It is less than a year old but already the BCS Business-IT Interface specialist group's ultimate aim is to put itself out of business. The group, which has its fourth meeting this month, wants to get to the point at which business and IT understand each other so well, and IT is so much a part of business strategy, that the need for people to bridge the gap between the two sides disappears.
Ruth Wallsgrove, one of the group's founders, says, "The group was born out of the findings of many pieces of research that IT projects fail when they do not target real needs or involve users."
"But it is more than a case of making IT people more user-friendly or making business people more IT-literate. We need people with bridging skills, who understand the organisation, the users, and IT. This vital role is often underestimated and the skills are poorly developed," she adds.
"The Business-IT Interface specialist group aims to raise the profile of the role and champion the professional development of people working to bridge the gap between the business and IT, both in projects and in drawing up IT strategy.
"At the strategy level such people might help shape business goals by providing knowledge of what technology can do for the business. The person might build business strategies, with business managers, into which IT elements are embedded rather than seen as separate entities," Wallsgrove says.
"At project level the person might be involved in intelligent requirements analysis for anything from company mergers to user interfaces, liaison with the business during a project, involvement in associated procedures and job definitions, and managing the early stages - even before it is clear if IT is even needed."
To sum up the gap between IT and business, Wallsgrove says, "The distinction between IT and IS is important. The business wants the right information in the right form at the right time - an effective information system, which may or may not involve IT. At present too much of the focus is on IT and too little on everything else needed to make an IS succeed."
All this demands a special type of person. "A bridge is not just someone who knows about business and about IT," Wallsgrove says. "Other critical areas include interpersonal, managerial and facilitator skills, and selling - bridging is about selling a solution bilaterally to business and to IT."
One of the group's aims is to clearly define the role as a job in its own right and then win recognition for it and for its special career development needs.
About 200 people have registered an interest in the group's work, ranging from IT managers and business analysts to consultants and managers in services companies. And members have already volunteered for working parties.
A particularly active working party is studying the reasons for IT project failure and gathering case studies. Meetings have been held in London and the North, to ensure people across the country can get involved.