Partner, E-Finity Group

IT managers must challenge business managers more often if their companies’ two sides, tech and corporate, are ever to co-ordinate their currently dysfunctional dance, according to one industry expert.

“Learning how to say no” is imperative for IT when business managers request technology support that doesn’t make sense for the company, said Craigg Ballance, a partner at E-Finity Group Inc., an e-business consulting company.

It means taking personal risk.Craigg Ballance>Text

Speaking yesterday at an event in Toronto hosted by Eidenai Innovations Inc., an application development and systems integration firm, Ballance said the perpetual disconnection between corporate tech departments and business managers has a lot to do with IT’s passive aggressive nature.

Too often IT pros accept tasks built on ill-defined business processes. Tech heads should push back, ask more questions and generally test the business side of the house to ensure tech projects make sense from a strategic point of view, and to make sure the business folks know what they want, as well as what they’re likely to get, Ballance said.

“It means taking a personal risk,” he pointed out. Earlier in his talk Ballance said the title “CIO,” which normally stands for “Chief Information Officer,” these days just as well stands for “Career Is Over.” The average CIO lasts just three years in his or her position, he said.

Roy Gowler, ISV partner account manager at Microsoft Canada Co., attended the Eidenai event. He noted that Ballance’s solution for the IT-business disconnect — an oft-noted and longstanding problem for many companies — could permanently disconnect bold IT pros from their jobs.

“There is a huge personal risk in saying no,” Gowler said, adding that when it comes to the corporate hierarchy and the amount of pushback company execs are willing to take from departments, finance, marketing and sales tend to get a better reception. The “political clout of IT is at the bottom of the barrel.”

That said, if IT can prove itself to be a strategic force within an enterprise, capable of making software and hardware suggestions that improve the company’s growth, for instance, the tech department might be able to garner some respect. IT has to become “more than a delivery and support mechanism,” Gowler said.

Rod da Silva, Eidenai’s practice lead, offered suggestions for IT departments to prove themselves strategic. For example, consider creating a kind of business-rules repository that houses the company’s various internal regulations (like needs-approvals). It’s easier for the business people to amend the overarching directives as required if the rules reside outside of applications, and the apps can still access the rules for process guidance, given a link between the programs and the repository.

E-Finity’s Ballance isn’t the only one advocating more aggressive IT. Microsoft Corp. has also been touting a stronger role for technology in business environments. The software giant envisions what it calls “a new world of work” wherein IT leads play a more strategic role in the enterprise than they do today. IT managers will make tech suggestions that improve the bottom line, for example.

Microsoft says a large part of bringing this new world about is employee self-service — technology that gives end-users access to collaboration tools, Web conferencing and other productivity boosters without having to turn to the IT team for help. Thus free of administrative duties, IT will have time to offer business-specific aid to the corporation.

At its next event Eidenai plans to discuss services-oriented architecture (SOA). It’s scheduled for June 21 in Toronto. For more information call (888) 789-7770.

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