Don't let IT process break down business

When IT fails, so does the business.  It is more imperative than ever that all stakeholders work together to ensure IT investments are appropriate and potential service failures are handled in a way that will not impact productivity and profitability.  With proper people planning and technology, IT and the business can work with, not against, each other to meet their co-operative goals.

Over the years I’ve consulted with hundreds of different organizations.  And although they’ve spanned all types of industries, including finance, healthcare, corporate, government, and education – some common threads have emerged.

A recent trend I’ve noticed is an imbalance in the level of interaction between IT and the rest of the business. Today it’s very common for business managers to bypass IT entirely when researching and procuring a new solution. 

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The common complaint from the business is that IT simply gets in the way and makes everything too complicated…that IT has preferred technology choices that are too detached from the real needs of the business.  Unlike a few years ago though where circumventing IT was quite difficult, if IT is perceived as a change resistor now, then changes will simply happen without them.

As a result, business managers install solutions outside the defined technology workflows. When this happens, the flavor of choice is typically a cloud-based solution, available today for everything from sales force management, automation, Human Resources, project management, and ITSM. 

Cloud-based solutions require no management or IT services, so business managers can often push through a deal using operational cash flow rather than traditional capital expenditure for software. And since the business manager typically controls the purse strings, IT’s approval becomes redundant in their eyes.  I’ve encountered scenarios where IT hasn’t even known about a new application until it’s already been installed and is up and running.

The disconnect between the needs of the business and what IT delivers is relatively common, but why does it exist in the first place? Based on my experience, it’s often motivated by fear of the unknown and a simple favoring of process that strains basic communication and interaction between both parties.

A good analogy is that of a doctor prescribing medicine.  In my former life in medicine, it was common to see doctors prescribe the same portfolio of drugs simply because they were comfortable with them and because they knew the medication had worked well in the past. But this rote behavior can become too comfortable, leading to a lack of innovation and diminished success for the variety of patients a doctor will invariably care for.

In the same way, IT decision makers can become so entrenched in the processes and tools they have already put in place, that they unwittingly miss opportunities to improve the productivity (and profitability) of the business. It is easier to just turn a blind eye to a new idea than it is to learn and adapt to a different and, possibly, better option. Confounding this is the problem that established workflows sometimes become so ingrained that either party attempting to flag its true needs to the other gets lost in the process that was originally intended to make things more simple.

In the end, we are all creatures of habit, and the more ingrained our behavior becomes, the more difficult it is to accept change. In the fast-paced world of technology where dramatic changes happen every few years, it’s imperative that IT is open to innovation and participates with the business in the technology choices that are made.  More importantly, IT should lead the charge and be the innovators that bring new ideas to the table.

My advice to avoid failure on both sides is to always exercise flexibility so that they can work together as people, not just as two ends to a means.

Business managers and IT departments should consciously work outside their comfort zones, shoulder to shoulder, not in isolation.  Spend time to understand the needs of the business, the necessary corporate restrictions and considerations for which IT is responsible. By working together, IT and the business can find and implement integrated innovative solutions that best meet the needs of the ever-changing business.  

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