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Bridging the chasm between the IT department and management

Bridging the chasm between the IT department and management

Bridge the Chasm

How well does your IT department understand your needs?

We see this all the time; managers running business units like human resources, or claims processing… they know what information they need to manage their department efficiently but they aren’t confident that IT understands. And often times, it is a challenge collaborating to get things done.

I’m a technical guy by training, but I’ve lived in the trenches with customers for many years and I now also run a business.

Because I’ve seen all sides, I’ve come to realize there can be a fundamental disconnect between what a business’s management team needs, and what IT provides.

It’s not that people aren’t doing their job; it’s that they speak different languages.  Bridging that chasm between the business side and IT is one of the biggest challenges companies face.

People in management speak in terms of results. They measure success in increased sales, faster growth rates and profits. On the other hand, IT people for the most part get excited about tools and technology. They measure success by the number of tools deployed and new technology adopted. This is changing rapidly however, as the “business perspective” is becoming a constant theme in IT strategic plans and operational objectives.

When a manager asks for results, the IT person will usually recommend a tool. And I get why they do that, they work with technology every day and it’s easier than changing the way the company does things. All too often, the unspoken expectation is that the tool itself is the solution to the problem.

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. It’s that ‘unspoken’ part of the equation that can lead to problems.

Suppose management wants to improve fitness levels for its employees. IT says it can deploy an app on everyone’s computer reminding them to get up and walk for five minutes every hour. It’s a great app, they say, the licenses are cheap, takes advantage of some new bells and whistles and running it won’t take up much room on the server.

The IT people are excited and management is impressed. Money is spent, the app is installed.

But after six months, employees are no fitter. Why? Because they ignore the reminders.

Management is disappointed with the results and wants a solution. The only thing IT can do is suggest turning on more functionality and making the reminders louder.

What should be going on is better communication.

When management talks to IT, it needs to be clear about the results it wants and how it will measure success. IT people need to understand that management doesn’t care about the technical specs of a tool, they only care about the results it can bring.

Each side needs to set clear expectations and not make any assumptions about what they want or what their role is in making it happen.

If IT proposes a tool, managers need to ask how it will help them reach the results they want. IT will need to collaborate to answer the questions.  Who is responsible for health and wellness? What programs are they putting in place that will be enhanced by this great new app? Both sides need to be able to look at the problem holistically: even the best fitness app won’t make people walk if they don’t want to.

Bringing the IT department and the business’s management together early and often is the first step in bridging the chasm and producing better results.

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Pierre Paquette is chief technology officer and a founding partner at RAPA Consulting. When he’s not hard at work helping organizations get the most out of technology, he’s spending time enjoying the Canadian outdoors with his life partner.

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