Control versus communication: You decide

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Control versus communication: You decide

Istock_000005372966xsmall_arm_wrest A recent column in Information Week “Don’t Let Tech-Savvy Business Execs Do An End Run Around IT — CIO Effectiveness — InformationWeek was filled with the usual sentiments that I have heard all too often.

The title portrayed the attitudes that break down communication between IT and business groups. IT says they are in control of all things related to technology and how dare business groups act without them. Business groups feel they either do not need IT or cannot afford to wait for them. Who is right? Neither!

Like a parent, IT needs to let go or realize that control is no longer possible or maybe not even desirable. IT needs to resist becoming “helicopter” parents. IT has to embrace business groups as their customers as opposed to their children. Customers come back if you provide great service and rarely return if made to feel foolish.

Business, on the other hand, has to understand that IT sometimes has to take a little more time on projects in order to better serve them in the long run and support the enterprise as a whole. Business groups have to resist the vendor PowerPoint slides that promise nirvana if only they buy the latest and greatest emerging technology. Toys are fun but not always the answer to your problems.

Today, especially in this economy, businesses need more information to make informed decisions. That information has to be consistent, comprehensive, correct and current to be of value. There have been many articles of late discussing how IT is becoming irrelevant because either technology has become a commodity or business groups can get that technology without IT. I’ll skip that debate for now and say that regardless of the technology used the key to the business is not the tools but the data.

IT can provide short and long-term value to their businesses by concentrating on transforming data into relevant information. Sure, there will be some tools involved but success of these efforts relies on data governance and data integration. And these efforts involve business and IT groups working and talking with each other.


  1. Joe Harris says:

    Your comment that “regardless of the technology used the key to the business is not the tools but the data” seems a little off to me.
    In my experience it’s about creating value from the combination of the right tools and the right data.
    If the IT team selects an usuitable toolset then the project fails. If the business cannot articulate their business rules the project fails.
    Business people often do not understand what’s truly possible. It IT’s job to expand the value that they can create. IMHO…

  2. Rick Sherman says:

    Thanks for your insights.
    Let me put a little twist on your sentiments: the right data with the right use of tools create value.
    From a business perspective, the greatest tools in the world do produce any value if the data is not right. There are plenty of examples of companies spending millions for the greatest tools that IT (and industry analysts) considered right but did not produce the right data or value for the business.
    The tools are enablers, maybe important ones, but that is all they are.
    Also, I am not sure what the right tool really is. Is it he one in the “upper quadrant”? Is it the most expensive or the one with the most features? Is it the one that wins a tools evaluation or bake-off?
    In addition, in many cases it does not matter what tool you pick provided you implement the right way in relation to the specific tool you use. No offense to the peolpe at SAP/BOBJ, IBM/COGN or ORCL/HYSL but any of these tools will enable value at most companies provided they are implemented correctly. Your implementation may have differences based on the tools used but you could be successful with any of them. I would also suggest that there are other BI tools what one would also be successful with besides these tools (and may be more advantageous but thta’s another post.)
    ps: We also might be confusing terminology. Do you define tool to be a specific product or a class of technology? In my post I was using tools as the equivalent of products rather than a class of technologies, i.e. BI, data integration, etc.

  3. Tod McKenna says:

    The struggles between IT and business will continue on and on and on. Any business that needs data or infrastructure needs IT. IT needs business.
    For example, take SOX compliance. The result of that legislation forced business to take a greater role in IT — whether it was to ensure the quality of data or the completeness of internal controls. During this process, business realized just how important a good IT department is to them and their operations.
    On the flip side, IT has been trying for decades to obtain business sponsorship on data warehousing and SOA projects. Most of the time ignored, IT is left wasting away with outdated equipment and no go ahead to explore exciting new technologies (like investing in text mining).
    Whether they see eye-to-eye is really more about politics than anything else, IMHO.

  4. Rick Sherman says:

    I agree with your comments that business people need their IT staff. The relationshp is best when IT views the business as their (valued) customer and when the business views IT as a (valued) supplier (or partner.)
    Another perspective to your comments about sponsorship and outdated equipment. Yes, that happens but on the flip side is the IT group that gets alot of resources ($, resources and time) to implement DW or SOA projects but then fails to deliver business value. There are many data warehouses that are data “jailhouses” with terabytes of data but with few business people using it or viewing it of value. There has been a few too many SOA projects that were done for technology sake rather than with a valid purpose in mind. That does not mean the technology is not useful but technology divorced of business application is an expensive toy. That does not help the business view of IT.

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