When business and IT align — a recipe for agility
I’ve been writing about the IT-Business Singularity for years. The idea is that modern business not only relies on IT, but in fact is made possible by IT. If you believe this, then surely the fact that IT and the business are often at loggerheads appears to be insane. But the fact is that the divide and the rancor persist.
For some, it’s a culture question. IT is typecast by other employees as a bastion of geeks who are a culture apart. IT professionals, for their part, often characterize business folk, especially those in sales and marketing, as brutish and disingenuous.
For others, culture is not a factor. For them, the demands on both sides of the fence pit teams against one another. Business folks need things done ASAP in order to conduct their roles, while IT is beset with the burden of doing more with less and is barely able to keep up with the high demands of simply keeping systems running.
Still others believe that something more nefarious is in play, that IT’s main role is "command and control" and that it uses governance to be the team that always says no.
Each of these perspectives has both kernels of truth and heaps of exaggeration. But no matter the cause of this divide, we know one thing for sure: it persists, and it creates inefficiencies in the organization.
So how we do approach this singularity and banish the schismatic behavior that marks the broken conversation between IT and business? How do we help create the foundation for allowing business to self-service and self-discover information while adhering to strict rules about rights, governance, and security?
It is up to each of us to answer these questions and, of course, to find solutions that bridge the divide. The first step in the process is recognition that these issues indeed do retard progress and reduce agility in the organization. The second step is to work with the other side to find solutions that simultaneously enable and liberate. The third step is to avoid the trap of sticking to the current way of doing things and to believe a solution will emerge from the very circumstances that created it.
Eliminating the divide
Reducing the schism between business and IT is paramount if the organization is to gain agility. Put differently, the more business and IT converge, the better chance an organization has to be innovative and fleet-footed. We must remember however that the road to hell is paved with good intention—the alignment of intention doesn’t yet imply an alignment of execution via team and processes. Instead, in many companies, agility is slowed by an incapacity to create structures in which the ever-changing and ever-expanding needs of the business are met with the same dynamism in IT. All organizations need help translating those potential ideas into kinetic" truth.
Some suggest that this reality is IT’s fault. That’s an unfair and inaccurate assessment. IT has a lot to do and is backlogged, and in most cases works within guardrails. Business does the same — and business isn’t to blame either.
What’s to blame is inertia plus the "we know it’s broken but we can use duct tape to fix it" mindset, which is far too common in the corporate world. If the professionals in the organization understand that things are inefficient and inadequate but learn to live with it and jury-rig short-term solutions, then the fundamental problems don't get solved and the pain is inherited by the next set of teams. In a resource-strapped environment, external solutions are not always immediately available. However, the executives I speak to all suggest that their organizations would be far nimbler and capable if the business teams and the IT teams that enable them were convergent.
People say there is a battle between the two sides—and perhaps there is at times—but no one wants this battle. IT wants the business to understand that governance, access control, security, and being busy are real things. The business folks want the IT folks to understand that data changes rapidly, and every minute we lose cedes control to our competitors. Both positions are fair, but both need fixing—both need to find ways to meet their needs without running afoul of the non-negotiables of the other.
Now imagine a world in which we banish the word battle and get to alignment. Imagine IT folks and business folks were in concert, with ideas translated into execution instantaneously. Imagine a world in which organizations could worry about larger issues and build flying cars, develop cures for diseases and new ways of generating energy, and create incredible and inexpensive products to help humanity. Imagine that.
Organizational agility is very much a product of a deep and peaceful conversation between business and IT in which constructive engagement is maximized and the inevitable friction is minimized. If business users are enabled, they will produce value in an accelerated fashion, and if IT is aligned with business it will innovate and serve the large needs of the organization.
Romi Mahajan is the Chief Commercial Officer at TimeXtender, where he heads a senior staff and provides strategic leadership, executive management and organizational vision toward greater revenue and growth.
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How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.