UPFRONT It’s all about communication

The techy tribes might chat happily about server uptime or network availability but all your average business owner wants to do is deliver faster, better service to customers.
“You get situations where IT and business are just not speaking the same language – so they’re not clear about what the expectations are and what they’re communicating,” says visiting specialist in best practice IT service management.
Paul Avenant, senior VP at global business software company BMC Software and keynote speaker at the recent IT service Management Forum NZ, says there are some serious bottom-line benefits when IT is better aligned to business objectives.
The recipe for getting there is process known as business service management (BSM). Get this right and you can shave as much as third off your IT operations budget – or around quarter off your overall IT budget, according to recent findings from US-based Forrester Research.
Finding common language is big part of that and that’s something IT has to work at, says Avenant – more so than the business managers.
“My view is that if you’re in business, then your job is not about the IT piece but what you’re delivering to your customers and what you’re trying to do from business perspective. You’re looking to IT to support that – or best case scenario, looking to IT to be the enabler.”
Communicating in terms that the business cares about and understands is one area for IT improvement. The other is better understanding of how the IT infrastructure “maps” to the things the business cares about, says Avenant.
“That means that when things are happening with the IT infrastructure, they can prioritise more appropriately, communicate more effectively and adjust faster based on an understanding of the business impact.”
Avenant says there are two key points driving the business alignment message.
One is that around 80 percent of all business outages are caused by unmanaged or poorly managed change being executed by IT groups – in other words, it’s IT “kinda shooting itself in the foot”.
Second is the estimates from various analysts that companies are spending between two thirds and three quarters of their IT budgets just on maintaining existing infrastructure, which doesn’t leave much room for any new initiatives the business wants to drive.
While there are still some big gaps in mutual understanding, IT is becoming more intentional about how best to align its architecture to business needs, says Avenant. This “BSM maturity” can be measured through five stages of progression.
‘Chaotic’ is where firm has limited formal processes for managing IT; ‘reactive’ is project-by-project approach; ‘stable’ describes better mutual understanding of how IT interacts with the business; ‘proactive’ and ‘predictive’ are the final stages where IT plays bigger role in driving business objectives.
“If you look over the past three to five years, there is an accelerating trend where IT groups are moving up that value curve and getting their act together,” says Avenant. “And it’s not about IT groups debating this any more but looking at how to get there in the fastest way. And if they can’t do that in some areas, those are ripe for outsourcing,” he says.
Getting to the proactive end of the curve is the ideal, says Avenant.
“That’s what people should be striving for and to get there it’s important that IT understands how what it does affects the business and the business is clear about what it is trying to do from business perspective and how it expects IT to support that.”

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