This week's IT failures town hall discussion raised challenging issues around relationships between business and IT. It's an important topic because many IT failures arise precisely from poor communications between business strategists and those charged with translating goals into technology automation.
Paul Ingevaldson, former CIO of Ace Hardware, led the lively event. His background includes running Ace's international business in addition to being CIO, all of which gives him deep understanding of issues on both the business and technical sides.
The impact of poor communication on IT project success or failure is profound. However, there's no magic bullet for improving communication and understanding across organizational departments or silos. During the conversation, Paul suggests that training users in how to work with IT is the solution. He continues this theme in a Computerworld article:
We need to train our users to understand their role in the system development process. We must convince them that an IT system belongs to them, not to IT. They must learn that the only way to get a system that works for them is to be involved in every step of the development process. They must know that they are ultimately responsible for ensuring that IT resources are used effectively to solve their business problems. They must realize that the changes they make affect project completion dates.
While I agree to a degree with Paul's perspective, placing blame squarely on users avoids important issues on the IT side. How many IT folks really understand the strategic intent of requests made by business users? I suggest that training IT to understand the business must also be part of the solution.
Listen to the podcast by clicking the player at the top of this post. The discussion was passionate, informed, with lots of and participation by attendees.