CIOs: Remember, All Your Issues Are Business Issues

CIOs: Remember, All Your Issues Are Business Issues

23/07/2014

Fonte: The Enterprisers Project |

An Interview with Albert Mavashev, CTO of Nastel, a provider of application performance monitoring software.
The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What are some things technology leaders can do to create open communication between the IT department and business executives?
Mavashev: Start from the premise that IT exists to serve the business. To have effective, open communication, IT departments need to understand the personas of their business users, including management. However, IT and business users speak two different languages. So when other departments come to IT with requests, IT has to understand the request in the context of the user persona and ask questions such as: How are you currently doing things? Why is it insufficient? What do you want to be able to do? How would it benefit the organization? What would happen if we didn’t build or buy this? Once we have it, who will use it and how?
Before doctors decides to operate on patients, they ask a lot of questions, perform multiple tests and make sure that they understand what is actually ailing the patient. The doctor then asks for patient history in order to place the patient’s answers in the context of who they are. Likewise with IT, you need to make sure you’re actually addressing the problem as experienced by users.
TEP: What about business leaders?
Business executives get their own personas too. Although they’re not users at the keyboard, they are the beneficiaries of IT successes. After IT and the business users come to an understanding of what the problem is and how IT can address it, IT has to translate that value into executive language. Big IT projects should a) create a business opportunity or open access to new markets; b) fix a pain point that is limiting profitability; or c) simplify compliance. If you’re not accomplishing one of those three goals, communication with business executives won’t go well.
TEP: What is the one thing you wish more business executives understood about IT? What do you wish IT team members understood about business?
Mavashev: I wish business executives understood that developing an application is not just typing. So much information has to be understood and codified – hence, the term coding. Executives need to understand that IT is trying to codify entire experiences and goals into a language. However, it is a well-worn maxim that the simpler the application, the more complicated it is under the surface.
TEP: What do you wish IT team members understood about business?
Mavashev: IT team members need to understand that technology serves the business. The business will express needs, and IT should ask questions to best understand what users actually want. Many times that can be different from what they say. Business users say, I want an app to do x, y and z, and the request seems simple to them. They don’t focus on how many variations and situations need to be handled in order to do x, y and z. IT is responsible for pinning down the real requirements, which are hard to get without the type of open communication we discussed a moment ago.
Here is an example: one customer needed a system for real-time compliance monitoring. IT needed to understand what metrics the business was being measured on, and the penalties of failing to meet government regulations. IT determined that the business executives didn’t need to know if they had complied or not – they needed a predictive application that could warn them if they were out of compliance or trending towards non-compliance. This is one of many interpretations of real-time compliance monitoring. IT successfully translated the need for a compliance solution into a practical application that now prevents the business from racking up penalties through non-conformance with government regulations.
TEP: Any mistakes you see CIOs commonly make in this area?
Mavashev: Frequently, CIOs look more towards the business rather than the complexity of the IT side. To be successful, you need a multidisciplinary team. To go after new markets, fix pain points and simplify compliance, you need IT and business minds working together from the very beginning. CIOs sometimes come up with business requirements and then hand them over to development  the project might not be possible, and the probability of misinterpretation is high.
TEP: Any advice you’d pass along to other CTO/CIOs?
Mavashev: The company with the best technology doesn’t necessarily win. It’s all about effectively addressing business problems through appropriate application of technology. Remember, there is no such thing as an IT issue – all your issues are business issues. Don’t let your team start development until they are confident that they understand what the business wants, who the users are, and how to measure success.