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Communicate... Because in IT, If You Build It, They May Not Come

Balance in any sizable enterprise is not easy

Finding the perfect balance of influence between IT and the Business Owners (I will resist the urge to refer to them as B.O.) is not easy. I usually find that most projects are influenced by one or the other in an unbalanced manner.

The story is usually goes like this...

The business feels that technology should not be a factor in making sound business decisions. In the business owner's eyes, whatever the solution is, the IT department should be able to support the technology that comes with that solution.

This is bad when a custom software package is the solution. .NET/SQL Server shops may end up with a Java/Oracle product or visa versa. Although it is possible to support every technology in the world it makes absolutely no sense to attempt to.

The essence of enterprise architecture is to constrain the technical environment to make it more specialized and efficient. Along this same line, it is also the job of enterprise architecture to modernize the environment. That means a healthy continuous change in a constrained set of tools should always be taking place.

If you are in IT and you are not prepared to be continuously learning, I recommend a change in career.

On the flip side we have the IT team that has been more or less cut of the business decision process. They decide the business owners apparently do not know that they know what is best for them. IT decides they will just build it and the business owners will learn to love what they have been missing.

I have seen this scenario happen with BI portals, data warehouses, workflow applications, reporting tool implementations, team collaboration sites, and I have seen it over and over again. If the IT team is lucky, they walk away without even getting a wrist slap, because the business decides to take advantage of some (10-15%) of the implementation.

The business owners are happy with that because it is an improvement in their environment even if it is a small one. They just don't realize 85-90% of the budget was wasted because they were not involved upfront.

Worse is the case when you get the wrist slap along with the refusal to look at your new application, much less use it.  You can build anything, but that won't mean people will use it.

Balance in any sizable enterprise is not easy. Lack of transparency is usually as much a culprit as governance put in place to create transparency. Governance put in place to surface the activities of both sides of the table can easily be construed as red tape to be avoided at all cost. The governance ends up discouraging transparency instead of creating it.

Common enterprise principles and well-defined visions and goals are a good place to start. These of course have to be agreed on by all, not just a few at the top of the food chain. Everyone should have a voice in helping to come to agreed upon enterprise principles and well defined visions and goals. Even if everyone does not agree at least they were heard and they understand the other side's point of view. Everybody agreeing to disagree, is much better than simply disagreeing.

The business needs to know what is going on in IT, and IT needs to know what is going on in the business. It seems these things always come down to effectively communicating in order to remain transparent.

More Stories By Tad Anderson

Tad Anderson has been doing Software Architecture for 18 years and Enterprise Architecture for the past few.