March 02, 2009
King's Corner

Business and IT: Why can’t we all just get along?

The pendulum swings in one direction, and when at its peak there is one certainty, it will swing back in the other direction. Such is the answer to the question of “who is driving this project?”.

With technology bursting onto the scene, intimidating business people and causing the salivation of technology geeks everywhere, IT organizations assumed control (heck, someone needed to) of driving technology initiatives. A business organization’s lack of technology expertise combined with their need to “run the business” prevented them from imagining what technology could do for them. So, IT organizations did it for them.

The pendulum has swung back. Over time, business-savvy IT resources have transitioned into business positions, business resources have become IT-savvy, and the lines have blurred. And guess what has happened? The business wants to drive IT initiatives. And hence, friction ensues.

How to get the pendulum to settle:

  1. Clearly establish a Business Sponsor AND an IT Sponsor. Having a clear leader from the Business (the driver) and IT (the service organization) will convey to parties in both organizations that this is a collaborative endeavor.
  2. Set up regular Program Governance structure and meetings. Having regular touchpoints and standard management deliverables will enforce that both organizations are on point for the strategy and implementation of the program. An intangible benefit is that both organizations will answer the question, “how is the project going?” the same way.
  3. Establish an unbiased 3rd party as Program Manager. Both the Business and IT organizations need to be held accountable by an objective 3rd party. That party can be from one of the organizations, however it is critical that they are able to convey a credibility to both organizations that they are responsible to both organizations.
  4. Balance diplomacy with directness and strength with flexibility.
  5. Diligently document every risk that could manifest, and every issue that does. The role of the Program Manager should be to predict everything that could go wrong and surround those risks with mitigation plans. And for every risk that manifests into an issue, leadership should have been aware that this could happen, and will act swiftly to resolve it.
  6. Make what used to be “finger pointing” sessions become “fact finding” sessions. Focusing on facts and remedies creates a collaborative environment, and makes the session about results, not about fault.
  7. Understand and document root causes of every issue. Let these facts be self-evident, and allow management to act accordingly.

There is no silver bullet to the problem that many companies face, where Business and IT don’t get along. However, a rigorous combination of dialogue, 3rd parties and facts can overcome even the most challenging relationships. And should result in effective teaming. And may actually result in much much more.

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