Want Fries With That?
Many blogs have been written and thoughts have been shared about Business and IT alignment. Here’s a few that I came across and liked in 2009 looking at Business and IT alignment from various different angles:
- How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? (Vijay Vijayasankar, IBM, @vijayasankarv)
a typical example of the struggle to align business and IT thoughts around a specific process
- How to Cut Through IT Bureaucracy (Susan Cramm, author of “8 Things We Hate About IT”, @scramm)
… within every company, there is an IT department struggling with how to make business leaders love them while pushing the bitter pills of strategic alignment, value realization, integration, standardization, self-sufficiency, and risk management…
- ‘Business-IT alignment’ is dead… whatever it was (Joe McKendrick, author and independent analyst, @JoeMcKendrick)
… perhaps the time has come to stop talking about “alignment” as if the business and IT were separate organizations. They are one…
- Reflecting on IT / business silos (Michael Krigsman, President of Asuret and popular ZDNet blogger, @mkrigsman)
a very fitting example of one of these pictures that say more than a thousand words
- even Wikipedia writes on this: Business/IT alignment
Business/IT alignment is a desired state in which a businessorganization is able to use information technology (IT) effectively toachieve business objectives
Based on my experience of having worked in the IT field for many years up until recently, I think it’s always good to look at and think about Business & IT alignment. It’s important to look at it from different angles, as the specific journey of Business & IT alignment will be different for different companies and company cultures and different individuals involved.
I wanted to share a different analogy of how Business and IT engagement often seems to work today, respectively how it should work.
Typical Business-IT engagement in a regular mid to larger corporation today:
Let’s say IT runs a restaurant and it happens to be pretty much the only restaurant in town, the “Business” comes in one night and sits down at the table.
They might have to wait a while for the waiter (part of IT) to show up, but let’s not talk about that. The waiter comes and asks the Business what they want. Neither does he give them a menu nor does he tell them about any specials, but comes only with a blank notebook eager to write down what the Business might request.
The Business is stumped a bit, they can’t immediately say what they want without having seen a menu or having heard any specials, so they ask for some more time to think about their “requirements”.
Eventually the waiter comes back and the Business tells her they’d like a Vegetarian Thali. Back in the kitchen the Executive Chef & Sous Chef, the Service Manager and some other waiters all come together discussing what the Business might have meant by a “Vegetarian Thali”. They are say a nice Italian restaurant, specialized on homemade pasta and succulent meat dishes. They even recently sent one of their chefs to Italy to learn more about how to perfect their risotto, that didn’t sell so well so far.
Now they got a big task to do to satisfy their customer who unfortunately hasn’t ordered anything they have much experience with.
So they Google “Vegetarian Thali” and needless to say find lots of pictures and recipes.
It’s too late to go to the market now, so they take what they can find and fix something up for the Business, that somewhat looks like a Vegetarian Thali.
To make a long story short(er), the customer remains somewhat disappointed, as the Thali doesn’t taste like they would have expected. They leave early and while they might come back eventually to give the restaurant another try, probably eat at home for a while.
Moral(s) of this story: (in no particular order)
For IT, the restaurant:
- Think about your specialties and give your customer choices in form of a menu (yes with prices too).
- Go to the market daily and find out what’s hot, understand the offerings and try to include things that are currently hot sellers on the market into your portfolio. Offer some of these specials to your customer too in addition to the standard menu.
- Think about which of your offerings go well together to enhance the customer’s experience (…”Want fries with that?” might not be the best reflection on this, but still in good restaurants, every waiter knows the entire menu and specials so well, that he can always recommend additional choices for a better experience (and a bigger sale!).
- Never fix up anything for the customer, that you haven’t tried before yourself
- While the Chef might carry more responsibility and might connect to the guests after Dinner for some feedback (given the guests don’t leave early) the folks who deal with the Business the most, the waiters, are typically not very high up in the hierarchy. Let your waiters feel how important they are and empower them to make decisions right at the customers table.
- If you don’t get a menu ask for it.
- Similarly ask for specials, most restaurants (and IT organizations) go to the market often and inform themselves what’s hot, even if the IT organization you deal with doesn’t do that much, they will start doing so if you are asking.
- If you don’t get a menu, don’t order something you’ve seen somewhere else, determine what kind of food you are most hungry for; Let’s call it: describe your pain points.
- Don’t be hasty. If you don’t like your food, don’t leave early, tell them! They can do better.
- Don’t wait with feedback for the Chef to come around, connect well to the waiter and give your feedback to him openly and often, they know how things work back in the kitchen and can make things happen
- Don’t settle for bad meals, however and don’t start the blame game. Give feedback and describe what you are hungry for / your pain points in more detail.
- In the rare case, that the waiter doesn’t believe the food is no good, let him try it right at your table.