One of the great things about traveling around the world is that you get to learn about differing ideologies. And when you’re an IT Paradigmologist you focus on differing IT paradigms. Something that has fascinated me for several years in an apparent difference in perspectives between Europe – particularly in the Netherlands – and the US as far as business responsibility for IT is concerned.
Whereas demand-side activities such as specifying requirements, acceptance testing, monitoring data quality, ensuring effective usage, and negotiating and managing service levels from an IT customer perspective have often been recognized and organized as business responsibilities in Europe, enterprises in the US seem to leave this up to the IT department. Somebody recently used the term ‘entitlement mentality’: the business just expects IT to deal with it and wants to be involved as little as possible. The interesting question is why.
Politics? Sure, it’s convenient to blame the IT department (always a willing victim) when things go wrong but it’s not exactly in the enterprise’s interest.
Capabilities? Yes, managing information and IT from a business perspective requires a combination of analytical and communication competences and more. And if you’re not confident, that’s a very human reason to steer clear of taking on this responsibility. Guidance is available for those who recognize the value.
Significance? Information is a business asset but if other business assets such as people, land and capital are more important, of course they will be your higher priority. But even in that case, business managers are running considerable risks of productivity loss, missed revenue and damage to reputation if enterprise information is incorrect or gets into wrongs hands. Can business management afford to take the risk? The following questions will help you make up your mind.
Two overarching questions for starters: is your enterprise spending the right amount of time and money on information (as opposed to other business assets) and is it well-spent?
Are your enterprise achieving the following high-level business-related goals?
- Ensuring that the organisation is provided with the information that it needs
- Acquiring and managing IT services effectively and efficiently, from a demand (business) perspective
- Ensuring that the organisation uses information and IT effectively and efficiently
Achieving these goals is a corporate responsibility that needs to be addressed and followed from the most senior levels of management to the front line worker. Organizations must be held and must hold their employees accountable to manage information appropriately and responsibly.
Key questions that give an indication of how well business organisations have got their business information management under control, are:
- Is the right information available to support the business processes?
- Are business employees getting the most out of the currently available information and information systems?
- Does the business have insight into what the employees think about the information systems and their ‘bottom-up’ improvement requirements?
- Does the business have insight into the managerial improvement requirements for information systems?
- Is the business using the potential of IT, e.g. social media, big data, BYOD?
- Is the business using IT to achieve strategic goals?
- Does the business have insight into the costs of the information systems and whether they are normal?
- Does the business have insight into the budget that is available for use and operation of information systems and for improvements (changes, projects, programmes)?
- Is the business spending the right amount of time and money on information (technology) – as opposed to other business assets such as people, buildings, capital etc.?
- Does the business manage change to information systems effectively?
- Has the business got the (delegation of) quality, cost and timeliness of IT services and projects under control?
- Does the business create specifications for IT work that are fit-for-use?
Business managers should be able to answer these questions positively, otherwise they’re allowing the business to run a risk and are in any case risking the embarrassment of a negative audit report. IT managers who are aware of this situation can demonstrate their value to the business by proposing corrective measures. Whether these apply to the business or IT, demanding on how business information management is organized, is of secondary importance. The most important thing is that these responsibilities are recognized and addressed.