For many years now there has been intense discussion within the IT “industry” highlighting the absolute need for IT to get much closer to the business clients it supports and whose daily activities would not be possible without the use of IT systems. The requirement for IT to align its efforts and services in line with business need is not in doubt, so why is it that IT still does such a bad job communicating with its customers?
The figure above illustrates just how much room there is for improvement in IT / Business communications. As of today it appears that few organisations have formally established and monitored service levels that report in terminology and language with which business users will be comfortable. For straight forward IT performance the number with formal service levels reported in business terms are in place in around one in three organisations with just under another third having some informal measures in place. But when it comes to measuring and reporting on IT’s contribution to either overall business goals or bottom line business value the number of organisations with formal reporting processes in place drops to only one in five or even lower.
Until IT undertakes to report on its contribution to business value generation it will face considerable difficulty in having meaningful conversations with business users about how investment in IT can help move the entire business forward. Instead it is more likely that all discussions will focus simply on the overall size of the IT budget with special focus on how can this figure be either held static or reduced whilst not impacting established technical service levels. There are tools available now that can help IT measure and report on such topics as the contribution to the bottom line, overall business goals and even on business value generation. Many of these can be found in the BSM (Business Service Management) area. All take effort and require both a sound technically monitored IT infrastructure but they also need that the business sits down and identifies how its processes operate and the role IT systems play therein. It takes effort and human resources but the efforts are worthwhile.
Perhaps a bigger challenge can be found in the traditional way that IT has always operated, namely with limited “contact” with business managers and too much comfort relying on technical IT language. The biggest benefits to the entire business and to IT departments themselves will come not directly from establishing and formally reporting on these matters in business terms but in establishing expressive two way communications between business and IT professionals. This needs cultural changes in both communities. Are you ready to make it happen? Is your business?