As Dave Wittwer climbed the ranks at TDS Telecommunications from internal auditor to CFO to COO and now CEO, he learned to appreciate the competitive advantage that IT integration with the business can deliver. In SearchCIO's Business POV piece on IT as competitive advantage,
To follow up, Goulart asked readers, "Is IT well-versed in your company's business, and does it provide competitive advantage?" Our respondents were split 50-50, with half saying, "Yes, we're a team" and the other half saying, "No, we're siloed." So, how do you do business-IT integration correctly? Our readers shared some of their wisdom in the comments section:
- "Yes, our top management does involve IT in all the strategic decisions so that IT can identify the scope of improvement and contribution right from the thought-inception phase."
- "Those days are history when IT was a business background player. Now IT walks with the lead team and, if not, the business lives in dark ages. Managements realizing these facts are enjoying the fruit of automation."
- "My ITS department fills many roles, and yet must be flexible enough to adjust to a simple task in providing one-on-one customer service. My motto is, 'Do it right with the right equipment the first time, and you do not have to do it again.' From that vantage point, you can then look to grow your business with advanced changes that reduce cost and keep you competitive."
It is important that we align IT with our business goals, adding value to the business.
The main objective in IT integration with the business is aligning IT with organizational goals and objectives in order to generate value across departments:
- "It is important that we align IT with our business goals, adding value to the business."
- "IT is the most important [device] in our daily business transaction. So, I can say IT is a source of our business deal."
- "We focus our technology investments specifically on productivity and value generation for individuals, teams and business units. One example is offering individuals the freedom to choose their preferred computational environment and supporting their choices. Others are constantly asking questions about how we can help teams and organizations to do their work more productively."
Not everyone has hopped on the business-IT integration bandwagon. Some readers shared their organizations' siloed approach to IT departments:
- "There is no front-to-back integration of our processes."
- "Many times IT is viewed as an outsider."
Simply put, the traditional outsider view of IT prevents some organizations from properly integrating IT into business processes. Readers expanded on this, pointing out problems such as the misdefined role of IT in business matters:
- 'The main problem in the organization, and most organizations I've seen, is they consider IT as just a tool for something. It is a headache for many of them. ... But it is important to understand IT as a part of the main strategy and as way of living in business. Personally, as an IT [professional], I see IT as a philosophy of living in the developed world, like engineering our life or making it scientific, and even more social."
- "There have been instances where some departments want to do their own IT projects without consulting with us [IT] first. Once I find out that these projects are in the works, I remind them that we already have similar tools available. I also remind them that others in the company may want to use the same tools. We are still a small company, and I do not want to experience large company problems like silos."
- "It is worse than being just siloed. Here, IT does things just to gain technical experience for itself, doesn't plan for the company's future growth, believes in patching rather than root cause analysis, etc. I [have] yet to see a more technically challenged IT department."
- "Worst thing you can do is simply say, 'Our budget is this amount and we'll do the top 10 things that fit into that.'"
Pain points in IT integration with the business extend beyond departmental siloing. What's your organization's biggest challenge when it comes to integrating IT into business processes? Answer our poll and sound off in the comments section below.
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This was first published in June 2013