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IT to Business Gap

By hassanbackeer ·
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Dear all,

I am currently conducting a research on the IT to Business Gap - this is part of my final thesis for my MBA. I know that there has been a number of such researches in the past, however, my 18+ years of experience both in IT and Business gives me a different perspective on things. Most of these researches provide an "Aspirin" to the symptoms and none provide a true solution working on the root cause of the problem. This is where I believe my research will have a different perspective as I aim to provide a solution to the root cause of the problem. As such I need the support of both IT and Business professionals. I intend to make the results of my research and my thesis available for free to everyone as a community service. As such I need your feedback on the topic. Please email your views as to why do you think such a gap exists and is it because of IT professionals or is it because of the business itself? Any comments or views submitted will be referenced accordingly. If you are interested in participating in this research please email me on

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could you define 'gap'

by mla_ca520 In reply to IT to Business Gap

I'm an IT Business Analyst for a local government and I operate a small business providing subscription based computer maintenance to small and medium sized businesses.

What first comes to mind with your question is that I would like clarification on what you mean by IT to business gap. I don't mean to be difficult, but it seems to me that your question is too broad and non-specific to provide a platform for a meaningful conversation.

My observation, from my work experience, is that there isn't so much an IT to business gap, or HR to business gap, etc... as a departmental culture to departmental culture gap.

I think it boils down to human nature and a mis-understanding or complete lack of knowledge of what our co-workers in other departments actually do and the value they provide.

Each department has its own requirement/s which are based on it's specific business mission within the organization. There are times when the needs of the financial department will necessarily come into conflict with the needs of the IT department or possibly even the HR department.

Imagine a scenario where IT has discovered a rash of dozens of infected computers on the network and in response, network ports are blocked to minimize the risk of proprietary data being sent to outside servers.

An unfortunate side effect is that a financial application is temporarily non-functional, due to its requirement that a certain port be open for accessing a remote server maintained by the state. The finance department is under pressure and on a tight deadline to finish this job, but IT is tasked with maintaining the safety of the company's data. Given several recently publicized data breaches, the IT Dept. is all but completely unwilling to lift its netowork restrictions until the threat has been identified and neutralized.

An impasse has been reached and both sides are right, but unless they both pause to really understand the other department's needs and requirements, they will never get past the conflict and find a solution.

Finance will end up feeling that IT is "always standing in the way of our jobs being complete." IT will feel that finance is "always trying to end run our security will they feel if we lose a terabyte of proprietary data?"

The problem could have undoubtedly have been addressed and a solution found by both sides engaging in a meaningful dialogue. This sort of situation isn't limited to IT / (other departments) though.

Imagine a situation where the marketing department has seen a number of their most talented staff leave for 'greener pastures.' This happened in the middle of an important and time sensitive marketing development project. Managers in the department have identified new employees and three temporary consultants who can start work next week, allowing the project to stay on track.

HR policy, which was approved by the board of directors a year earlier in the middle of a financial crunch, states that all new hires whether temporary, permanent or as contractors must be approved by two members of senior management and a budgetary analysis demonstrating the department's ability to pay the employees must be provided.

Neither of these requirement can be fulfilled for two weeks as all but one senior manager are out of town on last minute emergency business and the department's budget changes have been "approved" via phone but not officially. Both situations will require a notarized signature of two senior managers, which won't be possible in time for the new hires to begin work and keep the project on track.

The problem comes when a culture is created where departments aren't able to make decisions about policy when needed. It is a break down in communication and in this case, HR will feel frustrated, because marketing is trying to get around the rules that everyone else has to follow, while marketing will feel that HR is purposefully thwarting a critical campaign in service of paper pushing.

I don't know if that helps, but I think that the field is wide open for interpretation on your question and I think it might be a good idea to narrow the range of interpretations available, so that you don't get something a mile wide and an inch deep, but rather can receive some deep and innovative input as the dialogue continues.

