June 12, 2024

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Bridging the Gap Between IT and Business Leaders

3 min read

A troubling reality exists inside many companies – friction between information technology groups and business units. IT teams often feel underappreciated and overwhelmed by requests with unclear value. Business leaders view IT as unresponsive, rigid, and out-of-touch with core operations and market demands.

However, when IT and business executives foster mutual understanding and collaborate effectively, the results can be game-changing. IT enables and accelerates vital initiatives, while technology roadmaps better align with business priorities. By establishing trust and communication bridges across functions, companies position themselves to thrive in an increasingly digital-powered economy.

Diagnosing the Disconnect

Several factors tend to perpetuate disconnects between IT teams and business leaders, including:

  • Differing priorities – IT focuses on system availability, security, compliance, and risk aversion. Business leaders drive towards growth, innovation, speed-to-market and beating the competition. Mismatched priorities lead to conflicts.
  • Language barriers – IT professionals speak a language of servers, code, and technical infrastructure that feels foreign to most business executives. And visa versa, with business jargon sounding vague to technically-oriented staff.
  • Lack of understanding – Since they do not grasp the intricacies of each other’s roles, IT and business teams make flawed assumptions about internal capabilities and constraints. Unrealistic expectations often follow.
  • Poor communication – Beyond executive sponsorship and project meetings, routine communication between IT and business leaders is infrequent. And when discussions do occur, knowledge and context gaps impede mutual understanding.

While these disconnects may seem unavoidable, the most successful companies overcome them through concerted relationship-building between IT and business leadership.

Best Practices for Stronger Partnerships
Here are proactive steps that IT executives and technical teams can take to partner more strategically with business leaders:

  • Make frequent informal connections – Maintain an open door policy and seek out casual interactions with business peers through meetings, lunches, digital communications, and office drop-ins.
  • Demonstrate technology possibilities – Offer to give business leaders hands-on tours of data centers, NOC facilities, and tech labs. Show examples of emerging technologies applied in business settings like IoT, automation, AR, and more.
  • Spearhead digital literacy initiatives – Launch education campaigns, brown bag sessions, and hackathons to expose non-technical professionals to relevant tech concepts, trends, and challenges.
  • Champion key tech projects – Encourage IT talent to master the concepts central to important business initiatives in the pipeline and prepare guidance on how technology can amplify success.
  • Embed technologists within business units – Place technical resources within business teams, rotations, workshops, and planning meetings to immerse them within key operations and priorities while sharing technology perspectives.
  • Quantify IT’s impact – Evaluate major technology investments and digital transformation program performance through business-meaningful metrics like revenue, customer retention, and market share gains.

On the flip side, here are steps business executives can take to partner better with their technology teams:

  • Seek to deeply understand IT priorities – Recognize the technology constraints and risks IT teams balance regarding security, compliance, budgets, and system availability. Appreciate why IT values governance, standards, and architecture principles.
  • Participate in technical education opportunities – Join IT-led information sessions, innovation showcases, and other programs aimed at increasing business leaders’ technology IQ.
  • Include IT in strategy development – Bring technologists into brainstorming meetings, operational reviews, and planning initiatives so technology considerations inform choices and alignment improves.
  • Define technology requirements clearly – When engaging IT for solutions, specify business goals, targets, success metrics, budgets, stakeholders, regulatory issues, and other parameters accurately so expectations and tradeoffs are clear from the outset.
  • Show appreciation for IT contributions – Recognize technology team wins, milestones, and innovations through mechanisms like awards, town halls, leadership team meetings, and internal communications. Praise helps motivate continued partnership.

Once entrenched divides begin dissolving through concerted relationship-building initiatives, the synergies between IT and business leaders can take an enterprise to new heights.

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