Does IT defer too much to the business? In cases where the two sides communicate well enough to work together -- by no means a given -- it seems it does.
A supporting view came from Jeanne Ross, director of the Center for Information Systems Research (CISR) at MIT and co-author with Peter Weill of "IT Savvy," when I interviewed her in June. (You can read an excerpt from IT Savvy in IT Business Edge's Knowledge Network.) She told me IT folks tend to broadlydefer to the business on process, since they assume business folks are the real process experts:
They assume that business people are pretty good at process. And in fact, they are not. Some IT people say, "Business people don't really get process. I need to help drive this through." And that's a real a-ha moment.
Another supporting view comes from Andy Blumenthal, chief technology officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in his User-Centric Enterprise Architecture blog. At a recent conference, he discovered many of his peers defer to their business colleagues on broader issues. This is a mistake, he writes, because many people "do not have a 'definitive vision' or know concretely what they want, especially when it comes to how technology can shape the business."
He suggests IT should seek a more collaborative role with the business, in which the two sides together discuss organizational problems and strategies and come up with feasible solutions. This seems infinitely preferable to the usual approach of the two sides tossing complicated issues to each other and waiting for responses. Kind of like a game of high-stakes hot potato.
Truth is, many business executives would welcome some education on technology, provided it's given in terms they can understand. I've said as much many times before. Thanks to Andy Blumenthal's thoughtful post, I'm saying it again.