6 Reasons Why the Business-IT Gap is Shrinking
There has been a lot of talk about the yawning chasm between the information technology and business sides of organizations. Read any IT journal, analyst report, or attend any conference and you’ll hear plenty about the need for greater IT-business “alignment.” It is said that IT people only immerse themselves in bits and bytes, without fully understanding the business context of their work. Businesspeople, on the other hand, are oblivious to technical terms and what it takes to produce complex IT solutions, and are fickle and demanding.
That may have been true in times gone by. In the 1970s and 80s, technologists were the occupants of the “glass houses” – glass-windowed centralized data centers in organizations. Businesspeople sent in their requests for reports, and made sure paychecks were cut. But IT was a dark art.
As technology has become critical to enterprises in today’s hyper-competitive global economy, there’s been no end to the concern about the divide between business and IT. It is feared that the gap between business and IT threatens the ability of organizations to thrive on technology.
However, contrary to all this conventional wisdom, it’s more likely the two sides are drawing ever closer together rather than spinning apart. Business users are increasingly familiar with IT, and IT managers are increasingly familiar with the business. To a large degree, this new convergence from both sides can be attributed to the rise of cloud and mobile computing.
Consider the forces turning business users into IT managers, and IT managers into business specialists:
1) Everyone is adopting shadow IT:Many executives and professionals are taking their own initiative in buying and using technology. A recent survey by Stratecast and Frost & Sullivan finds 80% of executives and employees reporting they use some form of shadow IT to help in their jobs. With mobile technology and cloud solutions widely available, there’s no need to clear purchases through IT departments. The prevalence of bring your own device and bring your own application (or bring your own cloud) are evidence that business professionals have an unshakable understanding of the value of IT to their jobs and organizations.
2) Everyone is spending on technology: In many organizations, there are likely to be two parallel IT departments, or maybe more. Gartner predicts, for example, that chief marketing officers will soon have larger IT budgets than chief information officers. These non-IT IT departments need to work closely with traditional IT departments to be successful. At the same time, it is enabling marketing and other business users to speak IT language.
3) An entire generation knows nothing but IT: All generations now in the workforce, including Baby Boomers, are enthusiastic technology consumers. Unlike a decade or two ago, IT is not an alien, mysterious force that exists somewhere in the backroom of the organization – today’s generations of workers intuitively understand the power and value technology can bring to business problems, and aren’t afraid to use it. Business users will only grow more tech-savvy as the years go on – tomorrow’s managers will come from the ranks of members of Generation Y, who have been using PCs and mobile devices all their lives
4) IT professionals themselves are getting more business savvy: While business end-users have grown comfortable with technology, there has also been impetus among technology professionals to gain more business savvy. Many colleges, universities and corporate IT training programs have added business skills components in recent years. Demand for professionals who understand both the business and tech sides keeps rising – that’s why there’s demand for enterprise architects and analysts. A study conducted for the SHARE user group, sponsored by IBM in cooperation with the University of Northern Illinois, finds demand is growing among employers for business skills within IT hires. More than one-fourth of employers are concerned about the business aptitude of technical job candidates.
5) IT departments are being run more as businesses.The rise of the public cloud service model is being emulated for private cloud services now being launched by internal IT department. Some IT departments now even price their suites of services to be competitive with those offered by cloud vendors. The competition with outside providers is causing IT managers to think about better ways to price and market their own services to internal clients.
6) Everyone is now in the IT business:No matter what the industry, whether its toy manufacturers or retailers, enterprises are writing and deploying software that extends to their customers and supply chain partners. UPS is now one of the world’s largest suppliers of logistics software. ADP offers human resource and payroll functionality through the cloud. Plus, enterprises recognize the power of their data assets, and that every organization needs to be a data organization.
The interplay between tech-savvy business managers and business-savvy IT managers will lead to greater innovation and advance the businesses into the digital era.
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