One of the things I’ve realized from my consulting work with enterprise leaders is that a large part of what I do is a form of “marriage counseling” between IT teams and line-of-business teams within companies. I’ve found that although we at Skyllful are generally known for helping enterprises create technology solutions, what we really do is help IT and business leaders solve business problems together using technology, which first involves helping these two groups see eye to eye to achieve a common goal. Hence the “marriage counseling” analogy.
While I use the term “marriage counseling” somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I believe the comparison is an apt one for what many companies must engage in to begin their digital evolution journey. With the increasing intersection of IT and OT (which I explained in a previous blog post), successful digital industrial evolution requires a successful partnership between business and IT leadership. Any inherent dysfunctions that exist today will only be worsened by the blurring lines between information technology and operational technology. Now is the time for organizations to assess the natural tensions between IT and Business to work toward a common goal of driving operational success through technology.
We’ve found that genuinely toxic IT/business relationships are rare (thankfully). Yet even within the “we make it work” relationships, beneath the politically correct niceties and corporate speak, what each side wants to say is:
Business exec: "Why won't the damn IT guys just let me get sh$t done?"
IT manager: "Why are the business guys too stupid to understand why we have to protect the systems? Oh, and we need more resources!"
And let’s be honest – they both have a point. Business leaders want technology to be simple so they can get back to doing what they need to do, but the IT team needs to “make the sausage,” which is rarely pretty or easy. So what’s the root of the problem? Why can’t business and IT see eye to eye? Let’s look at some differences in perspective between business and IT:
Business leaders don’t think about technology problems, they think about business problems.
IT leaders, by definition, have to solve technology problems.
Business leaders aren’t really concerned about how the technology they need impacts the broader organization – they just want something that works for their people or process or vehicles or assets or whatever…
IT leaders should consider the broader implications of technology choices and how pieces can fit together for the whole company.
Business leaders are measured by operational metrics/KPIs: cost of service, net promoter score, sales growth, operating margins, etc.
IT leaders are often measured by technology and delivery metrics/KPIs: internal SLAs, project costs/overruns, uptime/reliability, security threat protection, etc.
Business leaders care about usability first, security second (if at all).
IT leaders are – or should be – obsessive about security. (Sidebar: I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen “feature lists” for mobile applications that have “authentication” as the first feature listed – obviously written by someone from the IT side).
IT leaders will say the solution the business is asking for requires major architecture changes – or just, “the architecture can’t support it.”
Business leaders – let’s be honest – don’t know WTF you’re talking about when you mention architecture. (And don’t really care.)
IT teams are almost always resource constrained and burdened with “keeping the lights on.”
Business leaders have little sympathy since they're tasked with “keeping the trains running on time.”
Business leaders think IT makes everything more complex than it needs to be and slows everything down – "why can't we just do something quick and easy ourselves?"
IT leaders think the business will get what they pay for: cheap, inflexible, and unsecured – "and then they'll ask us to support it and clean up the mess when it breaks."
Business leaders see a cool story about an exciting new technology (like augmented reality) and get excited about how they could use it – and “hey, let’s get these guys in for a demo.”
IT leaders see a demo about augmented reality and immediately think about how it won’t work once it gets out in the field, it’s definitely a security nightmare, who the hell will support it, and holy crap how much do these things cost??? – "let’s just build an app instead."
Perhaps I’ve taken some hyperbolic liberties, and granted these are generalizations, but these differing perspectives are probably not far off from what you’re experiencing in your company. In fact, I bet you can come up with many more. But here’s the thing – these are just differing perspectives. Business and IT both ultimately want the same thing: technology solutions that work – that solve important business problems, are delivered in a reasonable amount of time/cost, and are easy for end users.
So how can IT and Business reconcile their differing perspectives? Well, it’s not an easy task, since it involves a cultural shift for most businesses. It’s also worth a separate blog post to go into greater depth (coming in part 2). But in brief, there are several things companies should do to create a healthier marriage between IT and Business:
- Think “succeed small” instead of “fail fast”
- Create cross-collaborative teams for emerging tech
- Align measurement for business impact
- Think product vs. project
- Don’t design solutions from the boardroom – get into the field
To learn more, read part 2, where I’ll go deeper into these recommendations.
At Skyllful, our passion is helping customers solve important business problems by applying technology the right way. We believe that emerging technologies will continue to change the way work gets done. Skyllful helps business leaders and their most critical workers use technology in a way that makes their work easier, better, and safer.
Skyllful provides the brainpower and processes to ideate, create, run, and refresh digital experiences where mobile workers connect with the physical world. By bridging the divide between IT and line-of-business demands, Skyllful strikes a balance between the mobile worker experience and secure, reliable enterprise technology requirements to drive business outcomes.