EU

When IT is from Mars, and the business is from Venus

IT and rest of the organisation are still at loggerheads says an analyst who feels more like a psychologist trying to get the two to talk.

Despite years of trying to fix the relationship between the IT organisation and the rest of business, communication and understanding between the two remains patchy.

IT doesn't share the same priorities and doesn't use the same metrics as the rest of the business, which can lead to conflicts, said Eveline Oehrlich, vice president at Forrester Research.

"We have been talking about IT alignment for years but it doesn't just happen you have to do something. The conversations we have with IT are very technical; business doesn't understand server uptime so the alignment [needs to be] around communication too," she said, speaking at CA Technologies' customer conference in Las Vegas.

"Unfortunately more clients come to us and say 'Our IT department has a reputation for saying no', she said, and added: "What I feel like as an analyst is a psychologist in helping people get better at connecting."

IT needs to work on alignment with the rest of the organisation, accountability and agility, she warned: "Agility means we need to do things faster - and not maintenance only."

Some IT organisations have worked hard on bridging the gap. At the same event John Watkins director of programme management services at Intermountain Healthcare explained: "I don't see any big initiatives that don't involve IT.

"It's important for us to be able to present to business in a way they can understand. We are trying to drive more and more of our capacity towards transformational projects . It's important for us to try to bridge the gap and to say that we are part of the business."

Part of this, he said, involved talking to business units to build a strategic plan for their tech needs: "We want to behave like an external service provider - to be a source of consultancy and decision support," he said.

TechRepublic attended CA World as a guest of CA Technologies.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

13 comments
Imprecator
Imprecator

That I find your lack of alignment disturbing....

Fairbs
Fairbs

It doesn't seem that difficult to me. You basically have two work streams: sustaining current systems and projects. If 90% of your resources are necessary to sustain then only 10% can be used to move the business forward. Managers higher in the organization than IT get to decide how this ratio works out. A progressive company may have a 30% (sustain) /70% (projects) split while most are probably more like 70/30 or worse. And then it's no wonder IT is the Department of No. I'd like to add that these days there are very few projects that don't have an IT component. And if you find a project that doesn't involve IT, you've probably overlooked something. IT should be part of planning every project and I don't think this is happening. So a project gets started and at some point it is realized that IT is necessary. Again, is it any wonder that IT gets tagged with the Department of No? How does that phrase go... Your lack of planning is not my emergency

GreyTech
GreyTech

An important part of a BIAs job is to work with the business managers and IT to help the business manager with the cost justification; that includes the feedback from IT about the resources needed/available and the timescale to implement. If the business manager cannot demonstrate the cost justification then it should not be done but it is a business decision not an IT decision.

Imprecator
Imprecator

Ah yes, dealt with those before, pretty good at telling IT how much the business needs the solution they (the BIAs) came up with ready TOMORROW (when they decided that YESTERDAY), pretty bad at telling the business how much that is going to cost.

pointedhead
pointedhead

It always looks like IT is the problem. Could business listen little bit and stop pretending IT is not their business at all? IT constraints are reality and the sense of system is to substitute disorder and chaos. Will it ever be acceptible for marketing manager? Guess never.

GreyTech
GreyTech

Then there will be conflict. IT is only needed to support the business. Business needs IT to process the information in a secure and timely manner. What information is needed and why it the prerogative of the business managers. Some of the information that needs to be processed is statutory, like keeping records for tax purposes, but most is to help with the profitability of the business. One half of the problem is that business managers often do not understand what information is available or how it could be useful to improve or maintain profitability in a competitive environment. The other half is that IT do not understand the business and the information that they are processing. This is where competent "Business Information Architects" are needed. They need to understand how the business works, how to store, structure and retrieve the information and how to communicate this to the business managers and IT. Only when this is done can the business managers understand how this might affect the profitability and therefore make a cost justification to add to or change their requirements from IT. Only then will peace reign between Business manager and IT.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

People like you have being saying this for decades. Nothing has changed. Don't suppose that you've considered that maybe, just maybe the problem isn't wholly down to IT. That in order for IT to align themselves, business has to have done something first. Just a thought... I know blame IT, and keep blaming IT is nice and easy especially if the bulk of your natural audience is the wallies who keep changing their minds on what they thought they said they thought they meant some time ago, but surely you should have realised that this approach had achieved nothing useful, ever.

Imprecator
Imprecator

IT and the Business are and always will be at loggerheads because the Business has decided long ago that IT is a liability. When the IT department is known as the "Department of No" it's usually because it's implementing the policies Upper Management wants, WITH THE COSTS UPPER MANAGEMENT WANTS, period. Of course, Upper Management prefers to look the other way when users complain. After all, if they didn't, they'd have to explain why IT is the "Department of No" The usual negotiation tactic the business uses is "we want it all, we want it now and we ain't going to pay for it. If you don't like, it we'll outsource you to the nearest cloud provider" (yes, it used to be India, now it's the cloud). Under those circumstances the only possible venue for negotiation is a Zero-Sum game, it has always been and will remain so for the forseeable future. Treating it otherwise is foolish.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Just the latest in a long line of articles saying exactly the same thing. Decades of them. The cynic in me wonders, given the target audience for this garbage is non IT managers (many of whom manage IT), one wonders if the message "it's all those IT peoples fault" is deliberate. The standard get paid well for telling them what they want to hear, management consultant approach..

Imprecator
Imprecator

Sure, the powers that be can say "we want the IT operations/projects ratio to be 30/70", what usually happens is that they add "and we need IT spending to remain the same" (if you're lucky) or "be reduced by 30%". Of course, since Operations are usually fixed costs, you can't simply reduce those costs magically. You can argue until you are blue about restructuring IT to be more efficient regarding operations, but: A) Restructuring WILL COST MONEY, who's going to pay for it? I'd glady bet 10 to 1 that the Business will refuse. B) Assuming that thanks to some miracle you manage to reduce OPEX by 30% without any impact to availability and Department response time, I find it very hard to believe that it will be sustainable.in the mid/long term. C) SInce the Business usually considers that IT is a cost center, they can (and usually do) simply regard all IT expenses (including proyects) as OPEX. So, of course where does that leave projects? What usually happens is that you end up cutting operations costs to the bone, have employees going around, each one doing the work of three people and have to devote "70% of their time" to projects. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt. In this business the house always wins.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Did you pay any attention to it? ie. When IT threw up a series of foolish objections, high costs etc, did that gets shrugged off as them not being aligned. Or does that judgement get postponed until after the wheels had come off?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Tell me these business information archictects, do they work for the business or IT. BIA's are not a solution to real problem. There is no split between IT and Business, it's the imposition of the foolish divide that is the real problem.

Imprecator
Imprecator

Two guys meet in the desert, the first asks the second: "excuse me, where am i?" The second one answers "in the desert". The first guy says "you must be an engineer" - "Yes I am, how did you know?" - "I asked you a question and your answer was absolutely truthful but totally useless" The second guy says - "You must be a manager" - "Yes I am, how did you know?" - "Before you met me, you didn't know where you were or where you were going, after you met me, you are in the same situation, but now you say it's my fault". The only difference is that in IT, the Manager ALWAYS thinks IT lies.

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