Bridging the gap between business and IT
To take full advantage of the opportunities business data offers, IT and Business must start talking and working together. This piece will offer solutions on how to bridge the gap between both parties in order to unlock the competitive advantage companies need to keep playing the game of business.
Written by — Kaisa Rolig, Co-Founder & Head of Sales
Today’s business landscape is digital and increasingly complex. Companies need new solutions to old and new problems. Old organizational structures and the trench lines of Business and IT prevent companies from taking full advantage of the opportunities created by business data.
Organizations need to find ways to work together across traditional team boundaries. On an individual level, this means working with people who, in theory, speak the same language but don’t seem to be on the same page at all.
I believe that the key to bridging the gap is alignment, curiosity, and empathy. Having the willingness and ability to understand where someone is coming from is the first step to working seamlessly together. Also, being curious and learning about the other person’s world, even a little, will open up new perspectives and lead to new solutions.
Business and IT hold different pieces of the same puzzle
In 2021, business is digital. When at the heart of the business are digital solutions, there’s no business without IT. IT is the enabler, the administrator, the gatekeeper, and the speed bump who holds the keys to future success. As the world is changing, the old organizational structures no longer support digital business. The effect is evident, especially when we are dealing with business data.
The traditional separation of business and IT usually means that companies are not making the most out of their data. IT understands what data is available, how it is structured, and what system it is stored in. However, IT does not typically understand the potential use cases for data, what real-life event created that data, and the context.
On the other hand, businesses would like to understand customers and their actions, or optimize different processes and value chains, but only have a vague idea of what is needed.
Same company, worlds apart
As companies are taking advantage of their business data, businesses have to describe their needs to IT. IT then converts the needs to requirements for a data solution. The IT infrastructure and technical landscape set restrictions that also affect the possible data solution. Sounds straightforward enough - in theory.
In reality, business and IT operate in different worlds and speak completely different languages. They use different terminology, are not aware of the other party’s daily struggles, and do not feel the need to explain themselves. Seems obvious, but it usually isn’t.
Start by playing the same game
To further complicate things, IT and business are measured on different metrics and aim at different goals. IT usually pursues stability, predictability, and efficiency. Cost savings are high on the agenda. Whilst business is interested in speed, adaptability, and growth. Their goal is to create new opportunities. These goals lead to inherently different attitudes toward change and the pace for it. One tries to minimize change, the other strives for it. Friction ensues.
"All goals, metrics, and incentives must be designed and implemented to encourage cooperation across organizational silos."
If one is playing golf and the other hockey, no wonder they find it difficult to play together. And this is where the C-level needs to step in. All goals, metrics, and incentives must be designed and implemented to encourage cooperation across organizational silos. Plus, IT should be viewed as the enabler of the business, not simply a cost base.
What to do when we have different goals but still need each other to achieve them? I say communicate with curiosity and empathy.
Empathy is the ability to imagine what the other person is feeling or thinking. We might not exactly know what the other party is dealing with. We might not necessarily agree with their view of the world. But it is still essential to understand where they are coming from.
"What to do when we have different goals but still need each other to achieve them? I say communicate with curiosity and empathy."
Being curious means that instead of going with your first instinct of “I don’t understand what they are saying, and I don’t care,” you will dig deeper to understand what is going on below the surface. Stop, breathe and calmly ask questions to get a complete picture of the situation. And be open to learning from the answers! Follow-up questions take an extra mental effort in the short term but make all the difference in the long run.
Ask to understand
Here’s the kicker: genuinely listening to someone’s answer to understand them is not something people usually do! Most of the time, we have a preconceived idea of what the other person will answer whenever we ask a question. And while they are responding, we are preparing our own response to what they just said. The problem with this is that we don’t leave the comfort of our minds, past experiences, and world views. That’s when it starts to feel like the conversation is going in circles - for both parties.
I believe it is essential to stop and listen to what the other person is saying. Listen with curiosity and try to make sense of why they are saying those things. Empathy provides us with an alternative way of looking at the world. Often this new perspective is an interesting one.
Does it matter if we understand each other or not?
When we start to understand each other, we begin to speak the same language. And when we speak the same language, we truly talk about the same thing. And when we talk about the same thing, we can look at it from different perspectives and come up with new solutions invisible from our vantage point.
New solutions to old and new problems enable companies the competitive advantage to keep on playing the (infinite) game of business.
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