I'm a writer and have been for essentially my entire professional life. So naturally I am pretty hung up on words and their meaning. A growing number of folks in IT apparently share my obsession.
In the past few weeks, I've reported on the angst some people experience in trying to define the role of the CIO, whether CIO needs to be replaced by a more descriptive job title and whether IT/business "fusion" is simply IT/business alignment by another name or something more than that.
Now we have Forrester Research CEO George Colony calling for a name change for the entire IT department, not just the CIO, from information technology to business technology. It's not a new thought. I first wrote about Colony's idea three years ago. Now, as then, Colony feels a name change would help IT signal its serious intent to focus on business goals. CIO.com includes a snippet of a Q&A Colony did with Forrester colleague Connie Moore. In it, he says:
Changing the term to BT is also a powerful way for the chief technologist -- CIO or CTO -- to signal to line-of-business managers and executives and also to the presidents, COO, CEO, and the board of directors that "We're not in the technology business anymore; we're in the real business -- the company's business." I believe by changing the name to BT, and changing its behavior to focus on the business of the business, the technology organization would transform its relationship with the business. I think it would begin to communicate in a different language (the language of business), the current lack of communication would dissipate, and we'd have a higher level of communication around the business problems and the business issues. Which, of course, the presidents and line execs think and care about every day, but all too often, the technologists don't. Changing the name from IT to BT is a way to change the mindset in IT and change the relationship between technologies and businesspeople. Definitely.
Hmmm. The most important part of Colony's quote, I think, is when he refers to IT not only changing its name but "changing its behavior to focus on the business of the business." That's the key. For IT departments struggling with this, I'm not sure changing the name from IT to BT will help. Colony disagrees:
I also think that -- in sort of a Noam Chomsky thought -- if you change that one word from information technology to business technology, you begin to change the way IT people work and the way they think about their jobs.
For organizations that already have this focus, however, a name change may be a good way to help communicate that to their business colleagues. It's an effective form of internal marketing, which is one of those competencies often stressed for forward-thinking CIOs.