Business Technology vs. Information Technology

Contestant: I’ll take technology roles for $200, please.

Host: The title given to someone who is responsible for creating business value that leverages technology.

Contestant: What is a business technologist?

Host: Correct!

Well, maybe you wouldn’t have placed a big wager on this Final Jeopardy question, but you might be surprised if you are part of the growing number of business technology professionals in the marketplace. As it turns out, the simple search of “business technology” on Google returns over 21 million results!

Over the years, I have seen a growing trend by companies, researchers, vendors, academics and the media in adopting a different message supporting the usage of the word “business” in front of the word technology, instead of “information”. But how many are simply trying to keep pace with the market and how many are truly adjusting their business models to address this growing trend? Lets take a closer look.

The definition of business technology or BT is evolving and although a standard definition does not exist, several organizations, including the BTM Institute, set forth the definition below:

“Business Technology is the application of IT to deliver a business capability or automate a business operation. Business technology can be thought of as the result of configuring, implementing, applying, and using IT to produce a business result. Business technology investments and business technology capabilities are investments related to the creation, use, and maintenance of business technology.

Since 1999, I have met with IT executives and managers from over 300 organizations around the world to better understand their challenges, motivations, frustrations and goals. In almost all interactions, these folks describe what they do in terms of enabling the business to achieve a particular objective such as process improvements, cost reductions, etc.

Unfortunately, this is often not the description given by their business counterparts. On the surface, this could be dismissed in a way that describes the tenuous relationship between sales and marketing or engineering and finance. On the other hand, if IT were delivering on the business value of technology to organizations, alignment with the business would no longer be on the Top 3 priorities list every year.

So, how do we change what’s wrong with this picture?

With the growing pervasiveness of technology over the past decade, there are few scenarios whereby technology is not being leveraged to enable the business. One very recent example of this convergence was a live Web broadcast hosted by Oprah Winfrey that attracted viewers from around the world. According to Harpo Productions, the webcast was one of the largest single online events in the history of the Internet. More than 500,000 people simultaneously logged on to watch Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle live, resulting in 242 Gbps of information moving through the Internet.

Although some users had experienced technical difficulties, Harpo further explained, “that interactive Internet broadcasting to a mass audience is still an emerging medium, and we’re proud to have been pioneers in pushing the industry forward.” The webcast was also made available to download via iTunes.