It’s Time for the “Business Versus IT” Debate to Be Over
by Betsy Burton
I recently read a LinkedIn post in which the author was making the point that, in his opinion, if your enterprise architecture (EA) team is reporting to either the CIO or CTO then you are probably not doing enterprise architecture, but rather doing cross-organizational application integration architecture work. While the post garnered a lot of really interesting comments about the role of EA, I was surprised by the number of comments that still reflected a “business versus IT” sentiment.
This blog explores why debating this sentiment is missing the point of enterprise architecture, and what the key to making the EA function effective actually is.
Focusing On Organizational Structure is a Symptom
On one hand, I would agree that if you are not doing business architecture work as an integral part of your EA work, then chances are you’re really doing solution architecture or technology architecture. And, I would fully agree that doing effective EA requires that you architect the business (including technology) in a holistic way.
However, focusing in on the reporting structure of “business versus IT” for any function (EA or any other) is more of a symptom rather than the real issue, and risks just perpetuating this schism. If you want to make sure your CIO/CTO has a seat at the executive table and that your IT organization isn’t just taking orders from your counterparts, then we need to stop thinking about “business versus IT.”
IT is the “Business”
I think a lot of people in IT are still stuck in the mode where they view themselves as an enabler for the business. Where the reality is, in today’s world, technology is very often the source of critical business differentiators—strategic and operational. In fact, I would argue that the biggest challenges we face supporting technologies are most often organizational, priority, culture, and business vision issues.
The “IT Organization” is a Co-Equal Business Branch
Your business can’t survive without technology, just as it can’t survive without sales, marketing, customer service, manufacturing, etc. Equally, the technology you support is all about the business. And yet, the words we use suggest that IT is just a utility “at the service” of or even subservient to its business counterparts.
We need to think in terms of the “IT organization” as a co-equal business branch of the organization. We need to recognize that every person in the IT organization is a business person, and must be focused on their role in delivering value and outcomes that drives the business forward.
There are Only Business Decisions
There are no IT decisions; there are only business decisions. CIOs and leaders in IT must be able to collaborate with other business leaders to find the right and balanced solutions.
For CIOs and IT leaders to increase their standing in the organization, it is not about “asking” for a seat at the table, it is about delivering value and outcomes that make it obvious that you are integral to the organization’s strategic and operational planning.
The key to making the EA function effectively is to understand:
1) what types of information/deliverables your organization needs to make strategic and operational decisions and,
2) the maturity of your organization or parts of your organization, relative to the ability to make these investment decisions.
Then you can match these two points with the executive leader who is best positioned to support, sponsor, champion, and utilize this capability. Aragon will be publishing a research note on the critical aspects you need to know about enterprise architecture in the coming months, but until then, remember that it’s time to break free of the business versus IT mindset.
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