IT and the business (yet again)

In the short history of this weblog, common topics have included business agility, agile software development, arguments against big bang projects, and commentary on the relationship between IT and the business.

So I was interested to read Another Sideways Look At Agile in which JP Rangaswami pulls these threads together.

“there’s no Agile without active and enthusiastic business participation”

You bet!  Anything that the IT function does is for the business.  If the business can’t get its act together and make some simple decisions then what is the IT department to do? Isn’t business agility the target we are all aiming for and yet the business doesn’t always seem to understand!   JP suggests that we educate educate educate.

But is it the role of the IT function to educate the business?

And whose fault is it that so many IT departments are mistrusted by their business colleagues?  Here is JP’s view.

“…..many organisations find themselves at a pretty pass, a singularly vicious circle. They don’t believe in their IT departments because they “don’t deliver”. The departments don’t deliver because the requirements are unstable and hard to articulate. To solve this they need to think and act Agile. This requires them to trust their IT folks. But they don’t. Because they “don’t deliver”.”

Nobody likes a vicious circle so how do we break it?

Rebuilding trust is clearly the key.  Whilst I don’t necessarily see that IT has a role to educate the business, it certainly has a role to listen.  And it is not just IT’s role to listen, the business need to be persuaded to listen too.  But in life trust is built not from promises, but from deeds.

IT could start by making some smaller promises (ones that can definitely be delivered, and that deliver definite business benefits).

I’ve seen people run workshops where senior IT managers and business leaders interact to improve the relationship, and this is a good start to generate common understanding (providing these are addressing real business issues and not just about smiling at each other and sharing a cup of tea), but it can only go so far in creating trust.

In the end though, you are much more likely to trust someone who delivers.  Let’s not make it harder for ourselves.  Deliver simple things regularly and reliably…build trust.

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