Are You Talking To Me?

By | February 8, 2011

I’ve lately had a number of conversations with colleagues on the frequent disconnect between IT and the business. Does business look at IT and say, “are you talking to me?”

As my friend and colleague Brian Sondergaard ( likes to say, we create this situation and we do it to ourselves. We do this because we believe that it is the technology that is important. Technology isn’t necessarily important to the business. Sure, technology provides tools capable of creating business value but when they don’t, they are not terribly interesting to the business. Using these technologies to provide business value? Now you’ll get the business’s attention.

We have to shift our language and understanding of the business. We must have a clear understanding of our business goals, communicate them to our teams, and have business discussions with our customers. When we  start to understand and speak the business we are equipped to understand what is important and how we can use our skills to deliver software that increases revenue.

Creating strong ties to business goals creates clarity for what each of us must do to support the business. Business goals must be the rallying cry for aligning our teams. Every activity we perform should pass a litmus test of providing business value.

If we do this then we’ll see that the business no longer sees us as a cost to be controlled but as a partner that understands how we can use and create technology to meet the goals of the business. I would much rather see the business as a partner and not one that doesn’t understand the creation of business value.

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4 thoughts on “Are You Talking To Me?

  1. Adam

    Business side here. I've always believed IT is both a partner and an enabler of reaching our goals. Partner in that IT should be at the table helping to define the objectives, how to achieve them and why. Enabler, because, well let's be honest about where the bulk of the work is done. I've never looked at IT as a 'cost' in that regard. Maybe we need more enlightened business people!

  2. Rick Austin

    Indeed it is encouraging when you have enlightenment on both sides of the equation. I do believe IT tends to overemphasis technology at the expense of clearly understanding the business. If we can focus on business goals then we can bring to bear the technologies to better meet those needs. Both sides can work to improve our position.

  3. EphraimJF

    Great post Rick.

    I think business units & management have to start thinking more strategically about technology and need to link in the CTO/CIO and other IT managers into business discussions more.

    On the other hand, IT teams needs to learn to think from the business perspective and the end-user perspective. They need to try to see technology through very human, user terms. But that seems like a journey each company must make on its own.

    Martin White just posted a post related to yours on aligning corporate strategy with intranet strategy. This rarely happens, but when it does you see really useful intranets develop.


  4. Information Technology


    Improving this situation is more than just shifting our langage and creating stronger ties. While such points are important, so is not simplifying the work that Information Technology (IT) organizations perform. It's important to get the Business to understand how much work really does go on in IT, and most IT professionals are horrible at doing so.

    Business counterparts hate to sit through what they perceive to be the long and drawn out details that IT professionals put in front of them. Many IT professionals, afraid of losing the support of their business, quickly start to hide the details. As a result, the list of work IT performs starts to look shorter and shorter and simpler and simpler. The end result yields poor management of Business expectations of IT work and workers. The business expects far more for less and IT has set itself up to fail.

    IT professionals are usually very weak at itemizing everything they do for their Business counterparts, unlike Business resources who usually are forced to deal all work they perform. Business need to start communicating all the IT Disciplines they perform and all of the Capabilities they provide.

    It starts with standard terminology and definitions and getting the Business to understand IT's language, which is just as important as it is to get IT to use the Business' language.

    Anyhow, I hope this helps.

    My Best,

    Frank Guerino
    The International Foundation for Information Technology (IF4IT)

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