Business and IT relationship in IT-driven products

A lot has been said about the relationship between business and IT in a classical management setting prevailing in enterprises. However, when the IT system in question changes from supporting business to being a main part of the product itself, the process changes to agile development and the context changes to intrapreneurship, that relationship must be reexamined.

Hierarchies

“Just inform me when you’re done.”

The perks of management levels develop own dynamics in hierarchies. While company politics might hurt enterprises it can devastate startups. Therefore, reducing the levels of hierarchies is mandatory for effective and efficient intrapreneurship. One of the classical (and often negated) hierarchies is the relationship between business and IT.

Owning the budget

“Yes, but business is paying us for features.”

In a setting where business owns the budget and IT is being compensated for agile software delivery, a permanent conflict will ensue. Agile methodologies rely on self-organisation, iterative planning and constant reprioritization. Features are being dropped or included as the process sees fit.

Division of work

“Sorry, but I am not an IT guy, I have no idea what you are talking about.”

The ultimate productivity tool, division of work, just cannot be afforded in a startup. Rather, at times, everyone needs to be an assistant, a secretary, support team member, strategist and be technology savvy. Hey, you’re in IT business, there is no place for comfort zones or even arrogance.

Vision and roadmap

“I have no idea what’s next.”

Enterprises often use vision and mission statements as boilerplate. In a startup, objectives might change abruptly and often, leaving people constantly realigning. You already have a vision, you don’t need to define it, just write it down clearly. Maintaining a consistent roadmap in an ever changing context is an arduous but essential task. Relentlessly communicating the vision and roadmap should be on the agenda of leadership.

Recommendations

When your company engages in intrapreneurship, business should follow these guidelines:

  • Scrap hierarchies, only name a CEO
  • Make sure the CEO is regularly present for IT
  • Find the product visionary
  • Communicate your vision and roadmap often
  • Name subject experts
  • Create one team
  • Use your own products, be evangelists

PS: This article is based on the assumption that management concepts work and that business has the ultimate outcome responsibility.

About Grischa Ekart

I am an IT consultant, writing about IT, strategy, management, mobility, business cases, apps, consumer electronics and MBA education.
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