Work Together or Go Down in Flames

Susan Andre Survival Strategy Column

It is vital that a company's IT and business people work together to ensure suitable technology solutions are implemented.

Gone are the days where the person in charge of IT and technology called the shots when it came to technology investments. Nowadays it is essential that the IT and business people within an organisation decide together what their technology solutions will be – and what the key deliverables and projected end results will be.

Sharing is key

"The days of the laager mentality in terms of information sharing are history."

Each part of the team has a valuable part to play and in fact the more areas of a business involved in technology and information development solutions, the better. Data warehousing, business intelligence, knowledge management; it doesn't matter what terminology you use, the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to identifying the critical success factors is important. Finding the right technology and business solution partner are also key issues.

Businesses will find themselves inundated with solution and technology providers, each with their own unique selling points, strengths and weaknesses, and marketing documentation. This is where a switched-on IT specialist is invaluable. That, however, is only one part of the solution – the hardware and the software.

Under the hood

In order to fully understand what technology is required, the solution or technology provider needs to understand the potential client's business. This is where the team approach is essential.

Bring in as many of the decision-makers as possible. As important at this stage is to involve sections of the middle management tier. These are the business operators who have hands-on and daily experiences with clients and suppliers.

The solution provider needs to get under the skin of the business, under the hood, as it were, to see how the business operates, where its revenue streams are and identify all the business imperatives. It is here where the business leader plays an invaluable role. It is essential that they share as much information as possible with the provider. The days of the laager mentality in terms of information sharing are history. By sharing information, the business leader provides the 360-degree view needed to provide the most comprehensive technology and software solution.

There is a tendency for business leaders to keep strategic information to themselves. This is also the case with the people in charge of the IT function. This was perpetuated in the past where business people didn't fully understand the intricacies of IT and, by and large, the IT people were seen as technical people who didn't understand basic business practices.

Modern business has started to change this perception to a certain extent, although in many cases data and reports are still used as tools to protect management positions. Having said this, there is a new breed of business manager emerging. This is a person who understands technology, and utilises it to maximum business advantage. At the same time the IT person is more aware of the business issues.

Unfortunately, not everything is that cut and dried. The matter is complicated for the solution or technology provider, because in a lot of instances businesses will call for presentations or proposals, without a clear understanding of what they wish to achieve.

They also sometimes tend to use the presentation or proposal process as a means of crystallising their thought – and sometimes even their business processes.

And that's not all… In some instances businesses have spent large sums of money developing systems and data capturing opportunities and once the initial development project has been completed, it is not utilised to its full capacity or in some instances it is simply buried and forgotten.

Working in isolation in any business discipline is not the best way to make and keep businesses profitable; this also applies to the data warehousing business. Understand what systems your business has in place, what types of information are currently available and how this information is distributed.

You may find that all that is required is some consultation in terms of pulling the disparate processes together, and modifying reporting structures. On the other hand, a responsible solution provider may suggest that a total technology re-engineering process is required. The key here is a provider who has all the necessary business skills and access to development and technology skills. There are many providers willing to assist businesses with their data warehousing needs. It's a question of horses for courses. Make sure that you know what you want and understand what it is that you will get.

Ultimately the two partners (business people and IT people) in any successful business must work together and create solutions that benefit the business entity. Plan and implement solutions that are relevant today and adaptable to tomorrow's needs.