Yesterday I stumbled across another fascinating opportunity for cross-pollination of ideas and an example of why IT suffers from operating as a silo.
Thumbing through a college book on Sociology and Social Policy for the Early Years, a few pages on the subject of Socialisation caught my eye – because of what it said about human development inside and outside of society. There are some interesting (yet disturbing) examples of what happens when children are raised in isolation and confinement, and the impact this has on their lives. What is also interesting is the parallels that can be drawn between the development (and ultimately maturity) of people and IT departments.
If a person develops in isolation, they aren’t able to observe normal behaviour and learn to operate within normal society. They don’t learn behaviours such as walking upright. They don’t learn language, so they can’t communicate. The same applies to groups of people. Isolation creates a cultural void between society and the isolated individual/group.
In Sociology the term Socialisation refers to the lifelong process of inheriting norms, customs and ideologies from the people around you. In other words, assimilating behaviours which help you fit in with the culture of society. To get to the point, IT needs to integrate with the business in order to assimilate the attitudes and behaviours of the business and become a functional member of the business society. In a practical sense, this means IT needs to observe the business. How does the business behave? What is the language of the business? What motivates the business?
Insular IT departments socialise with grey boxes, so they fixate over the behaviours and needs of those grey boxes – causing them to be ‘withdrawn’ from the business:
- Introverted IT departments fixate with infrastructure.
- An isolated IT department can’t observe the behaviour of the business, so cannot develop as a functional part of the business society.
- An isolated IT department develops its own language that is likely to be at odds with the language of the business. This is a fundamental cause for confusion and animosity between IT and the business.
Business behaviours that IT should observe and learn include:
- Business focus: The business exists to deliver business value to customers in order to survive and turn a profit. IT needs to focus on delivering business value to IT customers in order to survive (versus outsourcing alternatives).
- Customer understanding: Businesses make efforts to understand their customers. Who they are. What they want. How they tick. People are the focus of business. Businesses which understand their customers survive. Business which don't, commonly fail.
- Customer service: IT should talk to IT customers in the same way that the business talks to their business customers. Business customer service has been around for far longer than IT customer service – so they’re better at talking to customers.
In order to be effective in the context of the business, the IT department needs to get involved within the society of the business. It might sound a little patronising, but IT should show curiousity in the world in which it lives, just as a child does. When children develop into adults, they become able to influence the world around them: to become a driving force in society.