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IT and the Business - Separation or Collaboration?

12-Oct-2016 11:00:00 Business insider Business success IT Agile
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Contrary to what one might think, IT and the Business are not always perfectly integrated. Sometimes, there is a clear distinction between ‘Us, IT’ and ‘Them, the Business’, when in fact these two should never be separated. Here’s why.

 

A while ago I joined a new company as a member of the Information Technology department. I went through the normal first day nerves as I entered the building in the role of the employee for the first time. At reception I gave the name of the person who I would be working for and waited in trepidation.


They arrived in reception and took me to the first floor where the IT department resided, and showed me the desk where I would be based. It didn’t have a phone or computer, they would be coming later. Some days later, as it turned out.


I was then taken on a whistle stop tour of the IT department, introduced to everyone individually. I’d never be able to remember all their names, but at least they knew mine.


Once I’d been through the whole of the IT department, I asked who else was on my floor. The response was “That is Finance, don’t worry about them - they are the ‘Business’”...


I worked at this company for a fair amount of time, and I observed this same behaviour over and over again. We are IT, that is the Business.


There seemed to be some competition between the Business and IT, and even between different parts of the business. It was almost as if they were driven to compete against one another.


Here are a couple of examples I observed:


  • The IT department would determine the need to implement more and more new technologies. Sometimes this was necessary IT capability enablement, but often these were vanity projects for IT with no real business outcome.
  • The Marketing department would create business cases for projects which always had £1mill benefit. This meant their projects were always prioritised over other departments, often leaving operational departments with substandard systems. They were never held accountable for these business cases so got away with it time after time.

So let’s get real.


The IT department would not exist if there was not a business, and the business would not be able to compete with its competitors, or work in the modern age without IT.


Everyone and every department in an organisation should be thinking about delivering the outcomes that the Business needs, and IT and all other departments are simply a part of the business. Everyone should be driving towards the same goals.

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Having an Agile mindset helps us achieve this. The Agile Manifesto’s 4th Principle states that:

Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.


Good leadership should drive the right behaviours and mindset needed in order to achieve this.


A few tips to take away:

  • Setting corporate visions and objectives gives departments and teams a purpose, or a target to hit.
  • Prioritise projects / budgets around how they contribute to the corporate objectives.
  • Balance short-term market opportunities with long-term capabilities and growth.
  • Put a true cost on opportunities missed through lack of IT capabilities.
  • Letting teams get on with and do the work.

How are things looking over on your side? Is your IT department harmoniously integrated with the rest of the business?

Author

Alex Gray

Alex Gray

Alex is a professional, versatile and enthusiastic Lean & Agile Trainer/Coach with 20 year’s experience in varied IT projects and roles. A member of the BCS Agile Expert Panel, and an author of the BCS Foundation in Agile Practices syllabus, examination and course materials. Read more