How many times have you heard a variation of “Business and IT need to work better together”? That piece of advice contains one of the most important shifts companies can make to establish a technology capability that enables them to compete effectively in the digital age.
Some companies have made changes, such as giving product managers new product-owner roles. But without sufficient training or changes to team dynamics, those shifts often remain superficial and don’t improve team performance. Too many companies are still too quick to point the finger at IT for every technical woe, from development delays to cost overruns. Casting IT as scapegoat can be a hard habit to change.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of room for improvement on the IT side of the house. Efforts to modernize technology—from addressing tech debt to migrating to the cloud to building up tech talent—all require significant improvements in how IT works and where it sets its priorities. But in a time when the technology capability is a source of competitive advantage, why doesn’t that happen more often?
There are many reasons, but the solution comes down to something that’s deceptively simple: if IT is to become a real driver of value, both business and IT must overcome bad habits and make a real commitment to being partners. That implies adoption on both sides of processes, mindsets, and capabilities that reinforce the mechanisms that nurture habits that can improve technology performance.
The trouble with go-betweens: Accountability
Because technology can seem confusing, opaque, or intimidating, those on the business side prefer to leave it to the IT experts. To bridge the disconnect, companies have turned to dedicated “go-between” roles as part of a well-meaning effort to make IT more responsive and customer oriented. Individuals variously designated as “translators,” “demand IT,” “business requirement managers,” or “IT process managers” take business requests and turn them into clear requirements with instructions for workers on the IT side, many of whom work offshore.
Unfortunately, the effect of these roles is often reduced accountability on both sides of the divide. On the business side, managers are content to define requirements without understanding how technology can best deliver on them and to, in effect, wash their hands of the whole IT development process. On the IT side, translators often simply accept requests from the business side without understanding the core issue, so they don’t think