by CIO Staff

Reader Q&A on Listening to Customers

Nov 01, 20023 mins
IT Leadership

Q: I agree with your assessment. But how do you handle changes in technology where the users may not be as aware as the IS group? In most of these cases, the users cannot visualize the future.

A: Check your language here. The users can most certainly visualize the future?within their area of expertise, just as IS can visualize the future of technology. The challenge is for both sides of the partnership to educate each other. For example, IT professionals should spend time shadowing key frontline business performers while exposing their business partners to innovative, potential applications of technology from comparable industries or functions.

Q: I work for a company where we in IT truly believed the business knows best. The business side was allowed to define the requirements and solutions and manage the implementation projects. IT’s role was designated as “technical only.” The result is that we now have nine different systems (including SAP). The business blames IT because of the problems it had in trying to integrate the data. Where did we go wrong?

A: The pendulum swings both ways. I am guessing that in an attempt to increase IT service levels, business managers were given authority in areas where they really don’t know best. IT needs to retain the authority necessary to ensure that IT is done right. In centralized IT organizations, this means that at a minimum, IT should have authority over policies, standards and processes in the areas of IT strategy, portfolio and investment management, architecture, security, project delivery, performance monitoring, and human resources.

Q: While I agree with your basic premise, in the past three to four years the profile of the IT department has significantly changed, especially after the ERP wave with its focus on functional consultants doing the job. For example, in my company, which has implemented SAP big-time as well as CRM and KM, our consultants have a strong business background. This has resulted in IS proposing and driving many new initiatives, which the users have welcomed and benefited from. While knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the business may still reside with the business side, the new-look IS department knows how to align technology with business, with a resultant high ROI on IT initiatives.

A: Moving professionals between IT and the business is an excellent mechanism to increase alignment?provided the transferred employees don’t try to play both roles. As business professionals move into IT, they cannot act as surrogate users by defining and prioritizing requirements. The only people who can define business value are those currently responsible for delivering business results.