Companies now view IT in a different light
The digital revolution has changed how organizations think about their IT teams. Before, business leaders simply asked them to “keep the machines working.” IT departments were considered a costly expense that simply provided support in the case of a breakdown.
Today, technology is omnipresent. It fosters productivity, competitivity, innovation, and can help with risk management. As a result, IT is now considered an investment and a competitive advantage. Every business sector needs to partner with IT experts. The other way round is also true.
This interdependence is breaking down barriers between business and IT worlds. According to Gartner, “50% of organizations will experience increased collaboration between business and IT teams by 2022.”
That’s quite the increase! But what conditions need to be in place to help this collaboration succeed? Here are a few.
3 keys to fostering a better collaboration between business and IT teams
To reap the rewards of a successful work relationships, all parties must be sitting at the same table.
- At the decision-making level
More and more CTOs and CIOs are taking part in executive committees. This increases the credibility, relevancy, legitimacy, and visibility of IT and enables CTOs and CIOs to get a high-level view of the company and to translate the CEO’s vision to their teams.
- At the business unit level
This kind of close collaboration would eliminate silos by preventing every department from having its own IT team that is disconnected from the company’s global IT strategy. It’s all about keeping the stability and integrity of the organization’s core business.The goal is also to build hybrid business-IT teams focusing on various initiatives such as an Innovation Lab or a Centre for Excellence. These teams can then develop agile tech solutions that meet business objectives.The proliferation of cloud-based solutions can also strengthen this collaboration by laying to rest the recurring internal conflict surrounding the ownership of tools and data (previously exclusive to the IT team). More decisions and budgets are now defined outside the IT department. The IT leader is no longer simply a producer and problem-solver, but someone who can advise the business leader as well as an integrator who oversees the capacity and scalability of computing systems. This division of responsibility in terms of tools and data access makes the ongoing digital transformation smoother.
2- Mutual understanding
Many business leaders consider IT terms too complex, technical, even obscure. And vice versa. How can this gap in communications be remedied?
- By IT leaders explaining their work in clear terms. They should also choose which IT issues are relevant for business leaders and the organization. For their part, business leaders should try to stay informed on digital trends just like they do with other topics (finances, HR, etc.).
- By using business language to describe how IT teams add value to the company. This involves IT leaders being transparent with their business colleagues on figures such as the ROI for projects and operational efficiency. Proof that the IT department is like any other in that it can add value to a company.
- By (re)defining each person’s role while taking into account the growing intersectionality between business and IT teams. In fact, there are now more and more positions that are at the crossroads of these two sectors (ex.: Chief Marketing Technologist dealing with both IT and marketing). They require an ability to understand the issues in both fields and to oversee transformation projects with a language and know-how that can be understood by everyone. These skillsets are rare on the market and are developed when employees on either side of the IT-business divide branch out. If a company needs to hire an external party to fulfill this role, both the IT and business leaders must be involved in the hiring process.
This reconciliation has been made easier thanks to two phenomena. First, IT specialists are now investing in their business skills, even at the university level. Second, through a “technologization” of the workforce. Employees are more and more familiar with computers and tech devices. Digital natives are a prime example.
3- A common vision
To be successful, the collaboration between business and IT teams must be founded on a plan and a common objective.
- Aligning IT objectives with business goals
This can only be achieved through a common strategic plan. It’s also an efficient tool to make sure that the money is well invested since IT teams still remain major expenses for organizations. When the CIO or CTO has a seat at the decision-making table, it’s easier to implement a “top-down” vision with shared objectives. This strategic planning forces leaders to ask the right questions at the beginning of the process. For instance, whether they need to invest in outsourcing with cloud services/solutions.
- Adopting an integrating approach focused on the client
The digital transformation has the advantage of mobilizing IT and business leaders around a common target: the client. They become the focal point of every activity and action beyond sales and marketing. This change in approach results in a global digital team since digitization is no longer exclusive to the IT department.
- Sharing responsibility, incentives, and KPI performance
There are also other ways of creating an environment that fosters collaboration. An example is to create a dashboard that measures common goals with performance incentives shared by the relevant business and IT teams. That’s what it means to be in the same boat. It’s a good idea to start with smaller projects that will have a visible impact on business goals. These stories of success will inspire trust and make it easier for teams and executives to get on board.