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This year the SAP Insider conference on SAP NetWeaver – BI and Portals was in Orlando, and not in Las Vegas. The venue was different but the fervor of the participants was much the same. In the two sessions I delivered (How to Evolve from an IT, Application, or Business Consultant to a Business Process Expert, and A Guide to New SAP NetWeaver Capabilities for Improving the End- User Experience), I found that there was a very strong interest among practitioners and their management alike in furthering a culture that understands the needs of users and focuses on business processes. In my interaction with the attendees, I found an acknowledgement of the fact that the existing IT-business divide in their organizations needs to be bridged for good.

Interestingly, I find, this subject is increasingly gaining traction.

In the March 10 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Amit Basu and Chip Jarnagin speak about the “wall between a company’s information-technology department and everything else,” and that it must go (“How to Tap IT’s Hidden Potential”). The article holds out IT-Business alignment as the key to success. Similarly, in the Best Practice feature of the March 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review (“Radically Simple IT“), authors David M. Upton and Bradley R. Staats have hit upon some very key aspects with respect to the working dynamics between IT and the Business. I agree with them that IT strategy and Business strategy need to be more closely tied than being merely aligned, and that the interaction between IT and business groups need to be such that “the two sides gradually come to speak the same language.”  In my opinion this hints at IT-Business integration of sorts. However, the need of the hour is that enterprises look to push this further. The world of systems implementations will increasingly be characterized by the dominance of services oriented architecture (SOA), and, as I have often said, this demands that more attention be paid to business processes and the people who must deliver them successfully.

For success in the evolving SOA world it is not sufficient that IT and Business groups interact well, and that IT and Business strategies have been forged together. Organizations need to go a step further. They need to go beyond IT-Business alignment and IT-Business integration – they need to focus on assimilation of IT expertise within the business, and the assimilation of business process knowledge within IT. In other words, organizations need to move their workforces toward adopting more holistic views of the technology solutions that aid the end user in operating on a daily basis. This is where the notion of a true business process expert comes in. We have to accept that the business process expert is central to the scheme of things going forward!

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