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Thanks for the reply

by hassanbackeer In reply to could you define 'gap'

Thanks for your reply. What I am referring to with the GAP is the actual involvement of IT at the business strategic planning level. In most organizations (of course there are exceptions) IT management is not involved in the strategic business planning of the business. IT is seen as a service department and the notion is: Why should they be involved in planning? As a result, IT do not have the overall picture of the business. As a matter of fact research has shown that most IT staff are not aware of the business vision and mission nor of the business goals. Basically IT views IT systems from a systematic perspective while they need to see it from the business perspective. This can only be done by getting them involved in the business itself. Here is an example, I did a survey to 150 IT pros as to what they believe is the main objective of a CRM system. The result was that about 95% said that it is to effectively manage customer accounts. However, from a business perspective, the objective of a CRM is to enhance sales and quality of service via better customer relationship management.

This is the GAP. In a recent Gartner report, this gap is the cause of almost two thirds of business intelligence investments going to waste. The reason for this gap is two folds (As I see it). First, IT pros generally do not have the required business acumen as they are technically focused. Thus they isolate themselves from the business. Second, the business management itself perceives IT as techies only. They also see them as hard to deal with and to communicate with. The result is a gap getting wider and wider and as such IT investments ROI is going down.

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There needs to be a gap

by aidemzo_adanac In reply to Thanks for the reply

I've worked for many businesses where IT has far too big of a hold on business decisions, thus IT decisions result in poor business decisions. I have also worked with businesses where the opposite is true, business managers don't heed recommendations of IT.

There needs to be a solid, very bold line drawn between the two. I have yet to meet ANYONE in IT that really knows a good business model, and that includes people who run successful IT based businesses. They succeed based on their IT knowledge, not business prowess.

Just like when IT was still in high demand and was seen as a unique skill set.
At that time, telecom was becoming VoIP focused and many GOOD business telephone companies provided VoIP PBX's at top dollar. It companies jumped on the bandwagon, Avaya, 3-Com, Linksys etc. and all had a cheap VoIP solution, it was absolute rubbish though, most still are. They know IT but haven't got a CLUE about business telecom needs. Their hardware offered features that were useless to business while eliminating features that were mandatory needs. As it seemed no IT departments had a clue either, they jumped in and recommended their favorite hardware suppliers (3-Com's etc.) with no knowledge as to where they failed so miserably.

Companies invested thousands only to receive endless complaints from users who were the actual revenue generators for the business (keeping in mind that IT staff are an company expense not a revenue generator for most businesses). They couldn't work as efficiently and it cost the company in lost revenue.

After a year or so, they all went back to the old, tried tested and true telecom providers, such as Nortel and NEC/Nitsuko. Regardless of replacement cost, the solutions worked and business increased again.

In those cases, IT having a handhold in business resulted in misinformation due to personal favoritism toward providers, which is business 'no-no' #1.

I've seen it many times, CRM solutions, back end solutions, hardware solutions etc. Where IT is called upon to resolve a business need and fails miserably, while thinking they've done great.

There are different mindsets in any company. Sales and marketing staff should be free spirits, creative out of the box thinkers. IT is best suited for linear, regimental mindsets, with an ability to provide creative solutions too of course. AR and AP needs to have a mathematical, methodical and calculated mindset, etc. Cross training is imperative in many cases to be used in an emergency situation, but people need to realize that all companies must choose people who will be a benefit for their direct role.

A business owner needs to employ people that do things better than he/she can. Surrounding yourself with specific skill sets ensures you have the best tools on hand at all times.

This concept that anything technical MUST be an IT decision is flawed and proven fruitless over and over again.

It is a different mindset, different job focus, different daily role etc. How one believes it can take over for the other is laughable.

the audacity of an IT manager to believe he/she can do other people's work as well as they can, or better is ridiculous. How about you get the receptionist to update the server, how about the shipper starts desktop support or the CEO and CFO deploy a new multisite CRM solution?

Now you are laughing at the though of it but turn the tables, the same is just a much of a joke to them. If you are an IT manager with an MBA, that' sone exception, other than that, people need to focus on the roles they are trained and skilled at, instead of just looking for a new way to justify their own existence.

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Thank You

by hassanbackeer In reply to There needs to be a gap

Thanks guys for your replies. Much appreciated

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I did a survey to 150 IT pros

by aidemzo_adanac In reply to Thanks for the reply

The result was that about 95% said that it is to effectively manage customer accounts. However, from a business perspective, the objective of a CRM is to enhance sales and quality of service via better customer relationship management. "

no shock there. I've worked for a guy who was brilliant in software engineering, he had countless degrees from all over Europe and North America for various computer engineering and sciences.

