Finally at the table: What IT can do to avoid being constantly ignored, read in this article. […]
Without the CIO and the IT department, digital and data initiatives are always doomed to failure. Nevertheless, operational business units repeatedly start projects on their own – which are subsequently not compatible with the system landscape.
Many digital and data initiatives come from the operational business and are implemented with the help of consultants. This creates tools for data collection and analysis, which are brought into operational use as a pilot. During the next system update, they suddenly stop working or violate the security standards. The tools have to be changed or, in the worst case, redeveloped. All this costs a lot of money, time and nerves – and at the same time often has a negative impact on IT.
With the following tips, CIOs and their IT departments can succeed in positioning themselves as a real partner for operational business:
IT and IT security are often perceived by business as brakes or bearers of concern, who always emphasize what is not possible. Once the image has been missed, operational areas, such as marketing, production, sales or purchasing, try to do as well as possible without the brakes. It is therefore important to be perceived as an enabler in principle, so that IT departments are involved in new initiatives at an early stage. Speaking very pragmatically:
- Do not explain what is not possible – but say what is possible and offer pragmatic and fast solutions;
- Choose simple language – do not explain or even instruct every detail, but go into the points that are really important to the operational business;
- Thinking together with the business from the customer’s point of view, not just from a technical perspective.
The last point in particular helps to achieve genuine respect and thus long-term trust.
Again and again, the operative business also experiences the opposite with a request from IT: most of all, you would like to solve the whole problem on your own and deliver a finished result. The risk of not meeting the requirements is high. Because this often exceeds the competence of IT.
From an IT perspective, it is difficult to judge whether a solution is understandable, pleasant to use and makes sense for users in the end without knowing the exact processes and the people involved in them in detail. Therefore, the recommendation: Do not act as a general contractor, but accompany the problem–solving process of the operative business as a “technical consultant” – and thus give leadership.
Specifically, this means:
- All the options proposed by the business check whether they can be implemented well, fit the existing systems and comply with security and related issues;
- In case of obstacles, make pragmatic (several options) and non-dogmatic (one option) solution proposals;
- Develop decision templates.
If you feel neither slowed down nor patronized, but understood and advised, you will pay high esteem to IT and actively request support again for follow-up projects.
If you want to get trust, you have to give trust yourself. IT departments often place far too little trust in their colleagues in operational business. You may assume that they will not understand the technical complexity anyway. This may be because IT professionals often find it difficult to distinguish between the big picture and technical details, as important as they may be.
It is certainly not necessary to discuss all the details of interface creation in a big round. In fact, operational managers are quickly overwhelmed by this and they do not need it at all for their daily business. However, the major strategic considerations, such as the existing complexity of the existing systems or considerations for the long-term integration or evaluability of data should definitely be discussed with you. They also think in complex structures and processes and are very well able to follow here.
It depends on how it is discussed: linguistically, both sides must come closer. If IT takes its role as a consultant seriously, it will in particular make an effort to simplify and translate.
In the course of each project, there are always situations in which the participants talk past each other and there is a lack of understanding for the other, although they follow the project plan. This situation is often observed when the operating business “just asks” for a change that leads to a lot of effort.
Different reactions may follow:
- The IT department accepts, but at the same time sulks, because the workload is immensely high;
- If it takes too long, the business becomes more and more impatient;
- Mutual trust is in danger of being lost.
For CIOs, it is therefore advisable to explain to the departments again and again that IT does not work ‘at the touch of a button’, but is a complex production process. Like every good consultant, the IT department must also operate clear expectation management in operational support by saying what is possible, but also how long it takes and with which resources this is connected. In addition, it should show alternative possibilities.
The small but important successes are often invisible, especially in technical and IT details. In doing so, they create an excellent opportunity to give the business an insight into IT production and at the same time to convey the feeling of working solution-oriented. Many IT specialists I accompanied were very surprised at how fascinating code can be for third parties if they are only shown and explained.
That’s why colleagues in the operative business should be approached calmly and offensively in order to give them insights. Of course, the whole thing should take place entirely in your sense and be neither instructive nor distressing. If there is no interest (often also: lack of time), this is to be accepted and the respective employees should be treated with the same respect in spite of everything.
*Wiebke Apitzsch is Managing Director at the management consultancy TTE Strategy. She advises companies on the implementation of intercultural digital projects, works as an interface between technology and management teams and brings executives up to date on digital topics with a focus on data. She holds a diploma in Business Administration from the University of Applied Sciences Munich and is a certified Scrum Product Owner of the Scrum Alliance.