We ICT people know how much we work and how critical our competence is to the business. If the steering team members cannot get the videoconferencing equipment to work, they cannot have the steering team meeting. A PC in the production environment might be quite critical if no backup is available. An ERP-project could go terribly wrong without the involvement of ICT people.
Not always, but quite often business people seem to think that ICT is a support function that fulfills business requirements one by one. If a new tool is required, ICT has the role of implementing it to business. If a new report is needed from SAP, it will be created. For business people, it is sometimes difficult to understand that while ICT is responding to business needs it is also managing the big picture. A well-functioning ICT department is not only about solving separate problems; it is about offering ICT infrastructure services and applications that business truly needs and managing the services cost-effectively with a clear roadmap and architecture plan. The lack of business’ ICT knowledge is however a fact and is also one of the results of a survey made by The Finnish Information Processing Association (FIPA) in 2011: the survey reveals that only a one third of the business management (28%) believes to know what ICT is all about.
What now? We ICT people can either go home or start thinking ways to improve the situation. After all, without business understanding ICT, ICT can never achieve the role it should have. Here are some practical ways to boost ICT business alignment:
1. Understand business
Not only should business understand ICT, but also vice versa. ICT should be truly interested in business. Practical advice: call to business management and ask a presentation of their responsibility area. Ask simple questions: what do you do? What are your short-term and long-term goals? Ask for an organization chart. That is the information you need for understanding the big picture. Plus, it is a good way to bond with business representatives.
2. ICT governance model
In order to involve both business and ICT in decision making, establishing an ICT governance model is priority number one. Start with ICT Steering Committee and a project portfolio. Make sure that all the important business operations are represented in the Committee. Discuss the ongoing projects and ask business to make a business case of all new project proposals. ICT governance model ensures that ICT understands the needs and business understands the ICT-solutions.
3. ICT newsletter
Although we ICT people would be extremely interested in business, it does not mean that business would automatically be interested in ICT and what we do. While waiting for that to happen, we might as well give a hand and show business how we relate to almost everything they do. Send out an ICT newsletter once a quarter or twice a year describing what ICT has been up to and what will be done next. It is a great way to boost ICT’s image for the entire organization.
4. Service descriptions
Write short and understandable service descriptions of the most important services you offer to business. Publish them in your company intranet and do not forget to put an advertisement to the next ICT newsletter.
5. ICT KPIs for top level management
For top level management to be really interested in ICT, it is important to have a few, understandable KPIs to show how ICT is doing. ICT Dashboard is a good choice for this. Together with the service descriptions, these KPIs give structure to ICT and show top level management what ICT is all about.
Although it is easy to focus on daily execution, a lot of work can be done for nothing if business and ICT do not understand each other. It is ICT’s responsibility to make a big deal about the things that are going on and show business that they cannot make it without ICT.