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The IT vs. Business Strategy

By Jonathan Crow

We've been here at the Gartner ITXpo Emerging Trends conference in Las Vegas this week. The show has been very well attended and exceeded my expectations. But, I wanted to take a moment out of our time pitching to attendees to talk about some of the conversations that are being had here.

First off, in one session Andy Kyte talked about why leaders place IT Strategy before Business Strategy. This is a conversation near and dear to to our hearts. What we have been preaching is better collaboration between the business and IT groups. And the fact is that we provide the tools to facilitate that collaboration - a single tool that can be used by both to build and deploy processes.

Andy Kyte talked mostly about IT assets and how decisions are made within the organization to spend money on IT resources. But I found a lot of what he was saying applies to how decisions are made within the organization about Business Processes.

Some very provocative and interesting comments (and humorous, he really was quite entertaining):

It is exceptional to find people at the top of the org chart who are leaders.

The cultural myth is that bad cheese is the starting point for good strategy (leader gets up in the middle of the night because of the bad cheese and the muse gives him/her the inspiration to build the strategy). Moses comes down from the mountain to bring strategy to the masses. Obviously it doesn't happen in the real world.

Waiting for the business strategy doesn't work, but going on with IT strategy in the lead doesn't work either.

So, what do you do? We need a new vision for how IT and Business leaders collaborate. There is an assumption by the Business world of how agile the IT world is, and how fast the technology can change to match what the vision is. The gap between the assumption and reality is what kills us. While Kyte was discussing, in the main asset planning, we find this equally true in the BPM space. In traditional BPM tools when the tech staff develops the process, because they are using different tools than the ones used by the business analyst, there is a disconnect. When the process is developed in Intalio both groups use the same tool. We have seen cases when the techie went to the business user and showed where the the process was defined, and where there is a break in the process because, for example, the data is not there to support the process. So, instead of showing the underlying gobbledygook code the business user sees the graphical tool for mapping data and can clearly understand the disconnect.

Businesses go through customization and integration for applications that are about to go through upgrades, all because of the budget cycle. We in the business community are very bad at terminating bad applications. The equivalent in the business process world is how processes are defined, written in stone, transformed into code for execution and locked into deployment. What is needed is flexibility in being able to design and deploy on the fly (hmm, how coincidental is it that we do that?).

There is a need to create a well defined knowledge base used to support the decision making processes a living strategy that informs the realities of the business vision and where we are in relationship to the vision and is continuously revised. A longer term view gives us a better understanding what is possible and what is desired and limits the gap between the two. Create a shorthand notation which is digestible by all not something pulled out once a year that is monolithic. In the BPM space there can be a huge disconnect between the business users and the IT analysts. Having people work within the same tools gives each group visibility into what is desired and what is possible. Within our modeling tool we give ability to annotate the various steps within a process, or even attach documents. This allows both camps to build a common language, in essence a living knowledge base of the process that can be easily modified.

There is conflict between stakeholders. There is nothing wrong with conflict. There is everything wrong with undocumented conflict. Understand the wants demand and needs of the stakeholders, but also understand that it is impossible to fully satisfy everyone. We should follow the Japanese model of arguing before the decision and agreeing after the decision is made, instead of the model here of letting one side dominate and ignoring the decision after. Well, not sure how to rectify the cultural aspects in a BPM tool;) but good advice.

So what have you seen? Is there a disconnect between Bus. and IT in your organization? How have you handled it? Are there ways we could better address the issue?

Look for more discussions at Gartner ITXpo on the blog tomorrow.

Source: Intalio

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