Sure, everyone talks about business-IT alignment, but what does it take these days to bring the tech leaders in line with the hopes and dreams of the business leaders? And, conversely, what does it take for the business folks to understand about the limitations and potential of technology?
In a recent post at his StarCIO site, Isaac Sacolick does a good job of describing the basics of what it takes to keep IT and business users engaged in a productive dialog. Here are a few nuggets:
1) Encourage self-initiative and learning. Formal training is great, but nothing beats hands-on, engaged experience. “A strong IT culture prefers rolling up the sleeves and experimenting first, training once they know the basics,” Sacolick says.
2) Avoid the blame game. Projects will always run into snags, or even require completely halting the effort and going back to the drawing board. It’s part of the learning process. It’s almost a daily occurrence that business may change its mind about requirements. “Agile teams might blame the product owner for over promising and everyone has something critical to say about the business strategy, but strong IT teams will think through how to improve their own practices before tossing blame or being critical of other business functions,” says Sacolick.
3) Share information on how things work. It pays to provide business users with insights on why applications work and flow the way they do. This may even help users address their own minor issues, versus the frustration of having to send trouble tickets to IT and wait for resolution. “Document process, and educate colleagues on how to fix things,” Sacolick urges. “IT teams that horde information, over-complicate things so that business users don't understand how things work, or make it impossible for their colleagues to enhance their technical implementations, are impeding organization growth and scalability.”
4) Get involved in understanding business priorities and challenges. Technology leaders and professionals are no longer just coders the business needs their advice, especially as we move forward into the digital insurance era. “Seek out to participate in the debate on what and how the business should move an agenda forward, Sacolick says. Learn to think strategically.
5) Become smarter about your own operations. Keep improving IT operations and deliverables by measuring performance. “Collect meaningful data, convert them to metrics, look for trends, and prioritize improvements,” says Sacolick. “Learn to ask good questions about data, and take other steps to help become a data-driven organization.”
6) Develop a good “bedside manner.” Ensuring a productive dialog for technology implementations can be very similar to the doctor-patient relationship. It's one thing “to have all the systems monitored, ITIL practices to handle incidents, playbooks to recover from an issue, and strong technical skills to research root causes,” says Sacolick. However, it’s just as important to “develop a good bedside manner,” and be responsive “to even the most difficult users, find ways to communicate using language everyone understands, and make sure business teams receive regular updates when there are problems.”
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