How One CIO Is Breaking Down Silos Between IT and Biz

Loraine Lawson

Everyone's more or less familiar with the psychological term "co-dependent." Although you might not get the real definition right, you know the popular connotations-overly dependent, needy, submissive, even weak. No one wants to be co-dependent, especially in business.


But recently I stumbled upon the psychological term for the opposite of co-dependent: Counter-dependent. Counter-dependents strive to be independent and strong. It sounds good, until taken to the extreme, when it can turn into defiance against all authority, isolation and a rejection of all attachments.


What does any of this have to do with IT and integration?


Recently, fellow IT Business Edge blogger Ann All wrote that IT and the business are stuck in a very bad pattern, with each trying to drive projects without consulting the other. She suggested perhaps they needed a more co-dependent relationship, particularly when it comes to business intelligence projects. By co-dependent, she doesn't mean the psychological term, of course -- she means mutual involvement.


Reading her post, I realized that IT and business tend to be very counter-dependent: Each is so very determined to act on its own behalf, with as little interference as possible from the other, that they actually become defiant. It's an attitude I fear filters down to the front-line workers, even when IT and business managers try to foster a different attitude.


How else do you explain the proliferation of spreadsheets and SaaS deployments made without IT's involvement? Or, conversely, the perennial complaint that IT projects fail to achieve business goals?


Obviously, things need to change. I don't know that I would use the term co-dependent-I think I prefer "partnership" or "sharing" -- but I do know this: Creating that change is much harder than naming that change.


That's why I was so impressed by what Jerry Williams is doing as the CIO of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


In a recent Information Week interview, Williams explains that HUD has a serious silo problem-not just within IT's systems, but within the business. To resolve both, he's using an approach that truly could change the way his IT group and the business side of HUD interact.


He's created what he calls a "customer care committee" that includes all the general deputy assistant secretaries, but which he chairs:

It's not about IT; it's about business and how IT can facilitate the end goals of the business. We bring together different people from different disciplines to talk about the capabilities they need, how they sort out on an enterprise-wide basis, and how we achieve economies of scale.

Williams clearly gets the big picture. He discusses breaking down silos and how that can further business intelligence projects, as one example.

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