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Alignment isn't enough. You need business-IT integration.




By Joshua Brusse, Chief Architect, Asia Pacific and Japan, HP Software Professional Services


I’ve written before about IT4IT and why this new reference architecture marks a major new way for IT to manage itself. The IT4IT standard gives you a very clear set of competencies and way to evaluate your IT organization. It’s going to be absolutely essential in the service-broker world.


I believe a key change will be the evolution of the way the business and IT relate to each other. Business-IT alignment is no longer enough. Now you need business-IT integration, simply because in almost every company IT is the face of the business. How do you get there? Not by merely managing the relationship between IT and the business, but by fostering engagement.


From relationship to engagement

In the past, IT had a narrow view of the relationship to the business. This view could be summed up as, “This is how we as IT can help you. Here are a couple of choices.” IT spent the budget on what it thought was best. The relationship was something of a one-way street. In recent years IT has gotten closer to the business, but it is still not “there” yet.


The need for change continues. IT needs to integrate with the business. It needs to be part of the business, the business processes, the business innovation, and the business challenges. It needs to feel, think, and act like the business. It needs to have the same “sense of urgency” as the business. In other words, IT needs to be engaged.


Engagement means that business and IT understand each other fully. We understand each other’s pain. We understand what makes the other successful. It’s a much more mature and very different way for these organizations to act together.


Engagement at every level

Many organizations still experience a fundamental problem: When an application goes live, many times it is not what the business needs. Instead, there’s been a big gap in communication and understanding between business and IT. This gap occurs because IT doesn’t “live the business.”


For IT to truly deliver what the business needs, there needs to be engagement through all the layers of the organization. So it’s not just the leaders who are engaged with each other. At every level you should have full engagement:

  • When you’re talking about strategy and portfolio
  • When you start capturing requirements and designing apps
  • When you test and deploy the apps
  • When you want to improve the apps after they’re operational

Building a bridge between business and IT

This type of business and IT engagement is still rare, but I’m seeing a few organizations attempt to change their cultures to foster engagement. They’re doing this by putting in place engagement managers. Some places might call them relationship managers, but their task is really to engage.


An engagement manager goes much further than a business analyst. In an IT organization you typically have a business analyst who analyzes requirements and then goes back to the business to tell say whether IT can deliver what the business has asked for.


In the engagement-focused organizations I’ve observed, IT is hiring people from the business and putting them in IT. These people are not technical, but they understand what is possible from an IT perspective. Their main task is to be the bridge between the business and IT. They ensure that the business understands the challenges IT has, but also that IT understands what the business needs and is more proactive in what it delivers.


The benefit of being business-minded

In the service-broker era, it’s even more important for IT to become business-minded. When you have business-IT integration, the business can feel secure that its needs are going to be met through IT in one way or another. Either IT delivers the portfolio of services itself, or it brokers a combination of services.


In this way, IT ultimately saves money for the enterprise. It’s always far more expensive to discover down the road that there are services being delivered that the business doesn’t need, and services the business needs that aren’t being delivered. Not only that, an IT organization that is engaged with the business reduces overall risk to the enterprise, by reducing the shadow IT that occurs when the business goes outside IT.


To learn more about how IT can transform to a more business-minded broker of services, read The New IT: Managing and Delivering Services in a Multi-Vendor Environment (registration required).


Joshua headshot.JPGJoshua Brusse is Chief Architect, Asia Pacific and Japan, HP Software Professional Services. He writes frequently about leadership, management of organizational change, cloud, and IT Service Management. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaBrusse.


Related links:

HP Software Professional Services

Blog post: IT4IT: Why the new way of managing IT requires a cultural shift

Blog post: Why change should be a core competency in your organization

Blog post: Why the IT Value Chain is your blueprint for strategically regaining control of IT

Ebook: Deliver business value with the New Style of IT

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