In a new post at Insurance Networking News Ara Trembly provides a balanced perspective on IT/business misalignment (Business/IT Misalignment: Whose Responsibility?). He describes the problem as cultural, more amenable to relational than management solutions. His conclusion sums it up: “Take a geek/suit to lunch today!”
To me (speaking as an IT professional) IT should take the initiative to solve the problem. Quoting Trembly, “business executives … make decisions, but they are for the most part mystified at the magical incantations and actions that produce IT results” and “IT people, on the other hand, are jealous of the sheer power wielded over them by business people who just don’t get IT.” In other words, business people contend with an emotional and a substantive problem, “fear and lack of knowledge,” while IT people have only the emotional problem of jealousy.
If we take the emotions out of the picture (its just a job, right?) then that leaves IT folks with knowledge that business people need in order to maximize the value of IT and efficiency of business processes. Ever since mainframes roamed the prehistoric rain forests of the ’60s application developers have often been the most knowledgeable about how business processes really work, understanding both the intricacies of the application logic and how business people use the system to get things done. These individuals can add value to the business discussion by bringing their knowledge to the table in a way that business people can understand.
In many organizations IT manages the forum in which these conversations can occur: the requirements process. In my experience a good requirements process is long enough for the business and IT teams to get to know each other, offers generous opportunity for both structured and unstructured conversations about business needs, and brings together knowledgeable business and IT participants. IT is typically able to bring the insights of seasoned application developers to the fore in a well planned requirements effort.
Yes, everyone has responsibility to “cultivate personal relationships based on mutual need and respect,” but IT can and should bring substance to the relationship in requirements definition.