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.
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