Them and Us rules OK!
I was invited to perform an ABC workshop at the Business and IT alignment Masterclass organized by the BITA center in the Netherlands. The group was made up of about 30 ‘Information managers’ from the IT side and 1 solitary Business person. Quite surprisingly, for many readers perhaps, but the business representative was really just like a normal person. But then again can you describe IT people and information managers as normal people – caressing and stroking their i-pads, i-phones and blackberries constantly during the session.
The theme was ‘Alignment: and they all lived happily ever after’. Really!? I thought. Sub themes were ‘Relationship’, ‘Trust’, ‘Shared goals, ‘Shared Risks’.
I introduced the concept of ABC (Attitude, Behavior and Culture) worst practices, showing a worst practice card that typically represents our ‘Relationship’ with the business.
‘…and they all lived happily ever after’. I don’t think so! The Business & IT relationship really is like a long married couple, who grudgingly accept each other’s bad habits, knowing the other partner is unlikely to change their ways, both moaning but not really getting down to discussing and solving the issues. The difference being that if they get divorced (outsourcing) the business gets everything whilst IT is out of job, home and house. Let’s not forget that in the world of IT, the business can outsource us if we don’t change but we can’t outsource them! This cartoon seems to have been the status quo for rather a long time which is why ‘Business & IT alignment’ remains a hot topic and theme for CIOs. Unfortunately however few Business and IT marriages actually get a guidance counselor to come and help them. Who should take the first step?
I suggested the ABC card set as an instrument for helping identify ‘How good is our relationship? How well do we really know the Business needs and issues?’ and ‘Do we actually know the business goals and the risks we create to the business because of the ABC issues within our organization?’. The ABC cards would help us assess our own worst practices and could be used as an instrument to open up the dialogue and discussions with the business and make the unspoken issues visible. We can use the card set as our surrogate counselor. As to the question who should take the first step? Well as IT is the one that seems to want to do the aligning and it’s a number 1 priority for them, and the business seemingly isn’t always THAT concerned and doesn’t have it as a top issue then I guess IT should make some kind of move if they want to be aligned.
The group was split into small teams and asked to select ABC worst practice cards they feel the business would choose that typically describes their IT organization.
When asked ‘Do you know this or THINK this?’ the answer is this is what we THINK because we’ve never actually asked them. Which is pretty strangewhen you considermost of the delegates agreed they were busy with frameworks such as ITIL, ASL, BisL aimed at improving Customer service but none actually know what the Customer wants improving?!
The top 10 cards chosen by the Information managers really do show that it will be a while, if at all, before we live happily ever after. Also if we look at the subthemes ‘Relationship’, ‘Trust’ we don’t just have a gap to be aligned but a chasm to be crossed, and the subthemes ‘Shared goals’, ‘Shared risks’ don’t exactly seem to be shared?
- The ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture
- Everything has the highest priority according to the users
- No management commitment
- IT has too little understanding of business impact and priority
- IT thinks it doesn’t need to Understand the Business to make a Business case
- Not my responsibility
- Too little business involvement in requirements specification and testing
- The framework (ITIL/BISL/ASL) is the objective not what they should achieve
- The ‘Superiority’ complex of IT
- Saying Yes but meaning No
The ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture card was also chosen by the team containing the IT people and the Business person from the same organization. They chose this card together in heated, but good humored way blaming each other. When the results were presented back to the congregated group of 30 people the other 29 IT people booed, jeered and hissed, pointing fingers and all smugly, from their superioty complex, agreeing the business was to blame. Who says there is a them and us culture?
The team with the IT and the obviously-to-blame-Business-pariah all agreed to take away the card showing the ‘them’ and ‘Us’ culture and to use it as a football refereee ‘yellow card’. Whenever one of the parties saw the other party displaying this behavior they would get out the card and say ‘You’re booked’, then they would agree a 10 minute time-out to discuss the issue and try and bridge the gap, improving the relationship and trying to win trust……..This is what they all said but considering the fact that ‘No management commitment’ and ‘Not my responsibility’ scores high we can only hope they can carry through. I did challenge them to submit a best practice case nomination for next year’s conference in which they can present how well they have succeeded in breaking down this barrier!