Lost In Translation – The trouble with Business/IT Alignment

One of the biggest challenges with business transformation and technology enabled change, is the ability of both people in the business and in IT to sit down and have a conversation with each other and for that conversation to be fully understood by all concerned. Ok, there are many other challenges such as benefits realisation, programme management, culture change, but aren’t they all people based and therefore conversation based?

Now i am simplifying this somewhat but it is a challenge that people in IT and that includes me now (my previous role of corporate web manager was based within corporate communications)

To give an indication as to the issue i thought i’d use a video from you tube. It is 40 seconds long and is about the German Coastguard.

What i find interesting about this video is that for me it kind of sums up the challenge faced by IT. In the video the guy has all the technology he needs in front of him to do his job and support a wider network of other professionals, who all have the same goal (save people). However with all that technology what lets the person down is the ability to understand the “customer”.

The ability to have “conversations” is becoming the new skill that people require in order to support change. Now i also want to make the point that people in the Business also need to learn how to have better and more productive conversations with people in IT.

Now having worked in the Business for some time, i can already hear people saying “Why should i learn how to interact with IT?” Well the answer is simple, as the pressure of budget reductions increases, technology will become even more critical for progressive business transformation across organisations. It is therefore a priority for Business people to get a real understanding of the applications that support their business and the opportunities they present. If Business people can’t do that then we end up losing the opportunities as they get “lost in translation” between IT people (who don’t understand business) and Business people (who don’t understand IT).

This is however a journey we all have to make together, as a partnership, a fellowship, a collaborative effort, whatever the terminology we decide to choose. Like most journey’s the value is not the destination but what you learn along the way.


About Carl Haggerty
All things digital - content, strategy, communications, innovation, engagement, participation, data and people.

2 Responses to Lost In Translation – The trouble with Business/IT Alignment

  1. I agree that there is a communications problem. But I see this as a side effect of the complexity problem. As we try to solve more and more complex problems, the language we use to discuss these problems becomes more and more specialized and it becomes harder and harder to discuss anything with others not conversant in your language. We see this happening on the business side and the IT side.

    I believe the solution to this is to focus on a new problem that is common to both the business and IT. That problem is complexity. It, too, has its own language, but it is a language to which both IT and the business can relate.

    When business and IT work together to solve the complexity, they become bonded by common goals, common language, and common respect. They become partners rather than adversaries. Once this transformation occurs, then the communications problems you discuss become a thing of the past.

    For more on this, see my white paper on The IT Complexity Crisis: Danger and Opportunity at http://bit.ly/2jfNp2.

  2. D. Lambert says:

    Carl –

    I applaud the idea that business functions and IT have to come together to drive successful communication. It’s typical to expect IT folks (especially BA’s) to have a deep subject matter expertise on their projects. In fact, it’s not unusual to find IT folks that have as good a grasp of the business as anyone in that functional area.

    Historically, however, it’s been rare to see business leaders establish a meaningful understanding of how software (and software development) works. We probably expect an IT person to have a working understanding of GAAP or MRP (for example), but it’s unusual to find a business person who’s familiar with TDD or agile techniques.

    Business leaders who “get it” understand that if IT is important to their business, it’s prudent for them to understand it – at least at a high level.

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