Seeing eye-to-eye: Business explained for IT and IT explained for Business

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Another view of the world

All too often I encounter a complete misalignment between Business and IT, primarily due to a lack of understanding and appreciation of the different worlds of Business and IT. In such circumstances Business view IT as propeller heads playing computer games instead of working and cannot understand why estimates are so flimsy or why it takes so much effort to make a seemingly simple change. At the other end of the spectrum, IT view Business as delusional tech illiterate irrational bean counters. To smooth over the waters, I’ll be presenting a view of the world from the other party’s perspective. In the first series of articles, we’ll look at the financial aspects. Without a clear understanding of how finances operate, it doesn’t matter how wonderful and clever the technology is, you won’t have a business. In a separate series of articles I'll take Business through the technical processes and challenges of delivering the same project.

 

Managing : The baptism of fire

For most technologists, the first time they are exposed to the finances of IT is when it is thrust upon them following a promotion where they are suddenly responsible for managing the budget for their team. It’s a rude awakening often without suitable guidance or training. Engineers are typically not exposed to the inner workings of the financial side of IT. Thus, IT don’t understand why business make what seems to technologist completely irrational decisions.

On the flip side all too often a member of business is made responsible for the delivery of an IT project with only a peripheral view of the underlying complexities of delivering an IT project with no training or gradual introduction into the delivery team. It's a baptism of fire, filled with frustration as to the challenges involved, where estimates appear flaky, deadlines missed, always more complex than anticipated and filled with bugs.

 

Let’s take a concrete example

Let me set the scene: you’re part of an established enterprise with aging infrastructure and software that is starting to cause serious operational issues. Further, the company’s competitive edge is at risk. IT are complaining that the enterprise solution is a maintenance nightmare and business are complaining that IT are too slow and not agile enough to meet their demands. Sound familiar? You decide to take the bull by the horns and volunteer to come up with a solution to this problem in its entirety. Good for you! You assemble a team of engineers, accountants, marketers, consultants, business representatives…. But before you race off, some assumptions: there are several well established technological options which could do the trick but with a substantial price tag. We’ll also assume this is not part of the annual budgeting process nor has anything been allocated to this year’s financial spend.

 

At this point we come to a fork in the road

Finance for Technologists which looks at the scenario from an engineer's perspective who is responsible for drawing up the budget (Finance for Technologists: Part 1 - The budgeting process), presenting it to the company board and then managing the budget. In the other series of articles, IT for Business, the discussion takes the positions of a marketing manager who is given the responsibility for delivering the project from defining requirements and scope to delivering the project and supporting it for the future. Stay tuned for these articles in the next few days.


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