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What is the key to getting business value from IT?

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As business value is key for getting and maintaining business support, what do you think is the key to getting and maintaining business value from the IT department?

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    This sounds trite and flippant, but the key to getting business value from IT is to train every IT person as they walk into the door on what your business is! In fact before they get an email account, they should spend a week at least, learning about your business!

    My wife joined MCI Communications in Technology some 10 years ago. They spent a week in learning about MCI's business starting with a thick training manual on how telephones work!

    Many businesses complain that IT does not understand Business Value but have you taken the trouble to sit them down and explained in detail what your business is? Or have you dismissed them off-hand as a bunch of geeks who would never understand? Nine times out of ten it's the latter and then business folks complain.

    In some companies they don;t do it because the Business folks may need to learn what their business is first ! :-)

  • Hi,

    There has been a lot of commentary lately on so-called "rogue IT" or "shadow IT" and the growing discontent among business users with their IT departments.

    It appears that, as business units are more and more able to take care of their own IT requirements, IT is evolving into a new role of visionary "thought leadership" at the strategic end, and operational support at the tactical end.

    I blogged about a related topic the other day, suggesting that "IT Reformation" may be a better description for the new Business-IT relationship emerging from the cloud, social/mobile tools, and other enabling technologies. The link to Susan Cramm's and Eric D. Brown's articles are particularly on point to the subject.

    “Rogue IT” or the Little Red Hen?

    It’s hard to label business units as “going rogue” for taking the initiative to help themselves, any more than you’d call the Little Red Hen “going rogue” for feeding her chicks. But you still need a vision for taking care of the whole flock.


  • Businesses are already sidestepping IT, putting themselves at risk as this article describes: "1 in 3 employees playing roulette with their companies in the Cloud" http://bit.ly/auxcCl

    Is is something I have been calling the Stealth Cloud. and when it crashes as it did recently http://bit.ly/ffIfZ1 IT do not have backup/DR plans in place. Why? Because they didn't even know it existed

  • For some companies, IT is becoming a service provider accountable to customers -- though those customers may be other units if the same business. IT needs to position itself as a business within a business, especially since it may be competing with other, outside IT service providers.

  • I think the answer is somewaht like the basics of Extreme Programming.
    1. Do exactly what your customer need
    2. Do not do things that nobody wants
    3. Always be ready with a quick response to change
    4. Evolve in time, avoid revolutions

    And fo course, do it without spending too much.

  • I use the algorithm “petit informaticien”:
    -1) learn the big picture
    0) prepare an initial set of tools to implement incrementally business solutions within that big picture
    1) visit the users (similar to “milking tour”)
    2) listen their needs
    3) map their needs into the big picture
    4) quickly deliver maybe-not-perfect-but-useful business solution
    5) get the feedback
    6) improve business solutions
    7) sharpen tools


  • Business and IT alignment is like world peace, except it's for the workplace. I know people agree that interdependence is the way to go for groups but seems like as the group expands, cliques take over and often lose sight of their 'one-ness', of thinking 'wholistic'.

    I think the whole 'know who your customers are' provides a very simplistic way out of cajoling everyone to on the same page. It is often a short-term remedy to achieve something while looking past IT and all other stakeholder's concerns which need to be addressed and unified via a reflection of the business' mission and vision. Easier said than done, though. As always, hollow words often do more harm than good.

  • Yes, IT should understand business principles, but that does not include EVERY IT person. The CIO should be a business person and not an IT expert. Other say that IT should deliver what the business users want. On the other hand neither Henry Ford nor Steve Jobs did market research to develop their products. They simply had a very dedicated and passionate team who provided the driev and the creativity to make it happen. Apple always only improved on other people's ideas but their innovation was mostly in the area of 'coolness' and 'ease-of-use'. The problem is that most IT people aren't interested in that and also management is not interested. They ask IT to cut business cost and they ask IT to cut their own cost (the 'do more with less' crap). This is a dreadful combination.

    Business value of IT comes with ADOPTION! People willing to camp outside the Apple store to get the new product first. People willing to work with a lesser functionality in the beginning because the know it is easy to use and it will improve. IT dramatically fails in all these respects. It also has to do with old-style manufacturing thinking. High-volume mass IT production must be cheap, right? Error-free, tested to death, frozen applciation icebergs (I called them in a 1997 newspaper article) are what management requests from IT and what they get at an exorbitant price.

    Alexander is mostly right, but I don't udnerstand how that aligns with his promotion of old-style BPMS ...

    So If you would all excuse my politically incorrect thought, but you can add all the governance and executive sponsorship you want: all you will get is more bureaucracy and more enforcement, but not more adoption by users.

    As I argued, simplicity is complex and not cheap, but it will need dedicated, creative, people focused IT people who aren't interesting in doing grand IT architectures, but who see themselves as the provider of business empowerment with cool and user-friendly applications that have to be built on fairly complex infrastructures.

    You will never align all business units, all departments and all people on using the same applications or GUIs, but they really don't care what the underlying technology is. And there-in lies the big trick. Don't standardize and enforce, but allow user-empowered personalization. And that has obviously first to be sold to the executives ... and they want it too!

  • Let's keep it simple...IT was formed to allow specialists to do things business people don't know...create, connect and maintain applications to support business. I've heard many statement made about IT needing to know the business as well as the business, but that doesn't really make sense. IT needs to know how to support the business IT needs better than the business knows IT. If I were still in IT (I once was), I would focus on the following to provide business value:

    1) Keep abreast of the latest technologies and trends so that I can sort the wheat from the chaff and avoid both lagging and the 'bleading edge' of change

    2) Use off-the-shelf where possible, provided it doesn't cause my organization to lose integration due to proprietary data models, black box data, etc. (think: packaged apps, SaaS)

    3) Keep the interfaces to transactions and data as light and flexible as possible, knowing that new trends and technologies change the user experience and capabilities faster than the fundamental data changes (think: web apps to give simple, familiar interfaces to show and manipulate data)

    4) Perform custom development only where necessary to gain a competitive advantage where platform software doesn't exist. Many functions of most enterprises are more common than people realize. (think: Amazon in the early days)

    Having spent considerable time at ILOG (now IBM) and now with Nimbus, there is a very clear trend toward applications that are end-user defined and supported. IT should embrace this change and the simplicity and wide adoption that it brings.

  • At the risk of over simplifying my answer: Ensure that EVERY IT-intensive decision can be tied to business objectives/business strategy. Engaging the business as a partner (not always easy) will also facilitate traceability to value.

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