Putting IT, Business on Same Page Will Take More Than Name Change

Ann All

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.



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Oct 7, 2009 11:34 AM Mike Klein Mike Klein  says:

Ann - As editorial director of of the Fusion CEO- CIO Symposium and www.fusioncio.com web site, i share your thoughts as a journalist who has covered tech for over 30 years. I can relate to Fusion and do not think we need to re-create title which was created to sell a magazine called CIO. Ist not about the title is about not talking hardware and software, but rather thinking about those as business assets and fixed versus variable costs and practical innovation. And re-education their team to better serve the business and being proactive versus reactive.

What I sense is the a redefinition of CIOs role as a leader of change and culture in this uncertain time. I believe and have written and spoken about the use of business-it alignment is Dead. This creates a division between IT and the business and today, it is al about the BUSINESS.

Let me ask some questions and state, "CIOs role is evolving at "Velocity"we have never seen before. This is driven by the business and reaction the the economy. The CIO must be seen as a leader to change the culture, environment and state of mind.  Today, employees are asked to do more with less, offered furloughs and salary decreases, and as such the culture and morale is at its lowest and IT productivity suffers.  What is the role of the CIO and what are the best practices of a world class leader to preserve loyalty, assure talent development and maintain high levels of productivity in an uncertain time?

IBM recently published a report based on interviews of over 2000 CIO's. The CIO is trapped in dual role as visionary and strategist versus pragmatist. This can further create a chasm with the C-level suite as the CIO knows about about the need to cut costs, increases revenues or just keep the lights on.

Mike Klein

Editorial Director

Fusion CIO and WtnNews

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Oct 7, 2009 11:42 AM Stan Kirkwood Stan Kirkwood  says:

There are two problems I see with IT/Business alignment:

1)     IT is a part of the business so to accept IT as being outside of the business does no one a favor.

2)     2) 'the business' is not aligned with itself.  'the business' is not just one thing-it is a collection of people, processes and systems working primarily independently but sometimes collectively to service both internal and external customers.

I was witness to an outside agency telling a CIO that the IT organization was not aligned with the business' because the active projects and those in queue for IT were not supporting the key business issues.  And the CIO was under attack.  Turns out every one of those projects originated within the business.  It was not a case of IT not being aligned with the business but instead the business was not aligned with itself.

Alignment is not something that can be managed into a business any more than you can manage the alignment of one part of a product with all the other parts.  Alignment is the result of design, not management.  Business models can be designed in such a fashion as to bring all the parts together.

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Oct 7, 2009 11:58 AM Keith Keith  says:

Ann,

We have over 5,000 members in 40 countries that help their organizations manage the business side of IT. In their organizations they are called IT Asset Managers. Some report to the CIO, some to the CFO and some to other 'C' level executives.  They are successful in a relatively new profession that have proved their value over and over again. Perhaps it's time to realize we may be expecting way too much of our IT group. Our expectation is they are experts in the technology they support and adopt AND experts in our business as well. Quite big task that takes more then just the few leaders at the top of the IT group. I strongly recommend you check out this young but growing profession to get a better understanding of what they do and why the IT Asset Manager is the answer to this question.

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