Lost in Translation - a handbook for information systems in the 21st century

The so-called 'business/IT divide' appears to be getting wider at the very time when business and technology are fusing.

The so-called 'business/IT divide' appears to be getting wider at the very time when business and technology are fusing, and everyone and everything is becoming connected, says Carl Bate, VP UK CTO, Capgemini.

So, it is little wonder we have so many real-world issues about new business technology models and how business can embrace them.

Andy Mulholland, Global Chief Technology Officer at Capgemini, sums the situation up perfectly: "There is a crisis of communication so entrenched and intractable that many people cease to notice it anymore. When business and IT people sit down at a table to solve problems and build new solutions, the outcome is rarely pretty and often the process can be downright unpleasant. It turns out that communicating about technology is much harder than anyone ever realised."

If you ask people in business about the biggest problems they face today, almost without exception you'll hear about the 'business/IT divide'. This might not surface immediately, but progress the discussion a little and at some point there will be an issue - perhaps around budget, complexity, agility, customer interaction or business information - that ultimately leads to a problem with 'IT', and more precisely, a problem with the business/IT divide.

At the end of the project day, one walks around the corridors to the sounds of 'if only the business had done a better job of specifying what they wanted' (IT folks) or 'if only IT had delivered what we asked for' (business folks).

So at least 'business' and 'IT' agree on something!

This is at a time when the users (I much prefer to use the term participants in an information system as opposed to users of information technology) often know more about how to exploit IT in business than the IT department, when the CIO role is amorphous at best and when the polar opposite worlds of 'Web 2.0' and 'corporate IT' are colliding.

It is a time when a crisis of communication we don't even notice anymore is the last thing we need.

I think we have discovered a step forward in the journey of addressing the divide. Nigel Green and I, with the support of many compatriots, have attempted to do the discovery justice and share it through a book 'Lost in Translation - a handbook for information systems in the 21st century'.

We believe there are some things we need to 'unlearn' about IT, and many things we are yet to learn about IS (information systems). We think an information systems perspective provides common ground for business and IT, and we've defined a 5-word common language for IS that shines a light on the 5 dimensions that seem to make a real difference in getting the outcomes that are really wanted. Often, what a solution should do for the business is described in the broadest strokes. How that solution might be implemented is described in microscopic detail.

A holy grail it is not, but a step forward we believe it is. We hope readers might find the thinking useful and we very much welcome views back.

Lost in Translation - a handbook for information systems in the 21st century

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