Business vs. IT

Business folks see technology as a business enabler (and rightfully so). Information management and systems have been around in one shape or form for as long as business have been (either on palm leaves, terracotta tablets, cloths, papers or on computer systems). The ‘T’ in IT came into existence to enable better business. This is a very simple fact that most IT people can agree with, but find hard to actually digest.
Unless you are a pure research organization that is not selling ANYTHING, the most important thing for any company is business – not IT. Even for the companies that sell IT, the “sell” (their business) is more important than IT – because that’s what helps them money to stay in business). The folks on the business side completely understand this concept.
A company’s business rarely changes, and even if/when it does, it doesn’t change to the level of the very concepts or to the core. On the other hand, Technology changes with the wind. Technology is still evolving and changing at the basic concepts level every day. With new and better technologies available every day, it is highly conceivable that a CIO’s organizational ‘technology’ direction changes more frequently than the corporate business direction. However, regardless of the changes to the ‘technology’ direction, the CIO’s organization still continues to travel in the general business direction of the company – enabling company’s businesses to do better.
So, the question is – who has to learn what to ensure the business and IT (that are inseparable, but often uncomfortable partners) work well and are comfortable with each other? If the answer is both should learn both sides, it could be a very expensive venture that may not make much “business” sense, especially when one of the sides (IT) is still evolving and ever changing – maybe every couple years.
Therefore, IMHO, there are two possible solutions to solve the discomfort between the inseparable partners.

  1. Build a translator – a lean mean IT sub-organization that understands the business of the company, can keep up with the changes in the technology, speaks both languages, and can effectively act as a liaison between the business and IT.
  2. Help IT managers and/or project managers learn the business of the company, and have them act as the translator/liaison.

Whichever of the two is more suited for the company is a decision that each individual company must make. Sometimes, a combination of the two opens up as a third option.
And then help the business learn how to effectively use the technology tools to help them do their jobs better.