Let the Business and IT play on the same team by Ivar Jacobson

Let the Business and IT play on the same teamIn an earlier blog (Nov 2009: Closing the Gap between Business and IT) I described the gap between business and IT and suggested a way forward: we must speak the same language.  That language must be more than just a spoken language; some simple drawings or models are often useful.  However, beware of business models inspired by software models, which assume an underlying abstract computational machine. We must work together pursuing common goals and results - without resorting to passing documents from one side to the other.  And we must deliver high-quality results on regular intervals.

Forrester says we should have a “fusion” of the business and IT, going beyond mere alignment. The idea is sound, but it is better to get them to play on the same team together and win.

In a previous column (May 2009: Scaling Agile Teams), I discussed the structure of a soccer team. A soccer team has specific positions with specialized skills: goalkeeper, defender, forward.  Despite the specialization, anyone can kick the ball, including the goalkeeper.  If we look at the business-IT “team” we also have many kinds of specialists.  From the business we have people with knowledge of business processes and resources of various kinds (human, machines, etc.).  From IT we have people with knowledge of how to write code, people with knowledge of how to test software, and people who have knowledge of how to understand needs and devise solutions.  Despite this specialization, all of the participants need to contribute to achieve a common goal in order for everyone to be successful.

On a soccer team everyone must also understand the basic rules of the game in order to contribute to winning. On the business-IT team everyone needs a common understanding of how they will work together to build software for the benefit of the business.  For business people, this means understanding how software can be built in many small steps based on a long-term roadmap, and how their participation is essential. They need to understand how to participate in the development effort by communicating the essence of their business processes and articulating their needs for improvements in ways that preserve the ability to devise creative solutions.  For the IT people this means understanding the business processes and the desired outcomes that the business is looking to achieve, and it means being able to devise creative solutions that create business value. Everyone must know how to play their part and work together for the team to win.

Perhaps “fusion” is not quite the right word – since business and IT will continue to exist as separate units, and they will always have some things that they do alone. But they must be able to join together on a team consisting of both business and IT people, working toward a single goal: deliver creative solutions that create business value.

The team will need to agree on a way of working, and on the practices they think they need to solve the problem at hand.  These practices may involve proven techniques such as developing iteratively, formulating requirements and tests as use cases and test cases, planning product releases based on scenarios, measuring progress through successfully passed tests, and so on.

These practices will involve both sides in meaningful collaborative work that, if correctly performed, leads to excellent result. The business and IT will win together. This would be smart!

Of course, this would only be a start.  In my next blog I will talk more about some of the other things that are needed.

1 Comment
  1. Philippe Back | September 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm Reply


    I wrote a piece about this as well:

    Presenting solutions to business