Talk to Me: The Disconnect Between Business and IT

The disconnect between business and IT is often lamented. A lot is spoken and written about this chasm. Ostensibly, a lot is done to bridge it. Yet, most would agree the chasm still exists.

Conventional wisdom says the root cause of this problem is business and IT do not understand each other. Business does not understand what IT can do and IT does not get what the business wants done.

Granted, there is truth to this argument. However, I have yet to come across a business person who does not think IT can do wonders for their business. Similarly, I have not met an IT leader who does not think understanding the business is important to them.

With this keen desire, why are the two sides unable to understand each other? I believe the problem lies elsewhere. It is in the respective perceptions of the two sides on what “understanding” is and how to foster it.

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Business is a Team Sport

The very fact we speak of “business” and “IT” as separate entities is a glaring symptom of the lack of understanding of the fundamentals—on both sides.

The ’80s brought about the dominance of the Japanese in manufacturing. We learned a key lesson from the Japanese manufacturing success: Manufacturing is a team sport.

It turns out not just manufacturing, but business is a team sport, too.

Business and IT are part of the same team. The former is the demand side of business. The latter is the supply or delivery side of the business. Together, they go to market and are either successful or fail. The fact remains it is the team, not its parts, that succeeds or fails.

The interaction between the members of the business team is not sequential. Business comes up with strategy. IT comes up with the solution once it is handed a business strategy. I disagree.

Members of the business team work together to create a strategy and stay together through execution. Because strategy is never “done” and execution lessons drive strategic “adjustments.” Strategy and execution are part of the same process. They happen in multiple “learn-and-do” cycles.

In this context, we must stop talking about business and IT “alignment” and start thinking about business and IT “fusion.”

Language. Successful teams communicate well. Often, business and IT speak different languages. It is assumed the other side understands. Worse, there is chauvinism on both sides and an assumption the other should make an effort to learn their language.

To be successful, business and IT must talk the same language. I am not referring just to the vernacular. I am referring to everything that surrounds good communications. Good communications are timely. Good communications are two way: one must speak but one must listen. Good communications are less about speaking and more about understanding.