The mini-case starts with “IT is a pain in the neck,” which is a wrong notion that most of the business managers have in an organization. The history of IT-business relationships in most of the organizations shows that there is a huge gap between both sides which is getting better over a period of time. Today, managers know the fact that it is the people, technology and information that realizes the value of a company and everytime IT cannot be blamed for everything. The days have gone when IT was looked at as the sole responsibility for a company’s growth or downfall. IT processes along with the ability of the organization to manage information and people’s faith and behavior decide the actual value.
Shortcomings of business and IT
The partnership between business and IT at Hefty hardware is not so good and each side thinks that the other side doesn’t really understand what their actual requirements and problems are. The business thinks that they are unnecessarily pouring millions of dollars into IT and not getting a real value for it. They think that the IT is so self-absorbed with their work and problems that they really don’t get what the business is trying to do. The VP, Cheryl O’Shea and the COO Glen Vogel believe that the IT doesn’t know the basic functions of business and as part of the higher-level management, they think that it’s their responsibility to take the IT folks onto the field to really make them understand the business operations at all the Hefty stores. The IT has a total different perspective on this. The CIO, Farzad Mohammed and chief architect, Sergei Grozny refer to this whole idea of going onto the field as ‘Boondoggle’ which shows they believe that this would bring no value to the work they do and consider it as a waste of time.
They think that going to the field would not help them much in understanding the business. Instead, they are only focused on planning the strategic IT architecture for the Savvy stores initiative and other high priority projects. Also, they think that they can send the IT folks onto the field once they are done with the planning and budget cycle. But, little do they understand here that it would be of no use sending the IT people after the planning as things to be changed as early as possible in a project life cycle. The more delay in the changes, the more complex and expensive the project would be. The IT folks couldn’t communicate properly with the business about their ideas and strategy that confused the business and made them reject the ideas that were actually worth trying. In the market today, business is showing growing interest to partner with IT to make sure they get the value for investing huge in technology.
But, still there is a gap between the two departments and the IT folks think that they do not have enough support from the business to ensure the value is realized for the organization. A good example of deep integration of IT and business is the recent firing of the Apple maps chief. The ill-fated Apple maps was the failure of both the IT folks who couldn’t develop an efficient app for maps and also the business who couldn’t gather all the requirements and couldn’t manage the project to achieve the desired output. As a result, the Apple exec Richard Williamson was blamed and fired for the disastrous project and humiliation for the organization. In the past, a good amount was spent by companies in new technological deployments. During this time, there are no returns. Post-deployment, there would be some value realization due to the initial efficiencies but this would be only for around six months.
But, after this due to the increase in use, complexities increase which increase the costs. This may lead to losing belief in the initiative but if the faith is carried on, value can be realized by applying people, information and technology more efficiently and simplifying business. Hence, the organization can achieve real long-term if they religiously follow this. Plan for IT and business collaboration for Savvy Store Success The business and IT, both are right in their place but wrong in the complete picture and both need to work on their shortcomings and start working together as a team to achieve the desired value. It should not be a “you-us” but “we” oriented efforts and there should be a blurred line between the two. As thought by Jenny, each hold the pieces of the future picture of business. From the business perspective, they need to really understand how to express and explain what it really wants from IT. Also, they need to link the IT value to the business model so that it becomes easy for the IT to really understand what is expected of them and where does their work fit in the whole picture.
The business should seek commitment to all the projects in IT which would increase the efficiency of the overall process. Also, the business needs to get the right people involved in the organization that not only have the technical skills but also can listen and understand the business perspective. So, T-shaped professionals who not only are experts in their own discipline but also can understand other disciplines are required. The IT strategies and budgets need to be reviewed more frequently and the business needs to revisit the business model at regular intervals and make the required changes instead of expecting overwhelming efforts from the IT that not only leads to poor quality of work but also can spoil the reputation of the company. From the IT perspective, they need to increase their knowledge on business and its functions. IT folks need to understand the overall organizational goals and objectives, business requirements, ideas and success factors.
This would help them to work towards the organization success and avoid problems with business. From the scenario of not sending the top IT folks onto the field not only reflects the disinterest of IT to actually getting to know the real scenario but also reflects the bitter truth that there is a lack of resources and the associates are getting overloaded. Instead of adjusting with the number of resources and ignoring the important aspects of business, IT needs to express to the business that they need more resources to concentrate on all the areas of work. The IT staff needs to put tremendous effort on communication since that is one of the biggest hindrances between IT and business. They need to work more on their way of expression and simplify things to make the business understand how the initiatives serve the business purposes.
They need to understand organizational dynamic and be more professional in what they do. The dedication of IT towards business should increase and it should serve as a trusted advisor to business. A prioritization rubric needs to be maintained by both the departments and needs to be revisited and updated frequently. The client and corporate values need to be incorporated in all the IT work. This gives a clear picture of what needs to be attended right away and what can be postponed. Also, there is a lack of governance structure to manage the overall strategies and identify the interdependencies between business and IT. The business and IT should trust each other and be clear at their expectations and accountabilities in order to avoid conflicts in the future.
McKeen, James D; Smith, Heather (2012). IT strategy: Issues and practices (2nd ed.). Boston: Prentice Hall. Kindle Edition.