So it’s no news to anyone that the marriage between business and IT is here to stay, but companies still struggle to make the partnership truly successful. Like it or not, communication is king. It’s time to really get to know each other.
…Information Technology (IT) and business are undeniably interdependent yet there exists a perceived gap between technology and most other business units. Whether it is a difference in perception, culture, language, goals, or any combination thereof, the gap impacts both the IT business unit and the corporation as a whole.
Why does this gap between the business arm in a company and information technology exist? According to David Rettig, LAN Administrator for the engineering design firm Burgess & Niple in Ohio, the reasons can include :
- A perception by business people that the Information Technology Department generates expenses not income
- Information Technology Departments tend to look for the cheapest solution to a business problem rather than the most effective solution. This leads to systems being implemented that often cause problems for the users.
- The Information technology department is “hidden” from the customer often classified as a “back office” business initiative or process.
- Information Technology people tend to communicate in computerese. Business and IT speak different languages.
- A perception by business people that business and IT have different goals.
In many companies people who work in the Information Technology Department are often viewed as not knowing what’s really going on within the rest of the business. Whether accurate or misinformed this perception is damaging to the health and well-being of a business.
…. Companies today have the challenging task of seamlessly integrating technology and business into their operations. Business information technology is integral in business improvement and reaching business goals. Managing business technology, learning how to improve business with new technology, and the technology development process can make or break a company.
Communication is the main ingredient that will close the gap between Company Exec’s and the
IT Department. Business leaders must understand, really understand, that Information Technology is not optional but critical to the success of the business.
The head of the company sets the tone for the entire business.
To increase communication between business units and Information Technology, leadership can begin by identifying business processes that can be improved by technology to increase the bottom line. This shows the entire company that the leadership considers IT initiatives an important and essential part of the company.
In addition IT department teams need to understand the business practices of the company.
… Leaders today need to understand business technology management, recognize barriers to effective communication when explaining business IT solutions, and possess project management skills.
To feel comfortable about what may seem to be unreasonable expenditures for information systems both business executives and information technology personnel should look at the cost based on long term business goals rather than the initial expense. With proper planning, the implementation of a new system can solve immediate processing problems in the short run and increase the bottom line in the long run.
Rettig suggests that initiating cross training is one way to reduce the distance between business and IT.
… Cross training is a loaded concept and most technologists will be specialists with years of training in their chosen field. This does not mean that IT professionals should be able to do another job; however they can understand another job. Expose technologists to other business units. The Cisco engineer does not have to know how to put together a marketing presentation; however, they should know that the marketing department puts together a presentation- regularly. Conversely, the CFO does not need to know how to implement upgrades, just why it is important.
To enhance the lines of communication between the two departments Rettig also suggests that business personnel:
- Go to a TechNet presentation
- Go to a Cisco seminar for the technologist
- Sit in through a technical web presentation
- Invite the technologist to business luncheons
- Pay for an accounting or business class
- Let the system administrator sit in on a budget meeting with the CFO
Those of you who have been through this process know what an internal “cross-training” meeting can look like; IT people sitting on one side of a conference table, business people sitting on the other, a lot of light, nervous chatter, each group looking at each other as if they were members from another planet wondering who was going to be the first person to slip up and say something wrong.
For a company to really be successful, regular business/IT meetings should be held with everyone understanding that the success of the business is everyone’s goal and concern.