The Silo-Busting Power of Better Business Collaboration

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Six Tips to Improve Collaboration

Six steps you can take to improve collaboration in your company.

I'm not inclined to be overly exuberant about ... well, anything, actually. Being a bit cynical, even blase, is kind of my thing.


But I'm about to break my usual detached composure. Maybe it's Cyber Monday euphoria. Maybe it's the six ounces of dark chocolate almonds that I inadvertently devoured in lieu of lunch. Maybe it's the oncoming cold.


Whatever the reason, I'm going to have to blurt this out: Michael Blechar's recent post is spot-on brilliant, as the Brits would say.


Granted, you'd never guess it from the cumbersome title, "Reflections on the Application Development and Integration Summit-IT and Business Collaboration."


Blechar is a Gartner VP and distinguished analyst in Applications Architecture Research. His specialties in business and IT modeling tools, and collaboration and model-driven development put him in a rather unique position when it comes to the topic of IT and the business working together.


During Gartner's recent conference, he taught a session called "IT & Business Collaboration: SOA, BPM and MDM," and he heard from a lot of different IT workers about their particular problems with collaboration. He heard from enterprise architects, developers, data architects and applications architects about the troubles and travails of working with the business-and they, to their credit, were eager to hear his solution.


Honestly, I've written a lot about IT and business alignment-and the assorted related issues-over the years, and I thought I'd heard it all. This is where the brilliant part comes in-Blechar noticed that all these different techies, with their unique roles and unique problems, had one thing in common when it came to collaborating with the business:

Interestingly (at least to me) I discovered that since attendees were filling a large variety of roles for their organizations, though most had some degree of concern about IT and business collaboration their viewpoints on what the problems were and-perhaps more importantly-why these problems mattered varied widely. ... Or to say it a different way-each of the attendees wanted to improve collaboration to solve THEIR problems as opposed to those which the business perceived as the most important to them!

Do you see the problem there? IT is trying to collaborate with the business, but from a perspective that's all about getting its own work done-not the work of the business.


Interesting. This could be a big part of why, despite efforts to declare it passe, we're still talking about IT/business alignment, even with things that may seem obviously about the business, such as master data management and service-oriented architecture (although, I think that's still a hard sale if you're actually talking to the business, but he gets into that a bit more in the post).


Blechar doesn't just leave it at that. He explains that IT has to change the conversation and help the business see why it should be interested in what it currently views as "IT problems." He also offers three specific recommendations for how IT can create better business collaboration:

  1. Get a business representative involved at the conceptual/planning level of detail.
  2. Get involved with BPM-which, he notes, too many IT organizations view as a "business responsibility." Why? Fewer silos, he explains: "IT needs to enable BPM initiatives since these result in greater collaboration across business units and, in turn, results in projects which specify requirements to break down the silos which exist in IT systems between applications and their data."
  3. Ask the business "what aspects of collaboration they feel are negatively impacting them-either from a business cost or efficiency perspective or in terms of holding the business back from being more competitive or generating more revenues," he writes. Then, address those pain points in future collaborations.


It's a great, readable post that even includes a funny joke involving this "black hole" of a problem.

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