Getting the go-ahead
Modelling the processes
Skilling the business-IT divide
Sidebar: The enterprise that plans together...
Like any relationship, fostering love between business and IT organisations can take a lot of work.
Here are 10 tips for building a lasting partnership:
- Appoint a champion. You wouldn't send a salesman to Russia without a translator, so why would you send an IT person to the business without one? Find a person who know how the business works -- and how to translate back and forth with IT.
- Trumpet your success. With IT failures so common, who can blame business leaders for being sceptical of IT? A track record of strong wins will give IT the clout it needs to keep business in line.
- Don't be scared to innovate. IT knows the technology, so it's their right to suggest new projects. Don't forget, however, to put any innovative idea into a business context with clear deliverables.
- Plan together. No matter where the idea for the project came from, it's imperative that both business and IT leaders be involved in scoping, establishing expectations, and project sign-off.
- Push vendors out of their comfort zones. They may feel most comfortable talking with IT, but vendors can come up with some pretty good ideas -- and resources -- if they're forced to deal with business leaders to win and keep business.
- Share the responsibility. Giving the IT organisation all the responsibility for delivering a project on time and on budget is a recipe for disaster. Make sure the business units' skin is in the game too, if only so project deadlines reflect IT's reality rather than marketing's fantasy.
- Tech is your friend. It won't keep your business and IT leaders talking together, but business-focused technologies such as transformational middleware and service-focused systems management make it much easier to monitor performance, manage successful outcomes, and build up libraries of repeatable business and IT processes.
- Plan to grow. If there's one thing you know for sure, it's that IT success will leave the business wanting more. Be sure to assess IT capabilities not just in terms of whether a system meets a business need -- but how well it will be able to keep ahead of the business's long-term growth plans and scalability requirements.
- Get professional help. It's often hard to find the exact causes of business and IT disharmony. Consulting organisations and many vendors have spent years mediating between the two, and many offer formal alignment services that you should seriously consider before undertaking a major project.
- Walk a mile in their shoes. IT workers already know that business types don't get the tech -- nor should they. Business types may already be seen IT workers as cave dwellers who can't see the big picture. This is natural, and it can be worked around by building a culture of collaboration, education about job responsibilities, onsite visits, and myriad other approaches to fostering unity within the team.
This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
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