by Chris Ward

How to fight the ongoing war between business and IT

Mar 07, 2016
Technology Industry

IT service providers must maintain a balance between business and IT in order to provide value to customers. That means prioritizing and managing IT services from the perspective of a business value. Balance, communication and strategy are the solutions.

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On the television comedy show Saturday Night Live, Actor Mike Meyers portrayed Linda Richman, host of Coffee Talk.  One of her famous lines was “Talk amongst yourselves,” as she was verklempt and couldn’t talk for a moment.  She would always introduce a topic of discussion which was usually off beat and awkward to the say the least.  In one episode she states, “Talk amongst yourselves.  The topic? The Civil War.  It was neither civil or a war.”  I can’t help but think about the ongoing civil war between business and IT.

As IT service providers, we must maintain that balance of business and IT in order to provide value to our customers.  That means prioritizing and managing IT services from the perspective of a business value.  You can quickly see how this can turn ugly rather quickly.  For example, your Director of IT buys several new servers because they have some neat new features that will make them easier to maintain than the current ones in production.  The budget was there, but the servers support no services.  In other words we’ve paid for servers that add little to no value to the business. 

But hold on there cowboy!  What about the business owners and upper management that attend a symposium that talks about moving your entire physical infrastructure into the cloud?  “You’ll save millions over the next few years!”  However, when they begin to tell the IT Department to make that shift, they find out that several of their databases have to be secured locally due to Government regulations and this will cause major hassles with the remaining databases that are moved to the cloud.

You see why this can be an issue.  Most of you probably fight this battle on a monthly if not daily basis.  So what is the solution?  Balance, communication and strategy are your allies in this war. 

Balance – IT Service Management is all about providing value to the end customer while maintaining your internal departments as well.  That means that there might be some lost opportunities business wise because of your infrastructure and application development model.   It also means that in order to move forward your IT department might need to “kill the sacred cow” of some appliance or software suite that they’ve used for years.  Balance is achieved when both sides recognize that the end game is to provide that value to the customers as promised in those precious SLA’s.

Communication – Yep.  I’m beating the same drum you see in most of my columns.  Without good, effective communication between the business relations manager and IT manager, you are going down faster than the speed skier Simone Origone.  I rarely find that you have to pull back on communication (though that can happen), but I almost always find that I have to increase communication with those departments as a project management consultant.  Build into any value creation model a healthy dose of effective communication.

Strategy – Anytime you are creating an IT service to provide to some customer group, you need to make sure you set forth the Vision for the entire company, bring it down to the Mission level for that department.  That’s how quality strategy is produced.  What tools and methodologies you use are up to you!  Whether using something from ISO or ITIL or Agile or…you get the picture.  Shooting from the hip only works in the movies.  Make your next value added service something that both the business and IT side can high-five each other on.