Business and IT – Adversaries or Partners?

business relationships with ITDoes your company’s Information Technology area act more like competitors rather than partners with the business?

A poor relationship with IT can be extremely detrimental to the efficiency, productivity and cost-effectiveness of your organization.

Watch for some of these warning situations:

“¢ Everyone knows HR cuts payroll checks, and finance pays vendors. IT doesn’t always have the opportunity to regularly show its value and can be taken for granted. People don’t want to talk until something is broken, or frustration has mounted to the point of eruption. IT is regularly in a reactive mode.

“¢ IT helps make operations more efficient, but change in organizations can be stressful and can create uncertainty. Does IT work with business sponsors on projects so projects are seen as a business initiative rather than an IT initiative?

“¢ IT has its own jargon. IT has to communicate to all the different employees in a company, most of whom don’t understand IT. If jargon is used frequently, understanding can really suffer. From the help desk to the CIO, are communications to employees straightforward, clarifying the business reason when appropriate?

“¢ IT makes changes without business input. A software upgrade is completed without researching and seeking input on its business impact; IT begins to get complaints that month-end close is late because the upgrade broke a critical Excel link. Does IT lack business understanding? Are staff members unwilling to ask questions and involve the business in day-to-day projects?

“¢ Does your IT leader have control issues without regard to business impact? Increasing IT’s efficiency and ensuring compliance are important, as long as IT isn’t making it impossible to do business.

There must be a partnership between the business and IT. I once had a COO tell me that he didn’t view IT as a partner. IT was just part of the team, and calling IT a partner did not give IT accurate standing. While I’m a strong advocate of IT having a seat at the executive table, the reality is that IT is there to enable the business, not vice versa.

Goals for IT:

“¢ Prioritize IT activities based on the business priorities and with input from business leaders. Form a prioritization committee comprised of IT management and business leaders.

“¢ Find the “happy middle ground” whenever possible on policies and procedures. Stay compliant and maintain your organization’s integrity but realize that every best practice does not have a place in every organization.

“¢ Do explain in layman’s terms the benefits and challenges of suggestions from employees, including new project requests. If something won’t work, explain why. Make sure every IT person can communicate clearly. Clearly and frequently communicate when there are issues.

The fruits of partnership – reaping what you’ve sown:

“¢ An efficient organization supported by efficient IT systems.

“¢ Investments made where paybacks are optimal and emphasis is placed on high priority business functions.

“¢ An IT leader that provides early input on business projects, minimizing surprises down the road and brainstorming on ways to increase business revenues.

Whether your IT area is primarily staffed internally or many functions are outsourced, individuals must still be held accountable to these high standards of service and partnership. Executive leadership has a responsibility to address poor relationships with IT so the organization is getting the greatest benefits from their IT function.

Laura RusickAbout The Guest Author: Laura Pettit Rusick helps CEOs optimize IT to support growth and change in small and mid-sized organizations. Her company, OPT Solutions, provides IT Evaluations, Software Assessments and Management Oversight through its Retained CIO program. For those interested in benefiting from business process efficiency projects, sign up to receive the PDF “Ten Critical Success Factors for Optimizing Business Processes“.

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