Strategy Clinic: Getting closer to the business drivers

I've heard all the messages about IT getting closer to the business drivers. Can you offer any advice, such as clear guidelines,...

I've heard all the messages about IT getting closer to the business drivers. Can you offer any advice, such as clear guidelines, on doing this?

IT relating to the business?

I've heard all the messages about IT getting closer to the business drivers. I hold up my hands and say "message received loud and clear". However, my next job is to convey this to my foot soldiers who deal directly with users. Can you offer any guidelines?

The solution

Invest in visionaries

David Roberts

Executive director, tif

The people aspect of integrating IT and the business is the single most important challenge for all organisations, but especially larger, mature businesses. While many senior IT people say "message received", I doubt if anyone within tif.'s community would dare claim "problem solved".

  • It is an educational issue facing all staff - it is not really an IT problem but an HR and organisational challenge. You must identify and lead work with the key business function heads

  • The knowledge level across organisations about what IT is, how it works, its limitations, costs and complexities is appallingly low and will continually impede progress. Provide compulsory technology showcases

  • The dependency of businesses on IT is probably the cause of many boardroom rows, overspent budgets, the frequency of restructuring and the often mistaken use of outsourcing. Invest in project management visionaries.

    Get out of that ivory tower

    David Taylor

    Certus

    IT and business drivers must be one - there is now no difference whatsoever. Indeed, instead of being a separate ivory tower, IT must be at the very centre of an organisation. Easy to say, so hard to achieve.

  • Eliminate the word "foot soldiers" from your mind - they are human beings, ambassadors - your own marketing department

  • Everyone in IT must have contact with customers - however, make sure that those with the most regular contact have outstanding interpersonal skills

  • Stop, now and forever, thinking and referring to the term "business" - talk about the "company"

    By the way, this is the number one priority for most IT departments - do it now, do it fast, or look forward to being outsourced. Think in terms of a marriage

    Dr Robina Chatham

    Lecturer in management information systems, Cranfield School of Management

    You asked for three clear guidelines on this issue, so that's what I'll provide. To begin with:

  • Try using an analogy such as that of a marriage - getting close is about forming relationships, building trust and establishing rapport. A troubled relationship will end in divorce, and this can equally be between husband and wife or the business and IT

  • Make sure there is something in it for your foot soldiers - give them a budget to take the users out to lunch. Lunchtimes are for networking and relationship building

  • Look for role models and celebrate their success.

    The people who matter are users

    Jerry Humphreys

    Head of professional development, NCC Group

    The days when the IT department would deliver a system which they thought users wanted are dead and buried. Or are they? This situation used to arise because of the "Users don't know what they want syndrome". IT would then provide what was obviously required - the only people who matter are users.

    How can we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past? A few simple guidelines:

  • Encourage a more customer focused business conscious approach from your IT people

  • Understand the requirement. Obvious, but incomplete analysis equals incomplete understanding

  • Regularly and deeply review any project at major milestones.

    Remember, your team are also users and, for example, don't care how their videos work - they simply watch the film. Why should users of IT be any different? They do not care how it is done, and nor should they.

    Communicate and impart the joys of IT to all your staff

    Robin Bloor

    CEO, Bloor Research

    My three suggestions towards approaching this message would be:

  • Find out what the true business drivers are, if you don't already know. Then send an e-mail to the whole IT department telling them what they are

  • I get bad feelings about this expression: "foot soldiers" who deal directly with end-users. Make a list of all the people in your department who don't ever deal with end-users. Now find out how your department has managed to create such insular jobs and work out whether it really should be that way

  • Explain to your whole department, including the "cannon fodder" you refer to, that IT is a service department that sells its services to the rest of the company. Run a marketing campaign to the rest of the company on this basis, but do it subtly on the basis of "fostering customer care". Follow up the marketing campaign with an education campaign based on your staff helping other departments to understand the business advantages of intranets, extranets, the Internet and all the other joys of IT. Anything where IT makes a difference.

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