Thursday, July 18, 2013

Achieving True Business and IT Partnership

Business and IT have a long history of conflict.  Ever since computers became available to solve business problems and formalized IT organizations were created to support this mission, business and IT groups found themselves at odds.  How often have we heard these statements?

“Business’ expectations are unrealistic”
“All business cares about is dates”
“Business doesn't understand how IT operates”
Or…
“IT never delivers anything on time”
“IT can’t deliver anything for less than $100K”
“IT processes are too complex and get in the way”

We know that the best way to deal with this conflict is to establish a true partnership between business and IT organizations.  Yet, few companies are successful in achieving such symbiotic relationship.  Why?  There are many reasons for this.  However, none is more relevant than IT’s desire to control the entire software delivery lifecycle.  No, your eyes do not deceive you.  I indeed contend that many problems will be solved if IT gives up some control over how software is delivered into production.

I can hear the accusations of heresy right now.  I can feel the wrath of IT purists enraged with such preposterous ideas.  I can hear IT managers grinding their teeth in response to business infringing on their domain.  Hold your angry rhetoric for just a bit longer.  I will explain my reasoning shortly.

In this day and age, software packages have become so sophisticated that more and more features are aimed at non-IT people.  Many systems include rules engines, BPM capabilities, scripting languages, etc.  IT no longer has to reinvent the wheel to provide business the features it needs.  As I argued in my earlier post, Death of Custom Software Development, IT organizations have to become more and more integration rather than custom development focused.

This argument can be extended further.  IT no longer has to control the entire software delivery lifecycle.  Enable the business to make changes to rules, processes, static values, web pages, printed communications, etc., and you will enter a brave new world of true partnership.  It’s that easy!  Let the business control its own domain with minimal support from IT and let IT control the technology and infrastructure.  The two will intersect when they truly need each other.  IT will start playing a true supporting role by enabling the business to be productive and ensuring that changes business is about to introduce will not have a negative impact on everything else.  Business will start looking at IT as an enabling partner, not just an expensive scapegoat.  Everyone will hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Of course, a lot needs to be done to achieve this Utopian society.  Roadmaps need to be created, reviewed, and approved.  Next generation packages need to be procured and implemented.  Business users that will be empowered to make changes will need to be identified and trained.  Significantly simplified and streamlined release management processes need to be created.  Culture needs to change.

It is a long and arduous journey, but it is well worth the effort.  Think about how much work IT does today that should really be done by the business.  Let the business finally be the master of its own domain.  And for the first time in many years, business will have no one but itself to blame for defects and missed deadlines!

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