Increasing vs. embracing complexity

The articles in September’s Harvard Business Review reinforced something that’s been on my mind for quite sometime: we seem to be increasing complexity in today’s enterprise, rather than embrace complexity.

HBR, Embracing complexity, sept 2011

HBR, Embracing complexity, sept 2011

How? By making communication between Business and IT more complex by introducing extra layers. Let’s face it, today’s enterprise can’t function without IT. Sales, Marketing and Customer Service departments rely on CRM applications and information systems to support their daily operations. Most call centers, for instance, can’t function correctly without IT.

Embracing IT

Most of today’s employees are IT savvy and know how applications support their work. The keyword here is support by the way. IT doesn’t do the work for you, it supports it. For some reason however managers and executives within the primary process organisations of today’s enterprise (Sales, Marketing Execs) don’t seem to embrace IT vital to their operation and as a part of their responsibility. To often one hears executives announce that ‘that’s something IT should take care of’ or ‘I don’t understand all these complex systems, don’t ask me what I need, I’ll give you requirements and you’ll give me the perfect system that fits my needs exactly in 6 months.’ Understandably, this leads to increased disappointment when systems are delivered after 6 months, that do not fit requirements.

Adding a new layer is not the solution

Some companies and management theories suggest that Business and IT just don’t understand each other, because IT and business speak a different language.

Business and IT Communication

Business and IT seem to speak different languages

Today’s solution? Adding a separate layer of information management to translate the business process to IT and vice versa. Some companies have added a Business Information Management Department or have introduced information management departments. Other companies have called it Supply and Demand management. Whatever you’ve called it, it is usually an additional layer of communication between business and IT

Increasing complexity by adding a communication layer

Increasing complexity by adding a communication layer

Boom: instantly doubling the amount of interfaces, increasing communication and increasing misunderstanding. Instead of direct communication, two or more communication points are added.

It’s time to face reality

Today’s companies can’t run without IT. Executives and managers outside of the IT department must take control and learn to embrace and understand IT as a vital part of their operations. They need to become more heavily involved in the implementation of new applications and IT systems. They can’t just leave that to IT and expect them to come up with the perfect solution. Let’s face it, us IT guys need to become more business savvy and Business guys need to become more IT savvy. We need to work closely together to ensure efficient operations. Let’s work on understanding each other, instead of hiring a boatload of interpreters to help us talk to each other, leading to miscommunication and loads lost in translation. Let’s embrace complexity and keep talking to each other…especially when it comes to business critical CRM systems.

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