With technology playing a major role today in almost every aspect of the business environment, it is imperative for business and technology to be aligned with one another in order to ensure the success and growth of the enterprise. This may sound vague but as the old adage goes, it is easier said than done. There are many instances where business management and IT are not seeing eye to eye on key technology decisions. One of the most common areas of disconnect between business and IT is the perception discrepancy between the expectations of management on how certain technologies work and the realities of technology implementation as experienced by IT personnel, even if on paper the technology is designed to purportedly meet the requirements of the business. Such disconnect also causes financial challenges as well, given how such tech entails significant costs.
It is important to strengthen the cooperation between the two teams, considering each other as partners in conceiving effective technology solutions for the enterprise. However, some organizations are seeing their business and IT teams working in separate silos which only serves to hinder the organization’s overall technology efforts.
So how can relations between business management and IT be improved upon? Marcin Gosiewski of InfoQ has identified 10 key steps organizations should take in order to create a more aligned enterprise:
1. Focus on the relationship – Organizations should strive to build a healthy relationship, particularly between management and IT department, and also between the IT department and other teams. Regular communication is essential to build and maintain a healthy relationship and all teams should be open to feedback, especially if it is about the effectiveness of a particular technology for a particular team as well as how it is suited for their work or otherwise.
2. Avoid stereotypes – For those on the outside, IT personnel are often seen, to the point of denigration unfortunately, as “code monkeys”- people who just see code and can't understand customer needs. It is important to treat one another with respect and appreciation of what each team is doing instead of being condescending.
3. Focus on requirements – Stakeholders should take time to look at the system and personnel requirements of the technology to be adapted. If the enterprise is keen on adapting such technology, management and IT should drill down on the specific requirements and work on ensuring the systems meet the required standards and the personnel are knowledgeable enough that they are ready to adopt the new technology.
4. Choose the right team and communication style - Regular and clear communication is the key to ensure the success of any project, particularly one that involves technology. So it is important to tap the right people who know how to facilitate effective communication between business and IT.
5. Involve developers at an early stage – As the people who are most knowledgeable about the technology that is planned to be implemented in the organization, it is important to have software developers involved early in the adoption process who will guide the organization in effectively utilizing the technology and troubleshoot any issues that may arise during the transition period.
6. Concentrate on fast feedback – Immediate feedback is critical in ensuring that the technology is working as intended for the organization and that issues are immediately addressed either by troubleshooting the issues or replacing it with a different technology. This also helps save the business considerable time and resources that would have been wasted if such issues were not addressed on the onset.
7. Avoid changing fundamental requirements – It is an unfortunate reality that sometimes, managers tend to make changes on a whim without realizing the work that would be needed to make that change. Moreso if the aspect that managers wanted to be changed is a deliberate one made by IT as it is deemed to be efficient and cost-effective. As such, it is important to keep in mind to never make any changes unless there is a compelling reason to do so, such as performance issues, and that such a change has been signed off by everyone involved, especially in the technology side.
8. Use Agile methodology – Adapting the Agile methodology allows businesses to work on projects more swiftly and efficiently while allowing a great deal of flexibility to make changes or change direction along the way, ensuring the organization can meet the changing demands of the business and the environment as a whole.
9. Encourage investment in new technologies – Some businesses are wary of investing in new technology due to costs or failing to see the values such new technology offers. As such, IT must be able to convey the value of new technology and how it benefits the business in terms of efficiency as well as potential revenue, with the time and cost savings they potentially bring to the table.
10. Share technological advice – IT leaders should not hesitate to share the latest breakthrough technologies that can benefit the organization. More importantly, they should be ready to share their insights on what and how things can be done better, especially in terms of efficiency.
Technology is essential to achieve a competitive market advantage. If the business is keen on achieving this market advantage, it is important to build and foster close cooperation and understanding between the IT and business teams. A close business-IT alignment unlocks a wealth of opportunities for the business as it is able to adapt to the constantly evolving business and technological landscape, if not be at the forefront of it.