I.T. as part of the business? Ludicrous.

I.T. is just a cost center, isn’t it? The “business” is everyone who is not involved in I.T., right? Even as I settle into my new job in a very large organization, there is talk of having to align I.T. with the “business”, or how important it is to satisfy our “customer” – meaning the rest of the organization that is not part of I.T.

This thinking is backwards, and creates the kind of attitude that will simply continue the difficult relationship between I.T. and the rest of the company. Instead, I.T. needs to be considered as part of the business – a part that is critical to its success, not a necessary evil that has to be overcome in order for the business to be successful. Too often, the “business” sees I.T. as a bunch of techno-geeks who just want to create cool technology, rather than an integral part of the company that needs to be leveraged as a partner to satisfy overall business needs. They are seen as technologists who don’t really understand the intricacies of the business, and who should be kept on a need-to-know basis when it comes to business decisions.

We need to make I.T. a partner with the rest of the business in solving problems, and finding ways to satisfy our true customers: the end-user of the output of our business. Until we look at it that way, there will be a disconnect within the organization. This concept is eloquently stated in a recent blog post on CIO.com.

In order for this to happen, the entire organization needs to see I.T. as partners in solving problems, and needs to bring them to the table sooner rather than later. I have seen too many examples of “the business” trying to keep I.T. at arms length, and rather than bringing them to the table during the brainstorming of solutions, they involve I.T. only after they have decided what they want to do, and give only the information that they think I.T. needs to provide their part of the overall solution. This is fragmented, and leads to mediocre solutions in the end.

So, how do we change this? I.T. people need to change their attitude toward “the business”, and stop hiding behind the thought process of “that is a business decision. Once they figure out what they want, we can provide it”, and take on instead the attitude of “what is the real problem we are trying to solve for our customers, and how can we help our business achieve those goals”. The non-I.T. folks also need to change their behavior, and realize that I.T. is much more than just the technical solution, but that there is real value in bringing them into the “inner circle”.

When this happens, our business will be more aligned and we will have much better technology solutions that help keep our real customers happy.

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