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When I had been at university I visited a course for mechanical construction. During a test we got a blueprint of a 4-shift gear (now that I tell it I feel damn old)
and had to analyze it for improvements. Actually 6 tiny little errors had been built on to be spotted. I was looking at it and smiled to myself; it had been the same test for the last 10 years and still with the same gear. At that time, I recently had the pleasure to look at a blueprint of a leading edge new gear. As the given task was to improve what´s there I ignored the blueprint and started to outline a new better gear. Unfortunately the grade I received for the test was more than disappointing.

Since then I have been thinking through it again and again. Why do we get trained to analyze errors and do small improvements instead of thinking out of the box?

When I started my professional career I spotted similar recurrent patterns between IT and Lines of Business. As soon as IT is looking at a project they analyze the weak points of the project and how to optimize it while the LoBs are looking for the next big thing. The LoB has different decision pattern.  And interesting, it has always been a clash of different cultures in which both follow a Pavlovian conditioning.

There is no doubt anymore, that the responsibility of IT-decisions is shifting from the IT to the LoB organizations. In 2013, IDC already predicted that by 2016, 80% of IT decisions will directly involve LoB executives, with half of it led by LoBs. Now, in 2015, we can feel the change already. A new IT buying audience has emerged.

I would like to share my perspective on the consequences of that change.

Different approach: Doing things right vs doing the right things

It is not carved in stone, how decisions are made, but the different tendencies between IT and LoB are obvious. It is not an intellectual difference at all, because you always find super smart people in both organizations. It is, like I experienced myself during university, a question of training and focus.

The IT organizations have been developed over the last 2 decades to embody the role of “keeping the lights on” or said differently “running the company”. This also is reflected in how they approach problems. It is analytic and linear and enables IT to maintain control and constantly stick to the plan. The plan thus becomes a contract. The IT is used to anticipate every single issue prior in the conceptional phase. Therefore, in the past, they did not have a problem when implementation took 18 months or longer – as long as the well prepared plan helped to maintain control.

IT is asked to do things right.

The LoB on the other hand, cannot wait so long to see meaningful results. Their approach looks much more like an iterative circle. They focus on “innovating my department”. For LoB it is important to see the immediate benefit of a solution. Compared to the IT, which tries to solve every problem in advance, the LoB starts to identify issues and adjusts to them step by step in an iterative cycle. When looking at cloud as a liberating technology it comes handy to the LoBs approach. Cloud allows to start small, explore and gradually expand; resulting into innovation. And it runs without Capital Expenditure, which helps exploring before going broad.

LoBs have to do the right things.

The LoB and IT Dilemma – the Pavlovian _1.jpg

However, if we look closer, cloud brings simplification and unburdens the IT from routine tasks as well. Then IT can further focus on value adding tasks and serve the business better.

Typical IT – Typical LoB?

For more clarification, let’s take a look at an example, which most people consider as a typical IT topic: Hybrid cloud integration. The IT naturally tackles this topic in their run-the-company manner: “How can I manage it?” They want to gain full control to assure security, compliance and support of complex landscapes. The line of business on the other hand, first would ask itself: “Why should I care?” Line of business cares less about the general point of view of
integration, but wants to innovate their department. Even if it is not under their direct responsibility LoB cares for integration, but it needs to be explained.

In private life, the integration promise is already widely applicable. Emails are not stored locally on a single computer anymore, address books are smoothly updated on a new phone and if you upload a booking confirmation, you don’t need to worry about it when leaving for vacation: Single source of truth.

LoBs also want their most recent document back at their desktop, when they edited it on a tablet at home. Here too: Single source of truth. At customer meetings, for instance, a sales person has to rely on the source, regardless the number of systems which need to be connected to create an account 360 view. Worrying about the accuracy and topicality of the source, would just take the focus away from actual value adding aspects, like a fast meeting based on facts, shorter sales cycles and better meetings.

The LoB and IT Dilemma – the Pavlovian _2.jpg

If we take a quick look at the IT’s point of view, we can see that they have to take care of way different aspects. Those are for example security, mapping and transformation or connectivity service. Now, if you would confront a line of business executive with these kinds of topics, they would simply ask themselves why they should care about it.

Summary

If we keep in mind, that IT and LoB embody different roles inside an organization (run the company vs. innovate my department), it is easier to ensure to jointly work together respectively and efficient. They both measure efficiency differently. IT needs to do things right, LoB needs to do the right thing.

IT will not simply move away from existing tasks, but continue to evolve. Nevertheless, IT can´t drop its traditional tasks to do something else. The challenge will be to find a way between traditional role and conquering new fields: Next time I will put some light on this balancing act, stay tuned.

Looking forward to your thoughts on it. You can also follow me on @BeSchulze

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5 Comments

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  1. Sven Kotting

    Hi Bert and Andy,

    yes, who will has the responsibilities, makes the decicsions?

    I am finding myself in that Position (on a small scale) but i am responsible for IT (Keep it running) but I am also one of the few Innovators.

    Rgds

    Sven

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    1. Bert Schulze Post author

      Guys, you have spotted an interesting point. I found it enteresting enough to keep it for a separate blog 🙂

      In a nutshell from my point of view:

      IT has the budget to run the company = cost = pressure to reduce

      LoB has the budget to build the future = fresh money = investments = depending on BC ok

      CEO´s feel trapped and not agile enough (referncing McKinsey study) and want to reduce spending for “Run the company” to have more ressources for Innovate the Business. Digital transformation will further increase the battle for the budget

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  2. Robert Getzner

    Hi, I just recently had a discussion on this target conflict. Taking a different perspective, all who want to be innovative (and this includes both IT and LoB) Need to Balance between starting new ‘rockets’ (innovations) and starting+running them on a stable platform.  In the end IT and LoB Need to share the responsibility to Keep running and staying able to run further. May be simpler in smaller companies than in larger ones…

    Regards, Robert

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  3. Rob Llewellyn

    Great post Bert.

    On the question about ‘who pays’ …IT leaders need to help business leaders spend their money wisely on digitally enabled business transformation. Take LoB on a journey starting with where LoB needs new business value (customer centricity etc). Use the Digital Capability Framework (DCF) for a structured approach to this collaborative journey. Done well, LoB will be happy to pay for the realisation of their new competitive advantages – and IT will be recognised as being transformational (not just operational).

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