by Chris Potts

Integrate IT with the business? It already is. But are you?

Opinion
Feb 02, 2010
IT Leadership

When people talk about 'integrating IT with the business' what does this really mean in practice?

Information Technologies are already deeply integral to your business.  IT suppliers can be close working partners with your business but never integral.  So when people talk about ‘integrating IT with the business’ what do they actually mean? 

Whatever business you’re in, there’s every chance IT is integral to the way you do business.  Your customers are using it, so are your managers, staff, suppliers and so on.  If IT wasn’t integral to your business, your business wouldn’t be able to exist.

But, while Information Technologies are already deeply integral to your business, some core IT-related competencies are often not.  They may be non-existent, or wrongly assumed to be provided by suppliers, or in an IT department that worryingly refers to everyone else as ‘the business’.

Here are some of those core competencies:

  • Understanding how your customers exploit technology in their day-to-day lives
  • Choosing innovative, IT-enabled, designs for the structure of your business
  • Managing your portfolio of investments in business changes involving IT
  • Optimising the value, cost and risk of your IT sourcing arrangements
  • Mastering the uncertainties that come with rapidly-evolving technologies

Alongside these examples of IT-related competencies that do need to be integral to your business, there are others that generally do not – for example designing and manufacturing technologies, and delivering day-to-day IT services.  

In your business design, you need to integrate each of the core IT-related competencies where they best belong.  This may not be in the same part of the organisation as each other, nor as the non-core ones.   

Is that what’s meant by ‘integrating IT with the business’?

Partly, but there’s another angle to consider.  Even if the work that someone in IT is doing doesn’t need to be integral to your business, as an employee that person definitely is.  If your IT people have got into the habit of seeing ‘the business’ as everyone except them, it’s time for them to come in from the cold. 

So, if you’re working in an IT department, it may be that you’re doing things that need to be core to your business.  But even if you’re not, you need to know that – like the technologies that give your department its name – you are already integral to the business you work for.  To ‘integrate IT with the business’ means making sure you think, talk and act as the integral member of your business that you already are. 

Integrating each core IT-related competency where it best belongs; and each IT employee behaving as an integral member of the business they work for.  That’s what we mean by ‘integrating IT with the business’.