Fixing the Business-Technology Link
Technology is a part of everything we do, but achieving success has never been about the technology. It’s always been about the business. The result is the accomplishment of a goal set forth by a plan.
The point of technology is to serve the products and processes that benefit the user and the enterprise. But many enterprises fall short on capitalizing on technology because they don’t focus enough on their business objectives.
Why does this disconnect exist? It’s mostly due to assumptions. Business managers who don’t understand technology functions and capabilities may assume that technologists will appreciate their needs and fulfill their desires with systems that produce the optimal intent.
Technologists, on the other hand, may not appreciate the business needs of the enterprise, department or individual. Consequently, they develop systems and tools that address the stated need they assume the business user will want. In other words, business managers assume they’re communicating when they’re actually just dictating, while technologists assume that business managers will value their technology when they are often just delivering greater complexity.
Management advocates have presented portfolio management, return on technology investment methodologies, and service-level performance to bridge this gap. But no one has looked at the problem holistically—understanding that entities have an existence other than the mere sum of their parts.
The Power of Convergence: Linking Business Strategies and Technology Decisions to Create Sustainable Success (AMACOM, May 2011) was written to change that. The book is based on study, observation, research, testing and customer execution. It showcases the financial benefits of managing business and technology together, and provides a foundation to build differentiated, innovative and adaptable processes that can be leveraged even in the most challenging markets and industries.
Beyond definitions of alignment and synchronization—in which technology enables business strategies and anticipates possible future models—true convergence fully intertwines business and technology activities. The siloed, over-the-wall model of business-to-technology communication is replaced with a system in which leadership teams operate almost interchangeably.
Alignment, synchronization and convergence require a deliberate, step-by-step progression through the phases as an enterprise moves toward convergence. Each enterprise is unique in how it is able to operationalize convergence. Market conditions, competitive landscape, internal organizational structures and the skill sets of management all contribute to this progression.
Our research over the past decade suggests that the convergence of business and technology is a logical first step for enterprise leaders facing a rapidly changing world, needing new management structure and response approaches, trying to predict and deal with the unknown, and seeking profitability in a hypercompetitive environment. Whatever the nature of the enterprise, the management practices that create convergence can enable it to attain its strategic mission.
By following the management framework and guidelines outlined in the book, readers will gain the ability to:
• replace trial-and-error business technology models with strategically grounded approaches;
• unify decision making across all leadership and project teams;
• institutionalize collaborative management behaviors and organizational structures;
• examine value indicators through various financial indices;
• realize substantial improvements in execution, risk control and profitability; and
• access guidelines and methods to progress toward a superior future state.
As economic conditions change and products reach market saturation, transformation is the only option for maintaining growth and financial viability. The difference between successful and extinct companies is the recognition and successful execution of a transformative process.
However, embarking on a transformation requires examination, planning and execution. We call this the “Transformation Triangle,” and it codifies a methodology that enables enterprises to recognize the changes they need to undergo and to manage their makeovers. The triangle consists of these principles:
1. Business agility is the ability to sense changes in economic conditions and competitive landscapes, and to proactively implement a response.
2. Sustained innovation is the ability to develop new products, services and methodologies that advance beyond the competition through repeatable processes.
3. Operational excellence is the ability to consistently deliver cost-effective services at defined performance levels to internal and external customers.
An enterprise can apply these principles independently or in concert, depending on the most appropriate response for its market position, core competencies and strategic imperatives. Each response relies on management behaviors and bears a particular convergence pattern—the key to enabling transformation.
Diana L. Mirakaj is the chief marketing officer of BTM Corporation and a contributing author to "The Power of Convergence".