Business vs IT

                After reading the last few posts by nickmalone and Jordan I started to think back about the companies that I have either observed or been employed by and I realized one thing.  There’s a large disconnect between the technical people and the business people.  Now I realize that some of you already know this but hear me out.  I think this causes more problems than many realize.  NickMalone’s post is a great example of what can happen when that gap isn’t addressed, and Jordan’s advice of value added statements is a great way to start fixing the problem.

                As many of you know, I have my Bachelors in Information Systems, which is more of a pure Information Technology degree as it had very few business classes.  I was very happy just learning about how to program and network computers.  The more I learned about networking specifically the more I thought I knew about succeeding in the business environment.  The last quarter of my Bachelor’s degree I took an Advanced Oracle Database class.  That class introduced me to a whole new thought process behind IT, that of IT is there to solve business problems.  Before that I hadn’t really but how IT related to business.  Now some of you may be saying, of course IT is there to solve business problems, what else would it be doing.  But I want you to think about any current or past IT project that you may be on.  What was the purpose?  There are always cut answers of improving user experience or improving the way the business functions but what really was the main goal behind the project.  What was it going to do to help that particular company succeed? 

                That is what I believe is the main point/goal  behind Nick and Jordan’s last posts and what I believe is the fundamental problem in IT departments.  To many IT professionals can make computers do amazing things but they have forgotten that IT is there to help businesses succeed, not the other way around.  I am sure there are cases where it is different but even for companies that specialize in IT consulting or Software design, every IT system should have a purpose and should be directly correlated to a business function.  Once that business goal or function is made aware and focused on I believe that IT projects will be smoother and stop having the Business needs vs. Personal needs issues that NickMalone talked about.

                Now I don’t mean to sound like this is all a problem with bottom-level IT people.  When was the last time you heard about an Executive of a company want to implement some new technology that they read or heard about?  Maybe they heard about want to implement a type of Social Network on their intranet and tell their direct reports to start making a business case for it.  Here again is another face of the same problem.  You shouldn’t make business cases for technology.  You should make “Technology Cases” for business problems.  It might be a slight adjustment but think about how many times technology gets implemented without proper planning so it fails.  If executives, managers and underlings alike were to start the planning and implementation phases of every project linking everything back to specific business problems, businesses would spend less and be more productive overall.

                Now I realize that I don’t have the years of experience of others who are reading this blog so I ask for your thoughts.  When was the last time you started a project that failed?  Did you know the main purpose behind the project?  Was that purpose if you did know it?  Have you seen a difference between projects that directly relate back to business goals and ones that are unclear of business goals?  Now this doesn’t address fully the change management side of things but I but I believe that if employees truly understood how these specific technology implementations helped not only them but the business as a whole you would have less push back, and believe me, being in Security, I know about users pushing back on new technology implementations, but that is a whole different post.

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9 thoughts on “Business vs IT

  1. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront.

    Often we, in businesses, like to separate IT from the business portions of organization. It’s easy to form an us vs. them perspective when “they” are working on tech and “we” have no idea what it is “they” are doing.

    Still, IT drives business functions so the business can do what it’s good at. They’re intertwined functions and communication needs to be delegated as such.

    Nice write up, thank you.

    1. Nick Malone says:

      That’s a good point. Creating clear boundaries between the IT organization and the line of business can certainly harm the business/IT alignment. All the places I’ve ever worked in always had IT off in a separate part of the building. I wonder if doing something like physically distributing IT staff across the office could help break down those barriers. If a sales person was sitting 3 desks down from me, it would certainly be easier for me to understand their needs than if I go down 4 floors.

  2. Nick Malone says:

    Mike, that’s an important concept you point out here. I think it’s always necessary to have the end goal in mind before committing to creating something. It’s rarely a good idea to doing something simply for the sake of doing it. ie; “Look how fast I can make this part of the application run”, or “Everyone else is making a facebook page for their business, so I should too.”

    Any project, technology related or otherwise, should tie back to a strategic objective or company value. One sign of a good project is when you can make statements like, “Our goal this year is reach , and by doing , we can improve which will help us achieve “.

    While there are plenty of “business” people who are guilty of this, technology people seem to have a reputation as the worst offenders. I wonder why that is? Do you think techie type people inherently tend not to look at the larger organizational picture or is it symptomatic of how we educate technology people? Maybe in addition to teaching how to build technical systems, technical programs in universities need to do a better job of teaching how to identify what’s actually important to build also?

  3. Yunju says:

    I’d say IT is an area needs too much conceration, so it makes IT people hard to think of anything else but coding. I doubt IT people in my office know what’s the business goal behind the product they’re working on right now, the only person knows that I think is the CTO, and he doesn’t do any coding work, of course.

    1. I think thats the problem. I work in IT and from experience both succeed better when they are combined. For to long IT has sequestered itself from everything else in the business and while it has worked in limited function, that only happens when IT knows why they are creating/supporting things. I would venture to say that if you include IT in more of the business side of things companies would do better and IT departments would be more successful. As technology becomes a bigger part of the business so should your IT department.

      1. Yunju says:

        I gave this a little more thought. I’m working on two projects at this moment, and I found atttending meeting is the best way for me to understand business goal and client needs, and IT was never on any of these meetings(besides the CTO, but only a few times). I understand we can’t always include everyone in the meeting(hour and budget concern), I don’t go to every meeting either. If so, how can we make sure people didn’t attend meeting also see the big picture of a project instead of tedious tasks? Perhaps it’s the IT manager’s duty to bring that message back to his/her team. Not just tell people ‘what’ to do, but also let them know ‘why’ they are doing it.

      2. Yunju says:

        Jordan’s feedback article inspried me, maybe this should go both ways. While it’s manager’s job to provide feedback, developers should ask for feedback too if they didn’t get any.

      3. I think you do bring up a good poing Yunju, it is definetly a two way street. It isn’t fully on the business side or the IT side. The communication has to go two ways.

      4. Nick Malone says:

        I think that line between the 2 opposing armies is starting to blur actually. There are quite a few companies out there with developers working in the marketing department, especially retailers with e-commerce sites. So, I don’t think “IT” is going to become a bigger part of the business. I think the other line of business organizations, such as marketing and sales, are going to start swallowing up IT. Marketing will grab this chuck of devs and sales will take the other. At the same time marketing and sales will become more “IT”ish as they integrate those functions in.

        Wow, I have a lot to say about this and the rest of this post. I think I’ll start writing a response post.

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