Business vs. Tech: The Department Wars

How many times have you walked away from a meeting between a business division and the IT department thinking that the other side has no idea what is going on? You are not the only one. You may talk about it amongst your peers on a regular basis discussing how other companies surely do not have the same problems. But, you would be wrong. Related link: Tech vs. Business Message Board Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris note this business dilemma in their book Competing on Analytics.“The situation is complicated when business and IT people blame each other when the wrong data is collected or the right data is not available. Studies such as the one conducted by McDonald and Blosch in Gartner’s 2006 CIO survey repeatedly show that IT executives believe business managers do not understand what data they need. And surveys of business managers reflect their belief that IT executives lack the business acumen to make meaningful data available. While there is no easy solution to this problem, the beginning of the solution is for business leaders and IT managers to pledge to work together on this question. Without such cooperation, an organization’s ability to gather the data it needs to compete analytically is doomed.”P. 160, Davenport and Harris, 2007

Business and Technology Department Hierarchies

Having seen this first hand, and having experienced many battles with many CIOs I can tell you that this is definitely an area of contention. But, it is not something that cannot be worked through. It requires the proper communication. Each side must clearly discuss and understand what the other side does and what each side needs in order to get their portion of the job done. Business processes need to be developed and they need to be developed together.

It is important that each department develops their own business process explaining how they operate. Many organizations, departments, and companies surprisingly do not actually know this. They have a general idea, a concept, a “this is how we have always done it” procedure. Drawing out a business process map and writing out your operating procedures not only provides outside departments with a better understanding of your job functions, but also helps you get a better understanding of your organization and your impact on the organization as a whole. This also let’s you note areas that you may take for granted and where informal operating procedures are… e.g. when this issue comes up we go to this person for a solution.

Just as the military has standard operating procedures so should your company. This identifies roles, job responsibilities, and organizational functions. If each department has well documented operating procedures it makes it easier to develop joint operating procedures when a cross-department team has to be developed. These teams are commonly seen in the development of IT systems such as a CRM system. The business line engages with the customer and the IT system supports the customer engagement representative by housing data, automating work flow, and allowing for easy collaboration between personnel. The IT department cannot provide a viable tool without the input from the business line and the business line cannot create the software platform because they are not the IT specialists. This requires cooperation between the two departments. If each department has a documented standard operating procedure then at the onset of a development work group the two teams can meet, review how they individually do business, and create a joint operating procedure for their new work group.

Key items that must be adhered to:

  • Listen to each other. Each side knows their business or they would not be doing it. Listen to the needs and processes. Ask questions to understand. The only way you will get by the departmental conflict is by learning and accepting how each other does business.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. We all know the old adage – what happens when you assume? You make an ASS out of U and ME. There is no reason why a group would be trying to screw the other group over. There is no benefit it just creates a slow moving animosity driven work process.
  • Accomplish the mission. There is a reason the two teams were put together. There is an actual goal that needs to be accomplished. Remind yourself what the goal is, remind your team, and ask yourself is this the best way to accomplish this goal. Work together and communicate to accomplish the mission.

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