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An IT organization deserves its role as business enabler by meeting business expectations with right competence, mindset and agility”

It is the year 2015 and we still discussed problems relating to the business-IT relationship and collaboration. It is difficult to set an exact starting date for the discussion, but it is amazing that despite progress over the last 50 years in digitalization, business models, management and globalization, the same questions pops up to haunt IT and business. It was actually easier to close the chapter on Communism than solving the business-IT relationship! Shouldn’t there, with the collective resources of consultants and analysts, be a solution by now to remove the issue from the agenda? Still research firms such as Gartner and Forrester still highlight the collaboration between IT and Business as the key issues in the digitalization of companies. How difficult can it be?

Not really. The Business IT relationship dilemma is a situation where neither IT nor Business acknowledges the pre-requisites of the other part – but rather blames the other side of lack of awareness and collaboration. Business and IT are positioned in silos with very little interaction. For many IT organizations (and for business), it is quite comfortable not to address the IT-Business relationship issue. It gives a natural opportunity to ignore the business relationship (difficult) and focus energy on the efficiency of IT (easy). There has not really been a burning platform to change the relationship (until now) and IT has quietly accepted, with little resistance, the role as a cost center – focusing on productivity and efficiency of IT. Why try to solve something that nobody wants to be solved? So here we are – IT for IT!

During the last couple of years, we see that many IT organizations slowly start to wake up from an “IT for IT” sleep and taste a new business reality. The demand from business has change and business now request IT support for digital competitiveness – but the issue of business-IT interaction still remains. What we see is that IT organization does not have the right competence, tools or leadership to approach business in a suitable way. In fact, many IT organization have invested heavily in ITIL/COBIT and other “IT for IT” frameworks with endless service managers and process experts and to re-focus that “non-value” structure is often overwhelming. Correct me if I am wrong!

“An organization deserves its role by meeting expectations. 

My point of view is that an organization deserves its role by meeting expectations. Obviously, re-organization can formally set a role of an organization, but it is not until the organization meet expectations that the real change takes place. A result of this reasoning is that IT needs to fight for its role as a business enabler by understanding and addressing the business expectations. This approach requires a different set of competence and mindset – and it will take time, leadership and guts to fully run this change. That is the true responsibility of a 2015 CIO – regardless of all talk of digitalization and Big Data! 

“The difficult is not spinning this vicious circle (IT for IT) faster and faster but how to make it stop and change its direction.”

When looking around in the market place, I see a lot of consultant and research (from leading firms) with excellent competence of cementing the role of IT as a production unit – “IT for IT”. The idea of “IT of IT” has become a legend or selected truth that is difficult to burst. By focusing on productivity and cost efficiency, the IT role as a “production unit” is strengthened – with further requests of productivity and cost efficiency. The difficult is not spinning this vicious circle faster and faster but how to make it stop and change its direction.

Today, most CIO knows that the future of the IT organization lies in the interaction with business supporting competitiveness. However, freedom of movement is missing to make the change appear. There is a lack of resources, competence and leadership to make the transition happen. The IT organizations that have made the change happened has full support (resources and leadership) from top management. That is a key success factor! Others, with limited support, have failed to solve the endless issue around the IT Business relationship – and will continue to discuss the issue for another 50 years. Good luck with that!

My recommendations:

  • Instead of just looking at the Business IT relationship issue – discuss with business how to solve it once and for all.
  • Invest in Demand Management and Business Relationship Manager roles to address business expectations in an effective way.
  • Do not invest more in “IT for IT” but rather in “IT for Business”. Run IT as a true business!
  • Contact me to discuss this topic further – I can get you started!

It is going to be interesting to see whether we have the same discussion in 2020. Will consultants, researchers and analysts broadcast the need for better IT Business integration? The answer is probably yes. The question is whether the discussion is relevant for you in 2020? Have you been able to untie the impossible knot and actually collaborate with business as a true business enabler?

Hans Gillior – Senior Advisor (Sofigate)