I spend a lot of my time as a contract project manager mediating disputes between users of technology, such as the HR and finance departments, and the information technology folks. Now, you might think that these disputes have their roots in the different terminology and buzz words each group uses, but generally, they understand each other well enough. The problems arise from a difference in values: the functional experts want capabilities, and the IT folks want control. Functional leaders are focused on their business goals, while IT management wants to talk about process, tools, methods, and a lot of other non-revenue generating stuff.
Note that this misunderstanding is not because either group is at fault. They simply have different values. A lot of us IT geeks subscribe to the values in the Agile Manifesto, and we think they are so self-evident that everyone should embrace them, too. But the people responsible for repeating business-critical activities on a calendar schedule, like paying employees and creditors and reporting to governmental agencies, while absorbing the most recent acquisition or expansion, have other values.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
I work with a lot of global firms, constructed from mergers and acquisitions, and they all have a maze of solutions, cobbled together with a range of tools and technologies. And while the IT folks want to buy better tools, the business folks just want to be able to get back to work. Integrate the merged workforce, share information, pursue opportunities, manage risks, and comply with all of those governmental and contractual requirements. Usually in just about that order of importance.
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Business users don’t want tools, or even software – they want services. They want to consume functionality the same way they do electricity, paying a monthly invoice based on utilization. They want it to work every time, although it’s certainly nice if the service improves over time, and even better if they have a voice in how it evolves. But they generally don’t want to participate in the hard work of design, development, and testing. They don’t want to buy a wood shop; they want furniture delivered to their door. Meanwhile, the IT geeks want to talk about product owners and features and delivering in increments.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
As I write this, Workday is upgrading everyone – all 900 or so corporate customers – to release 25. All the users logged out on Friday, and on Monday morning, they will log back in again. No IT departments will have to work all weekend. It will all just work, because it’s not software; it’s a service. And while the IT folks might have to make some tweaks to their integrations with other systems, or adjust a few custom reports with complex calculated fields, they’ve had at least six weeks to regression test and sort it out. And they’ll have six months to plan for the next non-event.
Responding to change over following a plan
Software-as-a-service, platforms-as-a-service, EMail-as-a-service, even identity management and single-sign-on-as-a-service. I’m not going to tell you that premises-based ERP is dead, or even in danger, but unless the IT department can figure out how to deliver services, rather than features, it will be difficult to get the funds to do the next major upgrade. The business folks will likely push for replacing that highly-customized, out of date software with a service. Before you try to argue with them, try to understand their values. To do anything less would be to do them a disservice.