Are we missing the boat by talking about IT and Business Partnership?

For the few people who have read my previous posts, there is a common theme of IT/Business Partnership.  Recently, however, I started coming to the realization that there is a problem with the premise.  Are IT and “the Business” really separate?   We are talking about the same company and same mission …. right??

In many of the IT organizations that I have led, and worked with, IT is thought of as separate.  We speak of fellow associates as “customers,” and speak of IT as almost an outside service organization.  Sure, there may be Partnership, but Partnership as you would speak of with an IT vendor, not as part of the organization.

This really hit home from me in Chris Potts’s book series, starting in fruITion.  Presenting his ideas as a story, Chris questions the separation of IT and the business, and if it is healthy.  Recently as I have spoke to different organizations, I have found that others have started to struggle with the same ideas.  If IT and the business are not “the same,” how can innovation occur?  If IT has a separate mission from the “business,” how can there ever be alignment.

This issue appears to be prevalent (but not universal) in Manufacturing.  One manufacturer that I know of stipulates that “IT is NOT strategic.”  Now, one can argue that IT is different than
“technology,” but the corporate strategy does not speak about technology either.  That said, a different manufacturer has technology projects as critical to their goto market, and ongoing support strategy, and these projects appear right in their five year roadmap.

One observation is what part innovation plays into the organization.  If Innovation isn’t considered important, then neither is IT.  In such an organization, IT is “keeping the lights-on,”  and is functionally an operational organization which executes on business requests.

Its easy to see how in such an organization an “us vs them” thought process would exist.  The “Business” IS a separate organization, and IT is just servicing their needs.  Partnership is really not needed anymore than ensure the right priorities are being worked on.

Lean would argue against this.  The waste of “underutilized creativity” would be in evidence, and the customers “value chain” would suffer since new technology would not come to the table until it becomes essential for the industry.  By then, the technology isn’t a differentiator, but a community that is expected.

Personally, as I talk to more companies, with the impact of Big Data, IoT, new interfaces to real customers (like Alexia, and Augmented and Virtual Reality), and tons more technology, it is apparent that companies that do not innovate in these areas will lost customer share, and be non-sustainable.  IT in these companies will become the lowest cost-no value part of their organization until someone decides to outsource all of IT.

IT and the business should not “partner,” but be acting as one unit.  There are too many technology shifts which are impacting retail and enterprise  today, will impact industrial tomorrow.  Knowing where to pass or play in these new technologies is crucial for all businesses.  If IT and the business are not one, how can these determinations be made before the innovation is a commodity.

What are your experiences?