News
21 March 2017

Eight principles of effective cooperation between IT and business

In the 21st century, we probably wouldn’t find a company that doesn’t need information technologies for their day-to-day business. Quite the contrary. IT has become an essential part of business processes. IT is usually vital for the company to function properly.

In spite of that, IT solutions used by companies often do not reflect their business activities and strategic goals which is to their detriment. If properly set, IT processes can significantly simplify running of the company and help it get the competitive edge for instance by optimizing IT resources, eliminating unnecessary activities or the use of innovative solutions.

In our practice we often deal with similar issues. Based on that, we identified 8 guiding principles that will effectively help you avoid making the most common mistakes.

1. Speak the same language

Although representatives of IT and business departments usually come from one and the same country, their communication sometimes looks like they speak different languages. That’s why it’s important that all stakeholders use the same terminology and understand the terms used by the other party. BiSL (Business Information Service Library) – a publicly available source of the best practices for the implementation of Business Information Management, can be used for this purpose. Its greatest added value is that it introduces a common language within the organization improving mutual understanding of the parties. In addition to technical terms it is also recommended to use simple graphics such as traffic lights or mind maps.

2. Bring IT back to the company

Although IT departments are usually part of the corporate organizational structure, they are often omitted from discussions about corporate strategic plans and other important issues that have an impact on the internal IT environment. It’s important that both parties have clear understanding of where the company is heading.

3. Know the value of your IT

Oftentimes, the value of corporate IT is not understood properly. It is not the sum of the cost of individual components (hardware, software, licenses). The real value is what these components provide to the company and how they can help to achieve company’s business goals. That’s why the IT procurement should be regarded as an investment rather than a purchase. A high price of IT equipment does not necessarily mean high value and a high rate of return on investment. To retain the value of IT for a company throughout its life cycle IT 4 IT methodology was developed.

4. Learn how it affects your business

IT often provides support for company’s business activities. It is therefore necessary to clearly identify how changing an IT solution would affect the functioning of other parts of the company and in particular, if the change would actually deliver on management’s expectations. That’s why it’s essential that both parties clearly understand the reason, the purpose and the outcome of any such a change. Any IT innovation must therefore reflect the managers’ original intent and deliver on their expectations.

5. Determine the IT ownership

Another factor that helps bringing company’s IT and business departments closer together is if you determine the IT ownership. All systems, processes and data must have their owners. Respective owners have their tasks and their role is to make sure that any solutions used are driven by goals they want to achieve. The whole process should do exactly what you want it to, and the data should bring the expected added value. RACI methodology is designed to do just that – it allows you to define owners and other supporting roles. It helps you determine how the process should work and under what conditions it would deliver the desired results.

6. Know what to expect from IT

There is often a difference between the way company communicates with internal and external clients. When ordering a service from a supplier, company as a client tends to elaborate a detailed specification of requirements and parameters and clearly stipulate the service provision terms and conditions. However, when communicating internally, IT oftentimes does not know exactly what the business expects from them and how they should deliver it. That’s why when taking orders for internal IT, company should make sure that the requirements are equally well defined as in the case of external orders. In these cases company should also apply the principle of monitoring and evaluation to make sure that the service provided by your own IT department really meets the expectations of business departments. It is also useful to manage business expectations and align the views of both parties on the expected deliverables.

7. Apply what you already know

In larger companies the know-how and information the company has already acquired is often not applied. The knowledge simply lies somewhere there in a vacuum. And people who would benefit from it usually don’t know that such know-how or information exist. So, if your company struggles again and again with an issue it had successfully resolved in the past, it is wasting its resources.

IT systems collect a wide variety of corporate data from various areas. It is therefore important to use procedures to process these raw data and turn them into useful information. Such processed data have an added information value and can thus be used in different contexts. By becoming more structured and logical the information facilitates faster and more effective decision making.

8. Get the right people

Project implementation is always managed by managers. The role of an IT manager/CIO is often more difficult than that of other managers. It is because they need to bridge IT and business – two different worlds with very different mindsets. An IT specialist may have an intimate knowledge of all IT systems, but may not be able to understand business needs and customizations of specific tools. Ideally, an IT manager should have a balanced knowledge of both sides and be able to understand both parties. Such an IT manager has a unique position acting as a bridge successfully connecting these two worlds.

 

David Dvořák, CISA, CISM, CRISC, ITIL

IT Advisory BU Manager