To

IT people, the idea of unstable products that risk failure is currently

an anathema.

Do you know why the business is so anxious to be early adopters? It’s

because they are the business — they know where the entity needs

competitive advantages and can trade off initial implementation and

projected operations costs, plus risks, as they perceive them. Some

business people do a far better job at this than others, while a

short-sighted few figure they don’t have to worry about ongoing support

costs and risks as they can ‘throw the pig over the wall’ for IT to

maintain if worse comes to worse.

This type of bad logic exemplifies how one area can be optimized at the

expense of others or even the overall entity. The systemic consideration

is that the implementation must to be gauged by true benefits to the

organization versus overall costs and risks to the company. Organizations

will be well-served to have in place metrics and periodic reviews of

implemented projects to ensure that promised benefits and costs are

within acceptable limits over time.

Structurally, no matter what is said or done, if an organization allows

IT to operate as an external non-integrated unit from the business, then

IT will frequently fail to deliver needed solutions because it

fundamentally is not part of the business.

When we look again at the numbers regarding IT’s relative avoidance of

adopting immature technology, we must bear in mind what happened during

the dot-com boom. IT shops largely bought into new technologies. Ignore

expense and risk, we must be cutting edge! But when the promised benefits

never materialized, IT suffered a scathing backlash After that, its no

wonder IT tends to shy away from risky endeavors due to uncertain

benefits and unknown impacts.

To have proper alignment moving forward, risky decisions must be made

with the business — not just IT. There need to be hard discussions about

costs, benefits, risks and mitigation strategies from all of the

stakeholders in order to arrive at the proper decision.

IT can not afford to be one step removed from the business. It must be

integrated to the point that there are IT personnel embedded in the

business, working hand in hand with their business colleagues. These

people should be hired because of their technology, business and

communication skills.

Together, the business and IT can make a radical difference. IT must

evolve from a model that emphasizes pushing technology at the business to

one that works with the business.

In closing, the A.T. Kearney report has many interesting insights in it.

Both IT and business leaders are encouraged to read the study and

carefully review how they can improve their utilization of IT to truly

make a difference.

People who read the report should consider what causes the alignment

problem, and what must be overcome in order for IT to be part of the

business. They also should identify, implement and support technology to

be successful.

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