Business managers become techies, and techies become business managers in the modern decentralized organization.
These days, every company is a tech company, and every worker is a tech worker. Business managers are getting more tech-savvy, and IT managers are getting more business-savvy. Yet the cultural barriers in organizations of all sizes between IT departments and lines of business persist — to the disadvantage of both.
There are clear signs that show the fundamental nature of the relationship between IT and the business side is changing, just as the way both groups work is changing fundamentally. As every manager knows, change doesn’t come easy. Yet every manager also knows that the long-term success of the company depends on embracing those changes.
A positive consequence of the “technification” of business and the “businification” of tech is that the two groups are truly collaborating in ways they rarely have in the past. Every business decision not only involves technology, it is predicated on it. Likewise, every tech decision has at its foundation the advancement of the company’s short-term and long-term business goals.
As the adage goes: Easier said than done. Yet it’s being done — and done successfully — in organizations of all types and sizes. Here’s a look at what those success stories have in common.
In a September 1, 2015, article on BPMInstitute.org, Tim Musschoot writes that successful collaboration between business departments and IT departments depends on two things: having a common understanding among all parties; and managing each party’s expectations related to the other.
It’s not enough for each side to be using the same terminology. To establish a mutual understanding, you must consider behavioral aspects (who does what, how do they do it, when do they do it); information aspects (what is an order form, who is the customer, how do they relate); and the business rules that apply to processes and information (when can an order be placed, how are rates established, etc.).
The quickly closing gap between business and IT is evident by a recent survey of both groups conducted by Harris Poll and sponsored by Appian. Forbes’ Joe McKendrick examines the survey results in an April 27, 2015, article. One finding of the survey is that business executives are almost as enthusiastic as IT managers about the potential of cloud services to boost their organizations’ profits. Similarly, business managers perceive application maintenance, app and data silos, expensive app development, and slow app deployments as drains on their companies.
The need for business and IT to collaborate more closely on app development, deployment, and maintenance is highlighted in a Forrester study from 2013. As InfoQ’s Ben Linders writes, the business side often perceives IT staff as “order takers,” while IT departments focus on excelling at specific central functions. Both sides have to resist the tendency to fall into the customer-provider model.
Breaking out of the business/IT silos requires replacing the hierarchical organization with one based on overlapping, double-linked circles. The circles include everyone involved in the development project, and double-linking ensures that the members of each circle are able to communicate immediately and naturally on all the organization’s ongoing projects. This so-called sociocracy model ensures that the lines of communication in the company remain visible at all times.
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