Let’s outsource the business…we’d be better off!
The 8th Business and IT Masterclass series from the BITA center is well underway. The theme of the Masterclass on 10 April was ‘Communication’. I delivered an ABC of ICT Workshop (Attitude, Behavior, Culture) to help show how ABC is both a barrier and an enabler to effective communication, and to show that Business & IT ALIGNMENT is still an issue.
This was the description of the session for the attendees.
Communication, the basis of alignment
“We need to communicate more” this is a common statement in organizations. The chasm between the language used by the business and the language used by IT still exists despite all the efforts and initiatives. Is the problem in the ‘language and terminology’ used? Or do IT-ers come from Mars and the Business people come from Venus? What is effective and efficient communication? What does communication mean for the learning and knowledge creating organization? Do we need to re-engineer the communications process or improve our professionalism in this area?
In my mind communication, in the context of this Masterclass session, is all about ‘Trust’ and ‘Understanding’. The previous speaker said we need to get rid of the term business & IT alignment, use business and IT ‘samenwerken’ (working together). I believe alignment is still a very opportune word. We need to align our shared understanding, are we in line with what needs changing?, where we are heading with IT? are we aligned to a level of mutual trust and respect? Until we have this alignment then we will not be seen as an added value partner and not be trusted to participate at board level. I think alignment is the lowest level of maturity, then perhaps ‘intergration’or as Peter Hinsen calls it ‘Fusion’, but for many IT organizations these are, at the moment a step too far.
What has ABC got to do with communication?
Attitude: do we understand each other? Do we have trust? Are we credible? This will influence how our communication will be received and perceived
Behavior: A significant part of communication is non- verbal? It is in the behavior. ‘I’ll believe that when I see it!’, this is ‘walk-the-talk’, ‘Put your money where your mouth is’, ‘Show me’! Desired behavior leads to desired results which leads to credibility. A solid foundation for being believable and for being listened to.
Culture: Culture influences communication styles and rules. For example people will communicate differently in a ‘blame culture’, an ‘internally focused’ IT culture has a limitation in it’s ability to understand the business needs and communicate in business terms which widens the gulf in the ‘them and us’ culture between business and IT.
ABC of ICT Results
Below are the top chosen ABC worst practice cards from the workshop. Draw your own conclusions. There are two new cards in the top cards compared to previous years, ‘Let’s outsource the business, we’d be better off’, and the ‘blame culture’. Perhaps these signify the frustration on both sides that the Business and IT alignment issues are now becoming unacceptable?
- No understanding of business impact and priority
- IT is too internally focused
- Neither partner makes an effort to understand the other
- Blame culture
- Let’s outsource the business we’d be better off!
- Not my responsibility
- Is this Attitude, Behavior, Culture characteristic for ‘samenwerken’ (effective team working between business & IT), or Íntegration?’, or ‘Fusion?’
I showed one of the top chosen cards world-wide, also chosen today. ‘Neither partner makes an effort to understand the other’ in the cartoon the CEO and CIO are sitting at a table with a marriage guidance counselor trying to repair the relationship before it is damaged to the point of divorce. Business and IT are like a married couple. Things have gone too far. IT is becoming too important not to have a solid relationship. In the workshop the IT frustration is highlighted by the choice of the card ‘Let’s outsource the business, we’d be better off!’.
In Business & IT only one partner can outsource the other!
However IT seems to forget the fundamental difference with a real marriage. In Business & IT only one party can outsource the other! IT MUST accept it’s responsibility and step up to the plate. IT MUST communicate in words AND deeds that is a trustworthy, credible partner for the business.
Once again I asked the definition of a ‘Service’, nobody knew it. I explained it is all abut Value, Outcomes, Costs and Risks and asked the teams to select the card with the most negative impact on V,O,C,R.
‘No understanding business impact and priority’ was chosen. It was also agreed this created an unacceptable business risk.
I went back to the session description about ‘re-engineering the communication process‘. I do not know what this is? But I do think we need to re-engineer our existing processes. I asked the teams ‘ If this is the top chosen card, which ITIL (or CobIT, BiSL) processes can be used as instruments to improve this level of communication and understanding’?
The teams unconsciously came to the conclusion there are strategic, tactical and operational processes and stakeholder that need to be addressed:
Strategic: Service portfolio management (what’s coming in the pipeline and what does it mean in terms of V,O,C,R)? , Financial management (business case), Demand management (Understanding and prioritizing demands and resource allocation), Business Relationship management (understanding, communication, marketing IT).
Tactical: Service Level Management (Service impact), Change management (change impact and priotity)
Operational: Service desk, Incident management, Problem management
Each of these process areas need to be re-engineered to ensure that impact and priority is understood and that the processes can deliver on this. It also showed that operational, tactical and strategic managers need to learn to communicate on these terms with their business counterparts.
I asked how many actually applied the frameworks this way? To solve a recognized problem? To agree with the business the need? And to engineer the processes to ensure customer engagement and dialogue and demonstrable value? ………..few hands were raised.