The Business-Technology Weave

Apr 30 2010   5:30AM GMT

Putting Activity Where It Belongs

David Scott David Scott Profile: David Scott


When discussing “Business” and “IT” roles and responsibilities – the Who Does What, Why and When? – we’re trying to position activity according to efficiency: to the arena that is best suited to a particular action by virtue of knowledge, resource, and responsibility.  This facilitates better business. 


In parsing the Business-Technology Weave we find that most of what occurs at the users’ desktops is in the domain of business:  things such as the utilization of your core business software applications: proprietary mission-critical  software such as an AMS, a customer-centric management system, sales and inventory, and so on.  There too is the use of shelf applications (word processing, spreadsheets, presentation graphics, e-mail, etc.) and likely some specialty applications used by everyone (such as content management).  The organization also has specialty applications used by the few (such as payroll, HR applications, laboratory analysis packages, statistical analysis, graphic arts, etc.).  From the context of the Weave, we can think of the main business domain as “the front of the screen.”   This is the utility and potential of the power to be had on the front side of the computer screen at the desktop, as delivered to users. 


Those things that happen “behind the screen” (from the users’ perspective) are in the IT domain:  In no particular order: Internet connectivity, security, server and workstation maintenance, installation/maintenance of software, backup and recovery of data, contracts, service level agreements, and so on and so forth. 


Earlier, in determining where activity belonged, we asked:  “Who is the relevant party that knows, or should know, the ‘business’ of what is under consideration”?  We can now further sharpen our appreciation to who does what and why by asking that identified-party a question.  We can help them understand where the burden of activity truly lies:  Does this happen on the ‘front side’ or ‘back side’ of the screen?”  Let’s apply this question to a couple items to gain some clarity – one obvious, one not so obvious in terms of where activity belongs:  backup of data and department orientation.   


Backup of data:  Backups happen on the back side of the screen – that is, backup of data should be done by IT and it should be transparent to the user.  You could make the argument that someone dragging and dropping files to a CD for backup is employing a “front screen” process – true.  But this is not a backup scheme appropriate to a comprehensive security of business.  A backup scheme in the Business-Technology Weave context is an automated routine that does not rely on any single individual’s memory or action to achieve or regularize it.  Also, IT has the discipline and fallbacks to ensure coverage of backups.  IT ensures they’re running each night, and checks content of the backups.  No real backup routine or scheme in a business environment should be in one specific user’s hands.  You can make exceptions at your peril or convenience – but true data security relies on a backup that is a “back of the screen” process.  Therefore, when discussing what is recognized as a comprehensive business backup, it is an IT activity.

     Department orientation:  Here we’re referring to a narrow slice of orientation – not a general IT orientation, or the overall HR orientation that a new hire goes through upon in-processing – but rather the hiring department’s orientation of the new hire.  If IT is orienting the new hire to the specifics of your department’s use of software applications, as frequently happens, ask yourself “why?”  Your department’s use of software is a “front of the screen” endeavor.  The organization has people in each department who are much more familiar with that department’s procedures and rules for use.  Have one of the business staff in the department provide this orientation.  An orientation of sorts will happen anyway, in effect, through the new hire’s questions of your other staff.  Avoid duplication of effort by freeing IT in this regard, and posit the activity of familiarization in the business department.  Use of business applications is “front side of the screen.” 


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