by Forrester Research

How Does IT Develop ‘Business Intimacy’?

Jan 27, 20093 mins
IT Leadership

IT organizations focus on the business needs they understand, not on the ones that matter to business.а

When we ask business execs and IT execs the same questions around the importance of technology to business goals, and how well IT does supporting those business goals, we get interesting results. First, business and IT see technologyТs value differently: to business, the greatest value is in products and services, and in competitive differentiation, whereas to IT, the greatest value is in improving operational efficiency. But the second result is more interesting:а both business and IT believe IT doesnТt do well supporting the business goals around products and services, or differentiation Ц but IT believes they do much worse than business believes they do.


Is this modesty, high expectations by IT, or something else? I believe the answer is that this difference in perceptions is because IT doesnТt know what business is seeking or expecting for these two goals. This is combined with low expectations from business leaders: СIT doesnТt do much in this area, so we donТt expect them to do much and are more-or-less OK with what they do.Та

IТd like to propose a new term that embodies a new relationship between IT and the business it is part of: Сbusiness intimacy.Та ‘This term is derived from the concept of СValue DisciplineТ as described by Michael Tracey and Fred Wiersema in their bookаУThe Discipline of Market Leaders.ФаThey define three СValue DisciplinesТ: Product Leadership, Operational Excellence, and Customer Intimacy.а Operational Excellence is about streamlining operations through process, and managing supply to efficiently meet demand. Low cost is a hallmark. Customer Intimacy is about understanding needs, delivering customized products to meet the needs, and thinking about how to materially improve the clientТs business. СBusiness intimacyТ is this concept of customer intimacy, but turned to how IT works to identify opportunities for improving the business.

IT doesnТt follow a Сbusiness intimacyТ strategy today, but rather one of operational excellence. Where IT organizations try for business intimacy, such as with Relationship Managers, they subvert these functions by making them the interface into their operationally efficient processes, rather than a customer-centric function delivering customized solutions which materially benefit their businesses. And there is good reason for this: Tracey and Wiersema point out that an organization canТt be more than one value discipline without becoming mediocre at them.а

An obvious conclusion from this is that if a CIO wishes to pursue a strategy of business intimacy, they canТt have their current operational excellence organization do this. They have to create a new organization, with new goals and a different culture to do this. This organization must have the ability to source Сcomplete solutionsТ to business needs Ц itТs more than just relationship managers. This organization may become the new УBusiness TechnologyФ organization.

What do you think? Is Business Intimacy a useful way to think about this? Can both Operational excellence and Business Intimacy exist in the same organization? How would you build this Business Intimacy?а

ByаAlex Cullenа