Busting the Relationship Myths

The relationship between Business and IT is the topic of many journal articles. What it is, why it’s not working, how to fix it. I was hired to fix the relationship with the business in my last role. That is what’s wrong, and if the relationship improves, all will be well. It wasn’t. There were several issues, and I found the relationship to be more of a symptom than a problem.

But the IT-Business Relationship remains front and centre with many pundits. Here are 4 so-called solutions that from my perspective don’t cut it. They are the Myths of the IT-Business Relationships. And here is why.

Myth #1 – If there is a business vision, then IT will know what needs to be done.

Myth1 VisionSometimes the executive team thinks its job is done when it presents a carefully crafted vision of the future. What is missed is the next step – describing the outcomes that need to be delivered. A vision does not describe outcomes. An outcome includes descriptions that allow IT to initiate the dialogue with the business about where IT fits.


Myth #2 – If there is a business strategy that includes technology, then we are aligned.Myth2 Business Strategy

This is the tough one. As an IT professional you will be thrilled to see IT in the corporate strategy, only to discover what is proposed may not be possible. Or worse, there has been no dialogue and a separate IT strategy has been developed that runs in opposition to the corporate strategy. Ouch. Alignment is needed in both planning and execution. The strategy must consider risk appetite and tolerance, business and IT lifecycle alignment, and the role of IT in the organization.
The next two myths deal with each side of the communication gap. Perhaps IT is from Mars and the Business is from Venus. John Gray’s seminal work about men and women is easily extrapolated to IT and the Business. Each is from a distinct planet. Each is acclimated to its own planet’s society and customs, but not that of the other. Sound familiar?

Myth #3 – Myth3 ExpectationsIf everyone knows the expected outcomes and expected business results, then we will have successfully communicated.

This myth is the business side of the communications gap. Knowing the words does not mean that understanding has occurred. Communication requires that leaders interpret or help staff to interpret meaning from the vantage point of their own work. The outcome may be to meet a particular sales target. Inside sales staff need to know that timely research and support responses directly align with that outcome.

Myth #4 –
If IT would stop communicating in Three Letter Acronyms and IT labels, then good communication will follow.Myth4 Communication

This is my favourite myth. If we are guilty of speaking in speeds and feeds jargon, purely translating to plain language will do nothing to remove the glazed eyes in the room. So what does business language mean? It means framing the issue as a business problem or opportunity. It’s not about needing to upgrade the OS, it’s about enabling remote call centre opportunities. It’s not about adding storage capacity, it’s about shifting to online video presentations for the sales force. Translating IT jargon is insufficient. What is required is the transformation of IT meaning to business needs and outcomes.

Building relationships starts with meaningful face to face interaction. Remember your business partner is a person first. Adopt a transformative communication style for success.

Further reading: Visit IQManagement on Slideshare to access “Implement the Theory or Follow Your Instinct?“- Presentation from ShareIT 2013 in Calgary, Canada.

About Cindy Seibel

Cindy’s unique combination of expertise in information technology, human resources, leadership and learning has led to a track record of high-performing multi-disciplinary teams.

She has served as program director for successful multi-million dollar technology implementations. Cindy’s work in developing strategic technology plans for organizations has been led both as a CIO and an external consultant.

As an award-winning CIO, Cindy’s experience spans the public, not-for-profit and private sectors. Cindy is an avid golfer, a sports fan with a warm spot in her heart for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and a lifelong learner who loves to share her passion about leadership and technology in the 21st century.

Cindy supports IQM client work in the transformation and advisory areas with a key focus on government and regulation.