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Why does business never get on well with IT?

by Andrew White  |  February 2, 2010  |  3 Comments

Why does business never get on well with IT?

CIO Insight referred to an upcoming book, 8 Things We Hate About IT, by Susan Cramm, and the headline reminded me of my most notable (real) work experience when I was a user.  The experienced starred out in business, then moved ever closer to IT, but never quite got me inside the bastion that was known as IT. But at least I got to look over the parapet into the IT realm.

I was hired, originally, as a production planning manager for a factory in France making fragrances and make-up products, for Elizabeth Arden.  When I joined EA the organization was in the throws of re-implementing an ERP product.  The original implementation had gone very poorly, physically, since the External Service Provider had not sized the hardware correctly.  After a year, I had the planning organized and yield and service levels were up.  But as a user, I and my managers never got the information we needed to make the decisions we wanted.  

I was promoted into another department, closer to the customer, and moved into forecasting and distribution planning.  After another year of forecasting various European country/markets, I was asked to work more closely with IT.  We had an IT interface, but we were not getting the desired output and system behavior that we wanted, or desired.  The business applications were just not “cutting it”.  It turns out that our IT interface had the wrong ideas about how the business needed to operate (first lesson), and though he was able to translate (incorrect) requirements to IT, he was not able to deliver what was needed.

Senior leadership however was committed.  We had made enough mistakes in the recent past that any more admissions would cause extreme embarrassment and, due to board level visibility, could prove career limiting.  So we had to work with what we had.  The result was yet another re-implementation of the forecasting and planning processes, with a low-key systems re-setting.  Basically, I had the opportunity to dictate how the system was to be set up in order to model how we wanted the business to operate.  The result, after a year, was a reduction in finished goods inventory across Europe of 45%.  This was very good – but I had forecasted a 50% reduction the year before.  So I guess it wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped!  The work was published in the UK, in the journal of the British Product & Inventory Control Society (the UK version of APICS) under the title, “DRP by the Back Door”.

I learned that business does not like IT for the following reasons:

  • IT seems pre-occupied with its own programs (some the bushiness can’t even understand)
  • IT runs at its own pace (projects rarely on time, inflexible)
  • IT, like any other department, forever complains about lack of resources
  • IT doesn’t seem to relate to business, let alone our customer (needs)
  • IT has little ability to re-act to changes in our needs, yet our customers expect our business to react accordingly

Of course some, if not all, of these, are unfair. Many issues can be removed if the business just thought, spoke, planned, and operated as if they were part of the business, meeting the needs of the customer.  Even the phrase, “business and IT” creates the image of separation.  

I will review the book once it get’s published.  It might be a quick re-fresher for how much work we have ahead of us.

Category: business-and-it  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a research vice president and agenda manager for MDM and Analytics at Gartner. His main research focus is master data management (MDM) and the drill-down topic of creating the "single view of the product" using MDM of product data. He was co-chair… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Why does business never get on well with IT?

  1. The main reasons why they don’t get along well is that IT is driven by processes. Business is very dynamic in nature and wants to break all the rules all the time. If IT has to get along with the business it has to keep changing itself with the business. Most of the businesses don’t want to be driven by the processes instead they want processes to take over once a business decision is made. But there is always a time gap in aligning IT to business processes. Business needs to understand this aspect of IT.

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  3. James Todd says:

    I’m a big believer that “the fish stinks from the head down”. Its up to senior management to set the tone in an organization. If management doesn’t support and enforce a theme of collaborative improvement and doesn’t communicate its primary focus–growth and profit increases, then it becomes “every man for himself” and departments are able to pursue their own agendas.

    Another reason for this lack of mutual support is a lack of understanding of other departments issues. It is not unusual for business types to think IT changes take 2 minutes or less and have no empathy or understanding for the sometimes necessary complicated solutions.

    On the other hand IT many times spends more time avoiding projects by creating reasons why nothing will work or it will take 6 months to “look at it”

    Its up to management to encourage and support interdepartmental communications to improve each groups understanding of each others issue.

    James Todd

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