What should IT call the Rest Of The Business?

IT serves the Business. But we are all generally agreed that we must stop talking about "IT and the Business". IT is part of the business. The users of IT include IT itself. Talk of IT as a distinct entity ("align IT and the busienss") is a Bad Thing. So what should we call it?

I tried calling it Not-IT. Clumsy. Not catchy.

Rest Of The Business ROTB. Same. And ROB would be too egotisitical for me to suggest and too confusing in most Western companies.
The RB?

Something to do with the userbase or customerbase might be good because IT is part of both sets. By using such terms we emphasise that IT is an integral part.

IT is an integral part of "The Business" too - we just lose sight of the fact, or behave as if it were not so. Perhaps the best term is still The Business - it is the mindset of what that means that has to change, from a set distinct from IT (little or no intersection) to a superset of IT.

In the current world though the dsitinction is still crisp and clear, and maybe we do need a term for the Not-IT.

What are your thoughts?


Could Version 3 have got it right?

Maybe I'm being very simplistic here - but instead of IT and the Business or Marketing and the Business is it fair to say Service Provider and Customer?

It would allow us as the IT department to move away from viewing the business as one big blob to seeing it as different customers - our customers in Sales need different services to our customers in Finance.

From the Business's point of view, I think when you work in 'the Business' you don't think of yourself as 'the Business'. You think of yourself as Sales, or Marketing, or HR, and the other departments like IT and Finance are equally alien.


I agree

However I would be more specific and say IT Service Provider and IT Customer. I would also include IT Users.
For more and more organisations these days, IT is also the business. This adds complexity as the Business Customer is now also a user of the IT service. For example a business customer buys car insurance online using IT services - one of which is a website delivered by the insurance company's IT that is specified and payed for by the IT Customer.

The IT Customer will only be happy if the users are happy, which could include Business Customers.

It may be a wasted effort

It may be a wasted effort trying to improve the terminology describing the relationship between IT and everyone else. As the form your customer may take is so varied, we're only likely to then distort other provider-customer relationships in the process.

I wonder whether HR have the same troubles as IT in this regard though. When part of the business strategy is to 'employ the right people......etc.', does it help in developing the pecerption that that the HR dept is a strategic asset, or does it only help to make (some) employees feel warm and fuzzy?

Is it simply the fact that you are deemed as a 'shared service' that any thought of strategy goes out the window. Or perhaps the relationship has become like a long marriage, with the business not appreciating the other and forgetting what life previously was like without them. :)


IT, like HR or Marketing is all about supporting the business and its strategy and ultimately execution. The purpose of IT is to execute IT enabled Business Change or ITEBC - lets add this vocab!

Robert E Stroud

"The Business" is not an internal concept


Its not often I think you miss the point (maybe because I mostly take the Skeptical point of view), but there have been a couple of previous postings on this topic where I think this is the case.

When we say "Align IT and the Business" we are not referring to any department or internal division (even though that is how you execute it). We are referring to the goals of the company as a whole. Its about making sure IT delivers value in the context of business growth.

In many cases IT aligns itself with IT industry notions (Consolidation, Leasing, SOA, Cloud, Outsourcing, ITIL etc..). This is justified by the concept that a low-cost efficient IT organization is always of value to the success of the business it serves.

What must be realized that generic IT industry strategies devalue the use of IT as a strategic value creating weapon for business success.

So "Aligning IT and the Business" does not mean IT is separate from business. It actually is just ensuring that IT is pointed in the same direction as business. "Business" being built from the requirements, tactics and strategies of the whole company, which is marketing, hr, etc.. etc.. including IT. To align we must communicate with all facets of the business and make sure we support the goals (as they must support IT).

We speak of IT specifically because that's the part we are in.. If I were running a marketing department, I would be saying lets align "Marketing & the Business".



the power of words to shape culture, organisations and actions

Not working in marketing I don't know if they ever talk about "aligning Marketing and the Business". I think marketing people are incapable of analytical thought so they probably don't, but I also doubt they would hypothetically. i don't think any department thinks of itself as so distinct from the Business as IT does. i have recently seen a couple of IT departments that were so utterly isolated and detached from the Business that they might as well have been working for somebody else.

With the possible exception of HR, I also doubt that there are departments that can have a strategy so externally driven by hype cycles, fads and latest inventions.

So I think the gulf is real and talk of aligning just reinforces it. As you say, IT strategy should be totaly shaped by business strategy - it should be a subset. So there should be no need to align it. IT is at least as integral to the operations of the average business as Sales, Production or Distribution and more so than HR, Finance or Marketing. It may have been an ancilliary function thirty years ago but it isn't any more. We don't have to align Distribution with the Business.

Yes there seems to be a default assumption that "a low-cost efficient IT organization is always of value to the success of the business it serves". I agree with you that no it isn't. Cost-cutting might be in direct conflict with (or at least a major distraction from) the strategy of an organisation that wants to dramatically lift service levels, heavily invest in new differentiating technologies and/or brand itself as a state-of-the-art operator. Outsourcing, for example, introduces inflexibility sluggishness and expense in response to dramatically changing requirements.

Without ever having studied NLP I'm a big believer in the power of words to shape culture, organisations and actions. We need to be careful and be ready to change our language.

IT Alignment is not an issue

On the language perspective, I have never run into an IT department that talks about IT Alignment or considers itself separate, if it has already achieved said alignment. The unfortunate fact is most IT organization have not achieved this.

Its great when it happens. I have seen IT organizations which are dominant players in defining business strategy, and I have seen them that are peers with marketing, HR, finance, engineering and the other BU's.. They are also easier to sell solutions..

Unlike you, I do not believe in the power of language (or maybe I do). If you want to make a change, you need to talk about that change. If you want to be aligned, then you need to talk about aligning. Talking about it as if its already achieved is cart before the horse stuff.

There is also an issue that using different alternate language such as "One company" or "Unity" makes it look like you are solving the factional politics of the rest of the company. From a tactical perspective I believe IT needs to control its own destination and deal with alignment.


What should IT call the Rest Of The Business?

If "talk of IT as a distinct entity is a Bad Thing", then why reinforce its apart-ness by trying to come up with a name for the rest of the business? So I question that premise. I say talk of aligning IT and the business as if they were two separate things that could be aligned is no longer meaningful or useful. It might be useful to think of IT as a significant and indispensable part of a business, but IT services are not always well integrated into how business is conducted.

Syndicate content