Anna Frazzetto's Blog

Digital Innovations and Technology Solutions

The Big "I" - A Long-awaited Integration of Business and IT

The concept of integration is one with which most who work in technology are familiar. It's the IT and business integration buzz that continues to present challenges for IT organizations. And ironically, it's a partnership that has proven to be critical for success in today's business world.

I've got some good news. I recently participated in Fortune 500's IT strategy meeting and what really hit home with me was the amount of focus and work some organizations have embarked on to finally make IT and business integration happen. In fact, our most recent CIO Survey, illustrates a 14 percent improvement in IT and business integration when you compare year-over-year results.

Let me share three key factors that I've noticed in my work with various IT departments that were touched upon at this IT strategy meeting. These are successfully putting IT in synch with business goals:

1) IT must have a seat at the strategic table to drive the business forward.

2) IT must be managed as a business not as a separate support/utility type of service provider.

3) Business plays a key role in IT Strategy and IT plays a key role in Business Strategy -- they must go hand-in-hand.

I think one of the great practices I have seen implemented in the last 12 months has been the "How Can I Help" approach to IT and business. Basically the company vision and senior leadership must plant the seed and culture to encourage collaboration and spread it throughout the management structure. The key ingredient is to keep the communication lines open and for the business to engage IT early and often in their strategy development.

There are so many ideas for enabling collaboration and closing the gap between IT and business:

- I have seen brown bag lunches and job shadowing programs. One program was called a "Day in the Life," and here the person would assume the tasks and deliverables of an individual from either an IT or business department...clearly this might be difficult depending on the nature of the job, but some form of a "Day in the Life" does raise a healthy exchange between departments.

- Many organizations have adopted the business liaison role as part of the IT department. This role will act as the bridge between IT and business and help crystallize the IT projects needed to support the business' strategic initiatives.

- I've also seen business and IT training curriculums developed for IT and business professionals to provide a comprehensive education on what the business and IT do, its history, accomplishments, operations, future goals and how they will help each other.

- Along the same lines, many organizations have implemented programs to help IT professionals with business proficiencies -- things like project management, communications, negotiation and writing skills.

All in all, integration is happening. What are some steps you're seeing that are leading to better IT and business integration?