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Eliminating 'us and them' approach

It makes sense to place IT at the core of the business, but how do companies make this practice part of the everyday working environment and career development of IT staff?

At scientific software company Tessella, staff in the IT department have an inherently close relationship with people in other areas of the business because many of them are IT professionals as well. This closeness is intensified by the fact that many in the IT department move on into the business as a natural progression of their careers in IT, said IT manager Brian Day.

"We will take on, say, a new recruit from university, and they work on our helpdesk, supporting users while learning our procedures and the way the company fits together. After about 12 months they move to a programming role, for an in-house system or a client system," he said.

"There is no distinction between 'us and them'. This creates a good environment, because for the success of the company we must stand together."

At property company Telereal, head of IT Adam Burstow has created an IT post where the task is to focus on keeping IT close to the business.

"We have highly structured relationship management activity between IT and business," he said. "I employ a relationship manager and it is the best money I have spent. You cannot spend enough time in relationship management."

As well as high-level contact - Burstow sits on the company's executive committee - and project-specific meetings between IT and business, there are monthly liaison meetings between IT and business units.

Since they were started three months ago, these sessions have gone down so well that the business directors are recommending them to one another, said Burstow.

For Steve Anderson, head of IT at construction industry consultancy Davis Langdon, getting close to the business is a two-stage process.

"First you have got to get the IT basics right by supporting your users and operating IT as efficiently as possible," he said.

"That buys you the credibility for further discussion about how to exploit the value of IT - making business aware of the art of the possible."


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