Why has IT so far failed to deliver what the business needs? It’s time to look beyond the blockbuster strategies and instead elevate the importance of something that has been massively underestimated in the development of corporate technology.
Given the length of time that computers have been used within business, IT should be a highly mature business function delivering efficiencies and solutions as a seamlessly integral element of the business. Yet, despite the investment of time and finances, IT still remains something of a rogue, self-serving element within the organisation. The fact that we hear so often about attempts to align or converge IT with the business is testament to the fact that this division is real: IT is all too often out of sync with the rest of the organisation.
Businesses have tried to tackle this issue in myriad ways, with projects to ‘align’ IT with the business popular in the early 1990s. When attempts to bring IT closer to the rest of the business failed, organisations reacted by outsourcing all or part of the IT function. This too failed, as businesses realised that an outsourced supplier was even less inclined to tow the corporate line than the incumbent in-house team. IT was duly brought back in-house.
But this did nothing to end the disharmony. Business units frustrated by the still inflexible technology offered by their IT department have side-stepped it, employing their own hardware and sourcing cloud services as part of the Shadow IT movement. This is made business IT even more fragmented and ineffective. Yes, Shadow IT may help departments tackle minor IT troubles, but it moves us even further from building the kind of company-wide, ultra-effective IT that will eventually give companies competitive advantage.
So what is the next step for CEOs who wish to end this damaging cyclical war between business and IT? The starting point is to take a different approach and instead of looking at the big projects that monopolise attention, think in more human terms.
It’s about people
When it comes to business priorities, people are often labelled as a ‘soft’ issue. Yet if you think about it logically, passionate, creative and hard-working people are not only the key driver behind any successful business, they are the bedrock on which every high performing business has been built upon.
Step one to unlocking the potential of business technology is to stop considering people as a ‘soft’ issue not worthy of attention. Business leaders that focus on people will not only take a significant step towards unshackling IT, they will also find that many other areas of the business will benefit.
The problem with prioritising people is that there is no rule book, specific case study, product or process that you can buy that will offer definitive guidance. It is this lack of tangible resources that means that people are labelled a soft issue despite being perhaps the most critical factor defining the success of a business.
The best reference asset we currently have is Business Relationship Management (BRM). This movement has its origins in ITIL, the process framework written in the 1980s by the UK government, designed to create a common method for building and supporting IT services. As ITIL gained recognition, a realisation grew that the importance of people was massively underestimated and under-represented and so BRM was born.
Designed to offer a framework and common language to understanding people and their relationships, BRM is proving to be incredibly popular within organisations that are waking up to the fact they will never unlock the potential of IT by buying more technology or implementing a new process.
Business leaders must do a better job understanding relationships, how they influence the business and begin to positively influence the connection.
BRM is by no means exhaustive. Like the framework that it spun out of and various initiatives before, BRM will not offer a definitive answer to solve an organisations IT problems. But what it does present is a starting point, a chance to understand and dissect how relationships work, and ultimately a path to bring people to the fore of our business strategies.
If you want help understanding BRM: what it is, how it can help your organisation, and steps to begin making it work within your business, we have produced a Beginners Guide to BRM which you can download for free by clicking the link.