Overcoming the IT-Business Divide in an era of big data, Part 1

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The IT-Business Divide is lamentably alive and well in many organizations.

You know what I'm talking about: that exhausting and inimical internal bickering between IT and everyone else about who's responsible for what. I would wager that thousands of intelligent articles, blog posts, studies and white papers have been written about bridging the traditional IT-business divide. (Thomas Redman penned a particularly good post for HBR a few years back.)

In the first of this three-part series, I'll examine this well-trodden issue against the backdrop of recent trends, particularly the rise of big data.

By way of background, I've seen first-hand the traditional IT-business divide on dozens of IT projects throughout my consulting career. Today, in many mature companies, that divide now resembles a growing chasm.

Then and now

IT's challenges have never been greater.

Think about it. In the mid-1990s, IT largely controlled who did what within organizations. Exceptions were relatively rare. Compared to today, enterprise applications back then were almost exclusively housed on-premise. That has not been the case for a while time now. Today, one need not be a software engineer to easily circumvent IT in several key ways.

First, individual departments, divisions and even individual employees can easily and inexpensively launch new applications independent of IT's imprimatur. (Read: via cloud-computing services such as AWS or SaaS-based applications such as Salesforce.com.) Long gone are the days in which IT housed all enterprise data. In fact, many businesses are getting out of the data-hosting business, a point that Nicholas Carr makes in The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. A century ago, companies manufactured their own electricity. Today, very few do because it just doesn't make sense. The same shift is happening today.

Second, every day hundreds of millions of people take their devices, networks or applications to work. It's never been easier to bring your own tech into the workplace. Data is more portable than ever – never mind bigger, more complex and faster. (This is a key point in Too Big to Ignore.)

What does this mean for IT? It's never been harder for it to police employees and keep enterprise data safe from often-oblivious and negligent employees. Making things worse, IT has to contend with external threats and near-daily hacks, increasingly sophisticated malware and security breaches.

Simon Says

Brass tacks: IT's job in 2015 is no picnic – not that it ever was. Installing Websense alone just doesn't cut it anymore. Those who believe that IT should "own" all things related to enterprise technology and data are no longer just pesky; they are seriously impairing the success of their organizations.

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In the second part of this series, I'll discuss the new role that IT has to play today.

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About Author

Phil Simon

Author, Speaker, and Professor

Phil Simon is a keynote speaker and recognized technology expert. He is the award-winning author of eight management books, most recently Analytics: The Agile Way. His ninth will be Slack for Dummies (April, 2020, Wiley) He consults organizations on matters related to strategy, data, analytics, and technology. His contributions have appeared in The Harvard Business Review, CNN, Wired, The New York Times, and many other sites. He teaches information systems and analytics at Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business (Department of Information Systems). He also runs 5marbles, an Agile software-development shop.

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