Despite the movement to think of technology as an integrated asset in all facets of business, many recent studies have shown an uncannily large disconnect between IT departments and non-IT business entities. And although we are moving into a very technical-dependent future, this dissonance hinders the progression of any organization.
Both IDC and Deloitte have released reports on IT leaders in the workforce, and their compatibility with Finance and non-IT business leaders. Corresponding statistics were overwhelmingly low – IT was seen as a support service, goals did not align between the IT and Finance, and both entities thought they had a different “customer” base.
Why is there such disconnect between IT and non-IT business entities?
1. Metrics – Both areas are evaluating different metrics, and according to the reports, the IT departments are looking at the wrong metrics. Finance want IT departments to review IT spend as a percentage of business revenue and its effect on sales cycles. How much revenue did IT produce and how much did IT contribute to a sale?
2. IT and business are looked at as separate entities – Technology is already deeply rooted in every aspect of a company, from mobiles and workstations, to network connections and server backups. And with the explosion of the Internet of Things, companies will be more reliant on technology. However, for the IT department to get along with other business entities, they need to understand each other’s goals, needs and challenges. The Deloitte survey revealed that 54 per cent of all other departments see IT as a service or maintenance team, not as an innovator. Less than half see the IT department as an integral service to the business.
3. Communication – The primary reason of this disconnect begins with the foundation: communication. Finance focuses on financials, and IT focus on business capabilities through technology. The alignment is off; Finance blames IT for not looking at strategy and value creation when implementing IT projects. IT departments find finance leaders cuts IT budgets, which will defer CapEx spending and force the business to use aging technology. Of course, this increases costs, creating more tensions between the IT and Finance.
More than half non-IT business leaders view IT as too complex to access. More surprisingly, it says that non-IT business leaders want IT to focus on external customer concerns. This is important – when IT departments purchase technology, they consider technology health, security, cost, and what they feel is the best solution to use per department.
And it’s clearly a separate goal. IT is treating the internal business units as the customer. However, if business revenue is dependent on sales, there needs to be a correlation between IT and earned revenue.
4. Departmental research and experimentation – The risk analysis and communication barriers pose great obstacles in terms of IT buy-in and experimentation. Most IT leaders are expected to present business cases to gain company sponsors in order to earn the green stamp of approval.
Therein lies a problem. If an IT leader is planning future infrastructure changes, he or she needs to respond to technology lifecycles. Hardware is upgraded every two years and is considered aged or failing by 3.5 years. The “one size fits all” rarely applies in IT – marketing and sales may need to emphasize graphics and processing speeds, but Finance’s priorities could sit on financial security options. Floor supervisors may require tablets, and operations may be process heavy with analysis.
This begs the question – who should be responsible for researching and experimenting with department-specific technology?
Departments should be relying on IT leaders to lead the experimentation process, strategizing new ways on finding new technologies, analyzing and deploying them in a timely manner. Likewise, a department should also have the ability to research emerging technologies, as the Internet of Things slowly merges into mainstream business functions. However, departments run risks of experimenting without the aid of the IT department. Security breaches, infrastructure obstacles and shadow IT, aka. easy to hide IT such as third-party servers, can compromise the experimentation process. The IT leader’s role is to provide additional support – security, cost, deployment strategies. Both are beneficial, as long as the parties work harmoniously.
IT and non-IT departments need to work amicably and integrate their goals, but at the bare basics, they do need to improve communication. It is the only fundamental way to ensure business needs are met and for the organization to maximize the use of their resources.