8: The Business-IT Partnership
The relationship between business and information technology (IT) is often characterized by exasperation and mutual misunderstanding, but as BI touches on both areas, a functional partnership between these factions is essential.
The author provides various anecdotal evidence in support of the strained nature of the relationship, and cites that a majority of survey respondents indicated that they felt this partnership was crucial. Meanwhile, remarks entered by respondents who felt their BI deployment was unsuccessful generally reflect business/IT conflict.
The author refers to the Chinese philosophy of two forces that are opposite in nature, but which can be highly effective if they work in harmony, hence the virtue of "blance" between these two sides - then then turns to personality studies, and indicates the stark difference in personality attributes (Attitudes and behaviors) between the two groups.
The Hybrid Business-IT Person
The author refers to the "hybrid" personality as an individual who can help to bridge the gap. Such persons are typically businesspeople who have gained technology skills (rather than IT people who gained business acumen). She relates her own experience as a technical writer, in seeking to bridge the gap between the two sides and often fluctuating between the two.
It's also noted that MBA programs are beginning to recognize the need individuals who understand and communicate in both spheres, requiring IT courses as a part of the core curriculum for business administrators, and programs designed for CIO's are often geared at pulling their heads out of the IT world to understand how to operate among "normal" businesspeople.
How to Be a Better Partner
The author refers to a consultant (Maureen Clarry) who specializes in improving business-IT relationships. Her key advice is to foster collaboration by teaming businesspeople with IT experts, expressing a project in terms of common goals, and constantly seeking to keep the team on a productive and cooperative tack.
Some of the specific advice given is:
- To develop an understanding of one another's needs and priorities (personality profiling can be very helpful in understanding motivations and work styles)
- To ensure that some members of the team are hybrid business-IT people who can help to foster harmony
- To insist that the language of discourse and correspondence is neutral, rather than expressed in the jargon of either side
- To ensure that participation is inclusive (the two factions do not go off and do their separate "parts" and only seldom come together) and gear incentive compensation toward mutual goals rather than individual performance of component tasks
- To make them part of the same team or organization.
- To use team building and social events to foster personal connectedness.
The author draws a distinction between partnership (a cooperative relationship in which the parties work together to achieve their separate goals) and alignment (a relationship in which the parties work together to achieve common goals). The implication is that the traditional IT-Business relationship was an uneasy partnership whereas a BI deployment requires a higher level of synchronization that can best be achieved through full alignment.
(EN: I think this misses the most common relationship between business and IT, which is a service model. In many organizations, the business is viewed as a pesky and demanding client of IT, who in turn is a reluctant service provider.)