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Zen and the Art of IT-Business Harmony

February 06, 2017 David Hanley Blog

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I’m not sure how many of my insurance industry peers read Fast Company Magazine (perhaps more these days with the focus on reinventing the industry and keeping up with disruptors) but a recent article – How to (Finally) Solve Your Team’s Most Annoying Tech Problems – made me start thinking about what makes a healthy IT-business relationship within an insurance organization.

In the old days (see: not that long ago) all technology that came through an insurer’s doors was vetted, purchased, implemented, supported and owned by IT.  Business would essentially determine what their requirements were and IT would go find it…or build it.  And hopefully it would work. 

But ask almost any business user about their systems and the response would normally be coupled with a certain level of distaste, aimed at some devious techy in a dark cubicle somewhere else in the building.

Today, the companies with the most harmonious IT-business working relationships do not use this approach.  In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite. 

The reality of today’s business environment is that technology touches everyone in the company, every single day – right from the bottom of the totem pole to the executive boardroom.  So it just makes sense that the business teams take not just an active role in sourcing and supporting technology, but take a real ownership stake in it.

One of the most contentious periods in the technology lifecycle, in my experience, is during initial sourcing.  I have often seen the business team get really excited about a new solution they believe will transform their lives, but aren’t forthcoming with IT about the fact that they are looking at something.  In some situations, I might even classify it as hiding the fact from IT that they are searching for a solution!

Inevitably, this leads to someone’s nose getting out of joint when it comes down to IT signing off on the purchase and the whole process screeches to an abrupt halt.

The proper way to approach this scenario is for the business team to loop in the IT group early in the process, to be utilized as a trusted advisor and technical subject matter expert.  This ends up saving everyone time in the end, because if there is a fundamental technology reason the solution can’t work, it’s best for everyone involved if this is known as soon as possible. 

The other thing that happens when IT is injected into the sourcing process late in the game is that the vendor then needs to rehash 80% of what was already discussed for the new audience.  Not only is this frustrating for the provider and drags out the process (all the while, the users are chomping at the bit to start using the tools), it is also extremely boring for the business folks!

This collaborative approach will also eliminate one more very destructive thing in the organization – the angry help desk call.  By distributing technology ownership to all departments in the company, the pass the buck or us vs. you mentality goes out the window.  People are more apt to try and fix the problem using the tools at their fingertips before looking for someone else to blame.

Change is difficult, but based on my experience, this approach not only makes a better, more productive company – it leads to much happier people who take more ownership in their day-to-day success.


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