Who’s right? Business or IT

I’ve had many recent opportunities to discuss the role of IT and business based on recent research efforts, focus group conversations, customer visits and advisory board discussions. Some of the feedback is really striking and sadly comical – “They don’t get it, they don’t understand analytics” – I heard the same comment in two focus groups, one from business, one from IT. So who’s right? Of course it’s not a matter of who’s right or who’s wrong, it’s a matter of alignment and true collaboration. Ultimately it should be about business value since none of us are in the business of internal collaboration, but we need collaboration and alignment to accelerate the business.

When it comes to analytics, it’s not just business and IT, it’s really a 3 legged challenge:

  • IT, at the very least, is responsible for the infrastructure and for making the data available for the analytics.
  • The business is ultimately responsible for the addressing the challenge, exploiting an opportunity.
  • Typically a subset of the business, the data scientist, data analyst, or statistician is responsible for delivering analytics that propel the business.

It’s not collaboration through a single person or discipline from the business and IT side, both are multi-faceted:

  • On the business side you have the primary business user and then analytic consumers. Take marketing optimization for example… field marketing specialists will likely be the primary user of the analytics, but marketing call center agents will use a call center application that feeds up an appropriate call script based on the customers propensity to buy or  likelihood to churn.
  • For IT, you have the resources that manage the data warehouse, perform the data preparation tasks, run IT operations, develop the operational applications that embed analytic results, and so on.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to business and IT collaboration. Typically organizations, led by vendors or SIs, look at the processes or the technology that can be used to facilitate collaboration – from data steward tools to business glossaries to meta-data to monitoring and reporting. Although process and tools are important, I would argue that the most important success factor relates to the softer side of things – relationships, commitment, passion for success.

I’ll address some of the other process and technology factors in upcoming posts, but here are several attributes of successful organizations that I have conversed with:

  • Are you from IT or business? - If you spoke to various people within an organization about what they are trying to accomplish, you couldn’t tell whether they are from IT or the business.
  • It’s all about relationships – As in any relationship, there will be rough spots, but a strong personal relationship built on trust is imperative.
  • Leadership by example – It doesn’t have to be driven by the executive staff, but the IT and analytics leads should set the example for the entire organization.
  • Understanding and empathy – All constituents involved must have a good understanding and show empathy for the responsibilities and challenges of the other roles.
  • Everyone must be business driven – The IT and analytics resources can’t just focus on the systems or analytics requirements, they have to understand the business, they have to understand the domain.
  • "Co-located" resources – If the workforce shares the same physical space, leading organizations intersperse business and IT. For distributed organizations, the use of collaboration tools are key.
  • Passion for game changing success – Everyone involved knows that analytics and information leverage can deliver game changing business results.
  • Park the ego at the door – Saving the best for last… organizations need to promote or recognize shared success vs. driving recognition at the individual level. As one person put it, “if we are wildly successful, there will be plenty of recognition to go around”.
tags: business IT alignment, collaboration

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