Over the years, I have had an opportunity to host and participate in a number of client- and vendor-sponsored briefings. With the trends that have been occurring over the past five years regarding cloud and other managed services, it is always interesting to observe the interactions between the technologist and the business owner participating in these events. It is clear that the market is signaling a shift, and business owners are responding with new services, products, and reputation management strategies.

The old IT playbook

However, it seems that some IT groups are still using the old playbook and are not in synchronization with business outcomes. Several industry conferences I have attended, in addition to a number of white papers and articles I have read, strongly indicate that when it comes to choosing new services that impact revenue and customer experience, the majority of the decisions that impact IT are made outside of IT. Generally speaking, the business community has more integrated service providers, software as a service (SaaS), and commercial off the shelf (COTS) options then in the past. And they are exercising them.

Despite this trend, in many cases the interaction between IT and its other business counterparts continues to remain static or devolve. Does this scenario sound familiar? A technology vendor meets with your business to discuss ways to add value through their services. The line of business participants almost immediately understand where the vendor can help drive business outcomes by increasing the interaction with their customers before during and after the purchase of one of their products or services.  The IT group, on the other hand, is explicitly either shaking their heads to say no or stating that they can do it cheaper in house.

I recall being at one of these events with a line of business executive I know; he directed these words at his technology partner, “If we can do this in house, then why haven’t you done it?” Insert the sound of a pin dropping here.

With budget shifts occurring from IT to marketing and the significant number of enterprise-class alternative business enablement technologies available, I continue to be surprised to see the IT of old refusing to, or unable to, adopt that concept of business enablement.

The need for better relationships

CIOs and IT departments have spent the better part of the last thirty years focusing on command and control over technology–and may have missed the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with their peers and business owners. While there is great value in risk management and compliance, it is time for IT to “unlearn” the lessons of the last three decades and reach across the aisle to forge new relationships.

I can tell you from personal experience that the business owners do not overly concern themselves with technology (machine & OS); they focus on profit and loss, adoption rates, customer experience, monetizing the three screens (Web, TV, and mobile devices) and driving shareholder/stakeholder value. The future metrics of IT will not only include the usual suspects, up time, Recovery Point Objective (RPO), and Recovery Time Objective (RTO), but we will see some function of measurement of business impact as it relates to IT. This will force a pivot to either embrace the concept of IT as a business enabler or lead to a great deal or turnover and/decentralized IT where the line of business is piloting the ship.

While we have heard the mantra “IT is the Business and the Business is IT” for the last decade, we need more than a catch phase to effectuate that integration. To accomplish this, in addition to what organizations may be currently undertaking, I would focus on these three initiatives:

  1. Get a detailed understanding of the P&L model for the business that you are supporting.
  2. Work with your business owner(s) on a new set of acceptable business outcome metrics.
  3. Conceptualize and execute a joint effort to mature a reputation management strategy.
How could relationships between IT and line of business be improved in your organization? What’s the first step for better integration?