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How Can I.T. Become a True Business Partner?

There’s a good reason that the Scott Adams cartoon, Dilbert, has a character called “Mordac The Preventer of Information Systems”. I’ve heard many disparaging comments about I.T. departments in general and in the last 3 weeks I’ve been at my wits end trying to get a project approved in our I.T. department.

From Scott Adam’s Dilbert

I.T. Departments’ reputations seem to be pretty consistent regardless of the company. The common perception is that they are an obstacle to the business and overly bureaucratic. The biggest problem that I see with I.T. is that they are only measured on meeting project deadlines and budgets but the business value of project scopes are not factored into their success metrics.

I’ve been leading a project within our company that impacts sales, development, and support. The project has been scoped and approved by the business over the last 8 months and it is time to get our I.T. department’s commitment for system changes. What I didn’t understand was that I.T. did no analysis until the business finalizes their scope and then they provide feedback regarding what scope they are able to deliver. The inevitable response from I.T. was that they could provide a small percentage of changes. They did not give me any alternatives regarding increased resources or schedule change….they just said no. They also made business decisions by determining what they were willing to do (regardless of the business context). The fantastic part of this story was that I.T. was a member of the project team for the last 8 months and never raised any concerns. It appeared that they viewed their job as attending a meeting rather than contributing to a project.

We had daily meetings arguing about what features would be in scope and out of scope but the bottom line was that what they were offering to commit to removed the business value of the project; However, they would have been very successful meeting their schedule within budget. I paused to try to understand my I.T. colleague’s perspective. They were unyielding on the schedule and reluctant to provide scoping for more resources (people and money) but were very comfortable removing the functionality of the project that created value.

It is clear that I.T. is measured in a way that incents them differently than their business partners. They are measured by budget and schedule but there is no measure of business value or scope delivered. How can companies link I.T.s accomplishments to the business improvement? This is a genuine request for comment because I’m struggling. It appears that I.T. is an infrastructure that views themselves as the guardians of the status quo. How can a business break this cycle? There must be some way to link I.T.’s success to the success of business goals and make them vested in the business’ success.

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