To be or not to be in 2005 Featured

5:42am EDT December 22, 2004
As a consultant, I am usually viewed as an impartial third party by both business and IT people. This means I'm lucky enough to get to hear the gripes from both and draw an objective opinion.

Because we're beginning a new year, I'd like to use this insight into the friction between the IT and business sides to offer a short list of New Year's resolutions, resolutions that should, but probably won't, be made. It's actually two lists -- the top three resolutions businesspeople would like to see IT make, and the top three resolutions IT would like to see people in business make.

Resolutions IT people should consider for 2005

IT folks can make a big impact by reciting and adopting the following three resolutions.

* Stop using Ouija boards as project estimation tools. Nothing is more annoying to businesspeople than a runaway IT project. All things have a beginning and an end. IT needs to wrap a methodology around its projects and ensure that everything it intends to do is aligned with business goals and completed as promised.

* Understand the business problem before deciding on which products to use. The problem must drive the solution, not IT product preferences. Take the time to put yourself into the other person's shoes. First, thoroughly understand the user's business objectives, develop an IT solution strategy and then select the best products.

* Minimize the use of techno-jargon when speaking to businesspeople about the use and value of proposed IT solutions. The language of business is a far cry from techno-jargon. When speaking about the critical impact of a new system or application, focus more on process, capabilities and business value than on object models, security protocols, XML documents and storage capacity.

Resolutions businesspeople should consider for 2005

In turn, businesspeople can reduce friction with an IT organization by reciting and adopting the following three resolutions.

* Do not change your mind before the IT business analyst can get back to his or her desk. Before you make the effort to meet with IT, clearly know what you want to accomplish. By taking IT seriously, you will be taken seriously and avoid undesirable outcomes.

* Prioritize problems and issues based on business impact. All too frequently, users label problems and requests as critical when they really aren't. The motivation is to make sure their issues resolved first. Realize that IT usually has a long to-do list. Anything pushed to the top delays work on projects that could have a greater impact on the business.

* Let go of old processes when new ones provide more value. When asked why certain functionality is needed in a new application, responding with, "That's the way we do it in our application today," simply isn't a good response. On the other hand, changing processes just because a developer thinks of a "cool" way to do things isn't right, either. When new or replacement applications are in development, make sure you work closely with your IT teams to create a solution that supports the way you should be doing business.

The bottom line is that it's in everyone's best interest to understand what life is like on the other side. Communication fosters understanding, so this new year, resolve to spend more time talking over the business-IT fence.

Bryan McClain (bmcclain@icimail.com) is the business intelligence practice manager at Innovative Consulting, a leading provider of Business Intelligence, IT Strategy and eBusiness solutions to the Fortune 1000 and middle market enterprise. Reach him at (610) 725-2101.