He thought he could run a business, base don book knowledge and not natural ability. He thought he could manage a sales team, again from book knowledge.

he kept quoting stuff that I'd heard 20 years before, as if it was groundbreaking info. I used to chuckle and tell him which author and book he'd read it in before going on to say that same professional had written later books that had completely different views, as people and markets change, so does the business approach... or at least it should.

Your CRM comments is the same as the VoIP results I mentioned in my other reply.

This "gap" yo speak of exists in EVERY role with a business. people have unique and specialized abilities, that's why they are chosen for their role. TO think that those roles can be shared, just because someone in It THINKS they have a better idea, is just a result of inexperience. We all have better ideas on how to run OUR OWN companies but that's not what you are employed for.

I have been on both sides, IT and business management, personally IT has a lot less responsibility and was a lot more fun but just not captivating enough for me as a long term career. On the business side, I lost sleep, felt like crap, had health issues etc. I'm not one to worry, anyone here knows I have a 'don't give a damn' attitude toward the menial things in life. When I had 300 people's future in my hands, things change fast though and there was no IT person, no matter how many certs and ideas he/she had, that I would have gone to for help in that role. It was only my own knowledge, experience and business acumen that guided me along, with the specific support of people I had hired who excelled in their specific roles.

Damn right there's a gap and needs to be. It narrowed in the 90's as people started to believe that IT staff were the company's future. Now that gap is widening again as people realize that, even good, IT staff are a dime a dozen, like accountants, receptionists, sales staff, warehouse staff etc.

IT staff have a valued skill set, by trying to broaden that into business management, business will see less and less value in IT staff and wages will drop off the scale even further.

I don't think a lot of IT staff realize that by doing more, they are essentially setting themselves up to be valued less. Maybe that's ANOTHER reason the business to IT gap needs to be there. just because you understand CRM software management, doesn't mean you know how or why to implement or use it.

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If you are going to base your thesis on Gartner speak

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Thanks for the reply

it's probably going to be accepted, but achieve nothing. They've been pandering to business since day one. Their message to business leaders has never changed, it's not your fault, it's ITs.
Never once has it occurred to any of these issue dodging ego masseurs, that it's business leaders who are meant to lead.

Ask yourself this, why is Gartners never ending BS, so successful?
Why have so many businesses failed so often to have an aligned IT function?
The answer is dead simple, alignment has never been a goal management want!
All it is, is a scape goat generator.
Busines tells me develop product X, I do it. Then it turns out they didn't really want that, or they no longer want it, and it's my fault for isolating myself from the business, for not having the right acumen, for being difficult to communicate with.

I call BS, you walk in mid project, after expectations are set, reputations staked and tell them we are wasting money. At best, they'll try and rescue what is now a bad idea, most of the time they'll proceed on regardless, knowing they can quote Gartner and blame you for doing what they said they wanted.

The so called gap exists because it's convenient, occasionally for IT types, but way more often for management.

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I think communication and education are essential

by mla_ca520 In reply to IT to Business Gap

While I agree with many observations by aidemzo_adanac, I don't think your question was moving towards giving IT the decision making role. Rather I think your question was aimed at including IT in the discussion and decision making process.

I think this is important and I think your point about IT folks lacking business acumen is apt. I don't claim to be an accountant, however, if I'm going to support our accounting staff on our financial software, it is important for me to understand what our accountants do (perform a business process analysis).

Once I have an understanding of their business process and goal/s, I am able to participate in meaningful conversation pertaining to new software purchases, I am able to make recommendations about software enhancements that might benefit my customer. IT needs to understand the business needs of its customers just as any other business does.

Without the ability to understand customer needs and react to those needs, IT isn't useful. Many departments will simply go around IT and seek out their own tech solutions, because IT is viewed as an obstacle.

IT should be expected to learn about the business they are supporting, learn about what their customers (meaning IT's customers) are trying to accomplish and how IT can support that effort.

We ought to be in the business of customer service...applying our technical expertise to providing superior service.

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