Company and Technology Management on the Same Page

As a Consulting CIO, I’m called on by clients to assess the fit of their technology to the business. Quite often this follows a change in company management, a significant change in the business model, or both. At this point, the relationship between the technology staff and business management can be under strain. Typically, business management believes they have worked to align their technology staff with the business’ needs to little or no avail. That’s when company management reaches out for help.

As you might expect, these assignments begin with discussions where company management expresses their dissatisfaction, confusion, and frustration with the performance of their staff. They then ask me to render an opinion on how the technology staff engages with the business, on the staff’s workload, and on the fit of the staff’s skills to business needs.

The good news is that we’ve typically found the staff to be conscientious and focused on providing support for the business to the best of their ability. Our disconcerting finding is that those responsible for managing the technology are disconnected from what business management wants from the department.

An important step in our process is to interview the staff to determine what they think their responsibilities are, what management expects from them, and how they are evaluated. The same questions are asked of management and the business function owners.  The answers quite frequently paint pictures so far apart that you could legitimately ask if both groups came from the same company.

How can this happen? Both business and technical management speak English, so why is it so tough? In some respects, it seems that those responsible for managing technology just don’t believe the business side is serious about evolving the business. This is the challenge: just when is management truly pursuing change? It’s a bet-your-job question.

When we’re invited to consult, business management is actively seeking an open and informed dialog. But the discussion is not about technology; it’s about management, processes, and user needs. Not servers, databases, Agile, or any specific technology. Business management seems to be willing to trust the technical decisions to the technology staff. Is it unreasonable for company management to want a conversation with technology management and staff that gives them the confidence that their business needs and direction are understood, accepted, and being addressed? I don’t think so.

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