Whether you call it IT/business alignment, our preferred term of Convergence, or something else, the problem remains the same: there is a disconnect between what IT delivers to the business, and what the business actually needs. Simon Kent explains.
There are myriad reasons why IT and the business have traditionally struggled to connect. Part of it is legacy. For older organisations, IT was added-on to the corporate structure, creating an immediate silo. For all organisations, regardless of age, the highly technical nature of IT means that few outside of the technical department could speak about it intelligently, adding to the alienation felt by the IT department.
Yet there is an even more fundamental reason why IT and business colleagues struggle to connect and collaborate. Much like the theory that Men are from Mars and Woman are from Venus, the IT/business relationship suffers because of the following fact:
IT works in digital absolutes, but the business needs analogue solutions.
Computers are about 1s and 0s. IT works on the principle that something exists in one of two states at any given time. According to computing logic, something either is, or it isn’t, and there is no grey area. It is fair therefore to describe IT as staunchly ‘digital’.
However, the business world works very differently. Grey area is evident EVERYWHERE. The needs of customers and staff change on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Technology now unpins almost every business process, action or interaction, and the digital “yes/no” restrictions of IT are not able to keep pace.
We see examples of this all the time. But the most visible is the struggle between preserving IT security while maintaining a degree of flexibility. Safeguarding IT would be much easier if IT could be in lockdown mode. All assets would be tightly controlled, user access would be restricted and they could only perform tasks as pre-approved by IT professionals.
However, the business refuses to work this way. It wants to do things that compromise security. It wants to make regular IT changes to pilot new products and services. The business professional demands that their new laptop or smartphone integrates with the network and essential business services. Colleagues want to use cloud services and apps to work faster and more efficiently.
They are not being difficult. They are under pressure to do a better job and make more money. Therefore they try to exploit every advantage possible and this means pushing IT to its limits. Similarly, IT professionals are not being difficult by saying ‘no’ to certain requests. IT, as I’ve explained, is constrained by its digital makeup.
Neither party will back down. And in fairness, neither can afford to. Therefore, the only solution – the true path to Convergence – involves a much greater level of understanding. If IT professionals and their colleagues can understand each other’s perspective, they can begin to collaboratively develop solutions that work within the prescribed boundaries.
The big challenge of IT professionals in 2018 is how to work within the parameters of digital IT, but accommodate the analogue requirements of the business. There’s no easy solution to this, but guides such as DevOps and BRM which teach IT and business colleagues alike how to open up channels of dialogue are a great starting point.
The best way to bridge the gap is to change perpective. Yes, IT has a digital legacy which it cannot abandon. But if it looks at the business challenges, observes the impact of technology on the delivery of products and services, and how IT helps or hinders working practices, the answers will begin to reveal themselves.
2018 is the year in which IT and the business stop thinking of each other as being opposed. Both are on the same team, attempting to achieve the same aims. The starting point to make progress is understanding why there respective approaches are so different.