Can Cloud bridge the cultural gap?

door | 13 juni 2015

Over the course of our lengthy careers in infor­ma­tion tech­no­logy (IT) and sales, it has taken many years for us to under­stand a simple but pervasive fact: in many companies, people from the lines of business (LOB) and people from the IT depart­ment don’t really under­stand each other. In some cases, they behave as if they belonged to different companies.

Over the course of our lengthy careers in infor­ma­tion tech­no­logy (IT) and sales, it has taken many years for us to under­stand a simple but pervasive fact: in many companies, people from the lines of business (LOB) and people from the IT depart­ment don’t really under­stand each other. In some cases, they behave as if they belonged to different companies.

In fact, from many points of view, they are different companies: they have different cultures, different objec­tives, different skill sets and different values. We’ll spare you the long list of personal anecdotes suppor­ting this fact; surely you have an even longer list in your mind.

It is surpri­sing how long that dichotomy has been going on — probably since the beginning of IT for the enter­prise, back in the 1960s. You can’t help but wonder why it happened and why it kept going on like that for decades. One of our posts in the future will try to answer those questions, but for now, let’s focus on the role of cloud in that game.

Cloud LOB Whatever the reason for the divide, now many busi­nes­spe­ople think they have a way to get rid of many of the things they don’t like in the service they get from the IT depart­ment, such as slowness and lack of under­stan­ding – many issues that were hard to under­stand. No doubt the cloud offers what looks like a quick fix to issues that histo­ri­cally have plagued the rela­ti­onship between LOB and IT. Some call it a lack of respon­si­ve­ness, but it probably goes deeper than that. We would call it lack of a service-oriented mindset.

But the LOB people cannot do without the skills of the IT depart­ment. Over the long term, data and appli­ca­tion inte­gra­tion, perfor­mance and security cannot be addressed without the right skill set and deep expe­rience. It’s possible that not all LOB managers are really aware of that, but they certainly perceive the risks — and possibly someone told them one of the countless horror stories of do-it-yourself IT. On the other hand, some IT people, deeply aware of the hidden traps that the LOB will sooner or later face, play a wait-and-see game that doesn’t produce any useful result.

Cloud simpli­fies the user’s expe­rience and relieves the IT depart­ment of many systems mana­ge­ment tasks. By making IT more consu­mable, users are no longer exposed to low-level technical issues and IT speci­a­lists can re-focus on higher-level questions. The largest impact is on the job of IT people, who now can and must shift their attention to topics they have been neglec­ting for years.

We believe this is an oppor­tu­nity for a new and better way to work together. It is a huge chance for IT staff to become more relevant for the enter­prise — not because the enter­prise cannot make the machines work without them, but because the enter­prise needs them to be more effective and compe­ti­tive.

This has been a dream for years, since the days before cloud. The dream didn’t become a reality then, though, for many reasons. But the most important roadblock was the large cultural gap between people from the LOB and the IT depart­ments, rein­forced by a lack of trust and multiple misun­der­stan­dings at mana­ge­ment level, and supported by the serious diffi­cul­ties in under­stan­ding each other’s work.

In the era of cloud computing, we have hope for two different levels of colla­bo­ra­tion that can close the gap. The first level can be attained through a service-oriented mindset. IT people at all levels should stop seeing their job as a set of technical acti­vi­ties required to “make the machines work.” Rather, they should see their job as a service to their collea­gues in the LOB. After all, that’s exactly what LOB people like about the cloud.

The second level can be attained through colla­bo­ra­tion. There is a dire need for people who can speak both languages, bridge the cultural gap and help LOB people to more effec­ti­vely utilize their data and appli­ca­tions. Up until now, this task has been like taking two master’s degrees at a univer­sity, one in infor­ma­tion tech­no­logy and one in business (whatever your company’s business is). This is defi­ni­tely chal­len­ging for anybody.

This is where cloud provides an oppor­tu­nity. Cloud can free the IT person from many technical acti­vi­ties and allow for more time and resources to better under­stand the business side, and it can make IT simpler for the busi­nessperson to under­stand. The gap between the two worlds can close; it’s up to those of us in IT to use this oppor­tu­nity to become more relevant, up to the point of becoming indis­pen­sable. If we don’t, we lose; but together, the enter­prise is one.

Source: Francesco Pedulla
Co-authored by Chiara Maresia

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