Information technology (IT) and business are both essential sides of an operation. However, with many differences in knowledge, processes, and needs, it can be difficult for the two to get along. This has been a problem for many years: IT resents “impossible requests” from business, and business is annoyed that information technology cannot deliver on time and without errors.
When the two units work in isolation, these attitudes are easy to develop. Each group knows what it needs and what it is capable of doing (more or less), but doesn’t have a strong understanding of the other. Needs and limitations are not clearly conveyed, and both sides of the workforce become frustrated with each other.
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One important and straightforward way to repair this relationship, then, is communication. Both sides may think they are providing enough information when in fact they are not. Also, when a request or project does not meet expectations, the instinct may be to complain privately rather than discuss the problem with each other. If both groups learn to speak openly and clearly about what they need and what issues arise, it is easier to fix problems or avoid them altogether.
For example, perhaps business wants a database for particular types of data. They may consider it sufficient to specify the type of data they want to store and retrieve. However, when the database is complete, they find that they are unable to sort by or search for a particular subject. They are annoyed that information technology left out an important function, and IT is annoyed that no one told them this was a necessary feature.
Depending on how a situation like this is handled, there can still be a positive outcome. Business can learn to be more specific, and IT can learn to check in with the business stakeholders about desired features. If business becomes more involved throughout development, rather than only at the start and finish, it becomes easier to identify problems and possible improvements early on, saving the company time and resources.
Another way to improve the relationship between business and IT, as well as the success rate of projects, is to involve both groups in the planning process. Instead of a business deciding what it needs and then asking IT to take care of it, IT should be present while the decision is being made. This not only allows IT to bring up potential problems and ask questions before the project begins, but it also gives them a better understanding of the requirements and the purpose of the project.
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This leads to fewer issues later on and can improve the relationship between the two groups. It also means that business will likely have a better understanding of the time and resources required for the project, and will not be surprised later on by things running late or underperforming.
It is not enough to simply say “talk to each other” or “work together,” however. Both sides have to be willing to listen to each other and to cooperate. There are ways to facilitate this as well, such as creating common spaces and events for people to mingle. If employees think of each other as individuals and coworkers and are not confined to silos with little or no interaction, they are more likely to consider others’ needs and forgive their setbacks and errors. Considering people as well as processes will bring more success when trying to close the gap between business and information technology units.