There has long existed a barrier between those who need a technological solution and those who provide one. As previously discussed, IT departments were once known only for their business enablement and operational support. The business side would slowly form a directive of things needed, and IT would respond by providing the technical support.
This passive process of waiting for direction from the business is becoming increasingly problematic as more and more end-user focused solutions (including SaaS applications) are being built and sold directly to users. This direct line from manufacturing software and products directly to users quickens up the pace of business.
Why does this barrier exist? Many reasons. One reason is communication.
Often business and IT speak two very different languages, and there can be a lack of thorough understanding between the two teams. Tech-focused IT teams may converse in confusing technical jargon, while business teams tend to focus on simple outcome-driven directives.
Business may say: We need an application to facilitate real-time supply management. To the business side, this directive is simple and straightforward. To IT, more in-depth information is required to resolve or even begin planning questions surrounding this new idea. Will we build the application as a microservice, or will our development teams add it to the existing legacy code? Which payment format is preferred? What are the security configurations? Who will be in charge of this project?
From this simple exchange, IT needs much more information than business offers to take on this new project.
Three focal points for IT leaders:
1. Know the business.In order to prove credibility, it is imperative to understanding the context of technology and digital business today and in the future.
- Demonstrate business acumen by having a basic understanding of business strategy. Develop business strategy in parallel with IT strategy
- Focus on Business Capabilities. Focus on analyzing, documenting, and evangelizing, and agreeing upon business capabilities.
- IT should understand how business functions from a financial standpoint
2. Make an impact on the business.Focus on the few highest value things vs. never ending backlog of maintenance and service requests. Constantly ask, “Is what we’re doing the highest positive impact that we could be doing?”
- IT should shift their focus to outcomes, and develop roadmaps that focus strictly on producing outcomes.
- Find the data and infrastructure to deliver the above-mentioned outcomes.
- Shift the mindset to thinking digital
- Constantly check if the IT strategy is integrated with the business strategy.
3. Rethink and constantly strive to improve the overall relationship with the business.
- IT workers must become versatilists by forming multidisciplinary teams (e.g., teams that are made up of application owners, Integration specialists, BPOs, Stakeholders, Design.)
- IT must be good communicators to interface with key stakeholders. Communicators can be good team leaders.
- Things to look out for while hiring key IT leaders:
- Business acumen
- Digital literacy
- Global mindset
- Openness to learning
- Results orientation
- Conceptual thinking
IT is in the best position to make a significant contribution to the business. Business and IT should work collectively to create solutions, ideate, pursue new projects, experiment with new technologies, and pursue the breakthroughs in incremental improvements that are necessary to succeed in today’s fast-paced digital world.