The Business-Technology Weave

Aug 12 2011   12:30PM GMT

BUSINESS AND IT, Pt. I: Who does what, why, and when?

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott



It’s been said that understanding what things are like

is a large step toward understanding what things are.



I kinda like these multi-part posts.  I think we’ll embark on a ride comprising more than a Pt. I and Pt. II… perhaps even beyond a Pt. III!  I know what you’re thinking… is he crazy?  Can we hang?  Yes, yes… I’m crazy.   :^)


But to get down to it:  In many business-technology endeavors there blooms a confusion as to who should do what.  This is especially true when going down a new and unfamiliar path.  Business frequently thinks that anything involving a technical support structure means that most of the responsibility and activity belongs in the IT department. 


In fact, I’m aware of some folks who just procured and implemented a new Association Management System (AMS).  It can work “out of the box,” and is also fully customizable – and the aforementioned folks have made a sizable investment in crafting a hand-in-glove fit to business. 


It’s meant to run the whole show:  Customer Records Management (CRM), membership, registration, meetings, products, purchases, enrollments, training, publications (an online bookstore, too), financials, eCommerce – it’s their whole business, their whole world…


And yet… many of the staff treat the AMS as if it’s “IT’s database.”  That’s incredibly limited thinking.  Worse, business staff consider data security and integrity an IT problem.  That is wrong:  Everyone is responsible for security and integrity of data.  End user security responsibilities are fairly obvious:  Don’t lose laptops, portable drives, flash drives, etc.  As to integrity, business has this issue at their very fingertips:  Don’t make unauthorized exposures online; data solicitation and entry must be responsible and accurate; reports parameters and outputs must be true, and so on.


In the aforementioned case, some staff are maintaining their own records in MS-Access apps and databases.  So-called “parallel” systems are always an obvious, and old, violation of best practices.  It’s rather incredible, given the capital investment in the business-sanctioned AMS.


Conversely, IT frequently thinks that Business should be responsible for some things which in fact are better reserved for IT’s exercise and judgment.  We know there is a mutual dependency, but when are lines appropriate and where do we draw them?  What answers does The Business-Technology Weave yield? 


In the coming days, we’ll look at a couple examples that will highlight some areas – starting with what I call The Filing Cabinet Analogy, in Part II.  (Ah… that’s where that quote at the top comes in…).  Subsequently, we’ll discuss a simple way to illuminate any area for solution.  You will then be able to employ this model to answer your own questions in cases where you’re proceeding onto unfamiliar ground, and unsure as to where to place specific activity and responsibility: 


Is a specific thing all IT’s burden?  All Business’?  A blend?


What ratio?


It’s easy to tip into zones of diminishing returns; worse, you can enter very dangerous territory if you do not place appropriate management and activities within the appropriate disciplines, and with the proper people, for best (and safest) returns.


Hopefully, you’ll look at your existing placements of effort, and in some cases make better assignments for cases where certain efforts have been poorly positioned. 


Stay tuned


NP:  T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do, Fats Waller, 

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