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The Conflict Between IT and Business: 5 Steps to a Solution.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

9/26/13 4:57 PM

IT exists to serve the business. The business is made up of users, with requirements, that need IT resources in a timely manner. Back when I was an admin with the Government, we used to joke with among the IT staff that our lives would be much easier without users. Funny thing is, I’ve found this to be a pretty common sentiment across IT organizations. 

IT Conflicts With Business

The conflict between IT Organizations and the businesses they are tasked with supporting has existed since non-technical business people started using IT. The IT enterprise is a fundamentally complicated environment that takes both specific skills to craft and maintain. The language of Enterprise IT is radically different than that of the business. IT speaks about servers, resources, software licenses, infrastructure, technology, and capacity. The Business uses language like budgets, margins, time-to-market, cost accountability, end user experience, responsiveness, compliance, advantage, reporting and agility.

Because of these conflicting concerns, business often doesn’t appreciate the complexity of a seemingly simple request such as:

  • “I need more resources”, or
  • “What was the cost for user’s project?” Or,
  • “We need X capability in our product.”

IT and business not speaking the same language results in obtuse responses:

  • “How many resources, and of what type, to be used for what purpose, and where?”
  • “Give us specifics about what the project was, and we’ll try to get the information.”
  • “What application do you want us to use?”

This back-and forth doesn’t produce results as needed, and is part of the reason IT and business frequently struggle when communicating about requirements, and why the IT Administrators—the ones tasked with keeping the enterprise IT environment moving in the right direction—end up with a negative view of each other. 

Current Tools are Not the Answer

By necessity, organizations have adopted various tools and technologies intended to help narrow this communication gap. IT teams employ all sorts of overlapping, complicated tools in their attempts to generate answers to business’ leadership’s difficult questions. 

IT organizations’ attempts to answer these questions include single-purpose tools like chargeback managers, various IT and business intelligence tools, configurations managers, software license management tools, a CMDB and so on. The problem is that none of these tools talk with one another, and many have overlapping capabilities. For instance, to answer a question regarding how many copies of a license are in use, where should an IT administrator look?  The configuration manager might not tell you that a system has been decommissioned. The License Manager might not capture multiple copies of the same license. Neither tool does a good job of assigning ownership. 

So to answer difficult business questions, and even with complicated and feature-rich tools, IT Organizations are inevitably left with Excel spreadsheets trying to track interrupt-driven requests with an error prone and largely manual process. It’s unsustainable! 

A Robust Cloud Manager Can Help Answer the Questions

Reconciling these issues does not have to be complicated or difficult, though. Using a complete cloud manager to gather real-time information from underlying tools such as virtualization and configuration management can help eliminate the spreadsheet jockeying that has to happen, and essentially eliminates the time needed to gather the needed data. Next, because a Next Generation Cloud Manager abstracts the underlying technology, IT Organizations are able to layer in additional tools to help complete the picture for both end users and IT alike.

Even for Organizations that have relatively mature IT operations and processes, the difficulties present in collecting relevant data can be notoriously difficult, and even in the best environments, end users are rarely treated to such transparency in metrics like consumption, cost, an utilization. If you are a program manager, it would be nice to have real-time access to that information in order to chart your own team’s progress. 

Actionable Data is the Answer

Consider your personal finances. Without a tool like Quicken or Mint (or any of the other similar tools), keeping track of every little in or outflow of cash would be a nightmare. Between iTunes purchases, Netflix subscriptions, cable television, Internet, car payments, restaurants bills, groceries, cell phones, insurance and bar tabs, quickly answering questions with actionable data becomes difficult:

  • How much did I spend on entertainment last month?
  • What is my average spending on utilities over the past six months?
  • Which vehicle is costing me the most for gas?

The biggest difference between how IT and Business communicate is what data each views as actionable. Closing that gap with a tool that allows IT to provide Business with the information they need to make effective decisions will lessen the conflict and ease tensions between the two parties in any organization. 

The Steps to Helping IT Talk to Business

Given that current tools do a poor job of providing real business answers, how does an IT organization begin to implement the right tools and processes to effectively provide the needed information? 

1) Identify the information gaps.
What business questions does IT lack any real data on? These needs can range from information about deployed licenses, location and configuration of systems, or software supporting a given application, to what groups are using which resources. The types of information gaps present will dictate capability requirements of selected technology (or technologies). 

2) Embrace automation and IT self-service.
In the past, the idea of giving users access to self-service IT struck fear into the hearts of IT Administrators. Why? Being in constant control of their environments is part of the job description and letting users actually touch systems can radically affect system quality and uptime. When self-service IT is coupled with automation, and the automation platform can ensure the appropriate policies and procedures are followed, IT Administrators can rest assured that the Self-Service IT process is fully governed, and thus, they’re still in full control and quality is protected.

3) Make sound technology decisions.
When choosing technologies to fill the information gaps, look outside of your core vendors.

Going with the same vendor suite that provided your virtualization system might seem like a good idea, but promoting vendor lock-in at this level can be very costly for an IT organization, and limits choice and capability both initially and downstream.

Choosing a Cloud Manager that will play well with your existing and varied environments is also critical. IT Administrators must have the ability to make continued use of underlying management tools if needed. Discovery of virtual and cloud resources are critical: a Cloud Manager needs to overlay its tracking and measurements on top of existing environments.

Heterogeneity will be unavoidable, but heterogeneity itself is not an issue with the right Cloud Manager.

4) Ditch the Spreadsheets.
Fact: IT Administrators hate using spreadsheets to track critical aspects of the environments they manage. They’ll be relieved to know that there’s something else to keep track of these metrics, and in real-time at that!

5) Create and Schedule Reports
Using the requirements from step 1, use the Cloud Manager to create and automate reports that pull information from the various needed technology classes. For instance, reporting on a specific project’s IT cost would consolidate information on that team’s usage from your virtualization, configuration management, license management, and public cloud tools. And, of course, make sure that the Cloud Manager does the math for you.

IT teams that work to build understanding about the types of questions Business wants answered will find more success. Select the right technology, and focus on delivering the types of actionable information the Business needs. Tweak it, refine it, and remember that it’ll change as the needs of the business shift. With the above points, however, you’ll be on the path to success.

Learn more about how CloudBolt C2 helps solve this problem.


Topics: IT Challenges, Business Challenges