[Note: When referring to “Business” here, with a capital “B,” we’re referring to business people and associated business leadership. When employing a small “b,” we mean “the business” such as business practice…]
Frequently, in the course of my travels and counsel, I hear from Business: Our IT team just doesn’t get it. We discuss and deliver requirements in good faith, but it’s still a struggle getting what we want and need in order to conduct sound business. IT constantly asks for more money, and even so, we don’t see a direct correlation to better fits with the dispense of more dollars…
As frequently, I hear the IT side: Business makes unreasonable demands, they “don’t get it,” they ask the impossible. The impossible includes demands for robust solutions and supports on miniscule budgets (in IT’s estimation), demands for programs that support the most hapless users, programs that make business “mistake proof” (here, even I must say – this is not possible, of course), and naturally there’s always that most venerable of complaints: They want everything immediately.
Something’s got to give, and you know what I say? I say it’s… IT. Why? IT is a service endeavor. IT wouldn’t have anything to do without a business to support. Even a tech company has a business element, and a technical, IT, element.
But also, in a world with no perfect parity, something’s got to give in – and again, that’s IT. But that doesn’t mean that IT is a doormat. A good IT leader, and associated department, knows how to manage Business – and “the” business of getting things done and into service.
It is IT’s job to figure out what Business wants and certainly what Business needs – by listening, communicating, digging – by engaging. If IT comes away from the table without all requirements, exposure of needs, and understanding of Business expectations, then IT has to go back in and get these things. Sometimes it can be difficult, and it’s going to require tact and patience. However, for best success, you have to smash ambiguity. Smash it with a velvet hammer, though. As difficult as it may be to pin Business down, it will be far more painful in the long run if you don’t.
Only a qualified understanding of business will allow IT to partner on the alignment of support to business. Remember that, in addition to IT’s place at the planning and execution tables, IT can and must actively survey business. Ask Business what it wants! The simple survey will yield needs from the bottom of the organization on up. Depending on your organization’s size, you will decide whether to issue a survey on a regularized basis, or to do a survey based on other triggers. It’s always wise to survey the organization prior to large-scale change. It’s also good to survey where the organization is in terms of level of comfort with present business tools, and to assess training needs. IT can then sit down with supervisors and business managers to help plan strategies and best progressions.
Realize that if you’ve established credibility, and achieved sanction in the past, you stand your best chances for success. If you’re in a challenging business environment, and you feel there’s a gap in understanding on Business’ part, with possible negative outcomes to the organization, then concentrate on “doing what you can do.” Communicate concerns to the appropriate level. Be decent throughout: It’s your reputation – your own personal and professional #1 asset – maintain it.
Therefore, be certain to go through channels, and don’t skip levels of authority. At any level where there’s a major sticking point, advise the necessary parties that you’d like to involve the next higher authority. Communication is key.
If you, as an IT person, hit a wall with a concern, then your duty is to carefully go on record with your view of potential negative outcomes. You’ve done what you can. The point here is that IT must tactfully come back to the table, again and yes again, in the good faith, fully informed, and engagement-ready posture that is imperative in a professional IT team. Today, there are security liabilities that simply make “going along to get along” an unwise practice in delivering the necessary business returns.
The exception would be knowledge of illegal or bad-faith business activities – those issues have discreet channels for resolution, beginning with your internal Human Resources team.
For now, IT must recognize their point position in aligning business and technology for secure, effective, business outcomes.
NP: Unsquare Dance, Dave Brubeck, jazz24.org