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Are IT and Business On The Same Page?

The mismatched roommates in The Odd Couple, Oscar & Felix, are a great example of two people making peace with one another’s differences. Oscar loved life yet struggled with carefree spending and cleanliness. Felix, on the other hand, was rather uptight and quick to judge. Although different, both had a positive effect on one another.

You could draw a similar conclusion about today’s more modern version of The Odd Couple: business and IT. We’ll let you decide who’s who, but based on what we’re hearing and seeing in that market, these two groups do not appear to be on the same page. Have no fear, though, just like Oscar and Felix, these two groups can have a positive effect on each other … as soon as both are on the same page.

Step one of getting business and IT on the same page: understanding, communicating and aligning on the corporate strategy. PwC confirmed in a recent survey, though, that the gap between business and IT continues to widen. Only 54% of survey respondents believe that business and IT share an understanding of the corporate strategy, down from 60% last year. Take a hint from Oscar and Felix. Once those two started to share an understanding of one another’s differences, that’s when they started to have a positive influence on one another.

Step two of getting business and IT on the same page: identifying and solving for the right business pain points. In addition to not being aligned on the corporate strategy, 54% of business leaders believe IT gets in the way of getting stuff done. CIO.com stressed that, “When conceiving big projects, CIOs often talk about finding the ‘pain points’ in a process and fixing them. That’s IT Management 101. But it seems CIOs haven’t identified all of the pain points in the interaction between IT and the rest of the company. Business leaders want the CIO to simplify technology; it’s the most important thing CIOs can do to improve relations, they say. They also say it’s much more urgent than CIOs think for the IT group to reorganize, to be easier to work with and to train IT people to focus on external customers.” Also important to note that being easier to deal with was another route Oscar and Felix took to move their relationship in a more positive direction. Those two are just full of life lessons.

Step three of getting business and IT on the same page: recognizing future business needs. 50% of IT spend now sits outside of the CIO’s budget. The lack of centralization has increased the amount of unseen business technology deployments, known as “shadow IT.” In order to stop this trend, IT teams need to redefine their roles and move beyond just being a cost center to being a source of value for the business. No matter where the spend sits, IT is ultimately responsible for ensuring that whatever is spent outside of IT is still within the governance of their organization. If IT leaders are aligned with the business on the corporate strategy and have identified the right pain points, recognizing the future business needs should be a seamless third step in the process.

Finally, a business-centric view will also empower IT to not only be on the same page but also stay one step ahead of the business. A recent WSJ article recommends, “As CIOs look to create change within their organizations, strategic vision, and execution will be essential. CIOs highlighted the importance of speaking the language of business, tailoring the message to stakeholders and using terms they’re comfortable with. Once CIOs have communicated and executed on their visions, it’s crucial to measure success. After that, rinse and repeat.” A step up or step aside mentality should go along with this business-centric view, “Business leaders are more dependent than ever on technology to drive growth and innovation, and less likely to wait patiently for CIOs to deliver needed capabilities. Savvy CIOs are actively rethinking their value propositions, delivery models, and commitments to the business. CIOs who fail to adjust will be left on the sidelines as other business leaders forge ahead to drive change through technology.” Oscar and Felix were quite talented at “adjusting” to one another’s differences:

Felix Unger: The man puts his ketchup on his salad.

Oscar Madison: So? I like ketchup. It’s like tomato wine.

You don’t have to enjoy a ketchup salad, but be ready to adjust your sails along the way.

IT and business can have the relationship The Odd Couple did after they learned to appreciate one another’s differences. Let these simple steps guide you and you’ll be on the same page with the business in no time flat:

  1. Understand, communicate and align on the corporate strategy
  2. Identify and solve for the right pain points
  3. Recognize future business needs
  4. Maintain a business-centric view

We’re not alone in recognizing this disconnect. Gartner* also shared a few steps IT leaders can take when they find themselves reacting to pressure from the business:

  • Work with the business to understand what they value
  • Focus on costing relevant, business-valued services first
  • Aggregate costing information to the highest practical level as valued by the business owner; business needs drive value definition
  • Concurrently develop supporting cost detail for the technical components (or services)
  • Report and demonstrate IT services at a business value level
  • Enable the business to make choices on services and/or service levels actually needed

Any other pieces of advice for IT leaders? Send us an email or follow us at @ComScibyUpland.

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