During the journey of digital transformation, organizations have to master several things at the same time: adopting new innovations, increasing efficiency, and maintaining continuity. IT not only plays a crucial role in these improvements but in many cases also leads transformation projects that improve the business.
Collaboration between IT and business can be a challenge when your teams come from different backgrounds and have different priorities. But alignment is critical nonetheless because misunderstanding and diverging priorities can lead to poor outcomes: missteps, slow delivery of projects or new applications, and unnecessary failures along the way.
How do high-performing organizations overcome these challenges? One effective way is to reduce gaps between IT and the business by building multidisciplinary teams. With closer contact and alignment of purpose, these integrated teams can work fast and agile. But even they can make mistakes when translating business needs to IT requirements.
Based on experience working with leading global companies, we have compiled seven of the most important questions IT should ask its business counterparts. IT can be more effective when it integrates these questions into the discovery and planning phases, and when it works on cross-functional teams that present opportunities to pose questions at a consistent cadence.
Seven Key Questions for Transformation Success
Here are seven key questions you can ask to fully understand business requirements and to build trust that leads to greater success in project execution.
What is your ultimate objective?
Initiatives aiming for an end goal — improving the customer experience, creating new products or services, or building resilience to disruption — need IT to translate the vision into strategy.
IT should build deep knowledge about the lines of business it serves, and add context from its users, to create its technology strategy. Consider building cross-functional leadership teams, representing both IT and business interests, to communicate how initiatives contribute to business transformation. This establishes a common base of understanding and keeps lines of communication open.
What business value does it bring?
Sometimes the business asks for changes that don’t bring value. While IT strives to serve the business, it is possible to go too far in responding to business user requests.
To help clarify the value of requests, IT should work on building context: by gaining knowledge of your business colleagues’ products and services, understanding the competitive landscape, and staying up-to-date about the regulatory environment.
With this knowledge, IT can supply technical information that empowers business leaders to build a more robust value proposition for the CFO or leadership committee to approve.
Who are the stakeholders?
The multiple projects in your transformation pipeline span departments, each of which has its own expertise and responsibilities. Each initiative needs the objectives, process owners, and progress status to be clear to all participants so you can spot potential conflicts, remove bottlenecks, and achieve the best outcome.
Make sure IT and business groups agree about the goals, responsibilities, and priorities for each project — and that each participant understands the timeline to complete their contributions.
What should the customer journey look like?
Innovation brings opportunities to engage customers with personalized experiences through new products and channels. Define the experiences your organization wants to deliver, then set goals for your cross-functional teams to meet these objectives.
To fully answer questions about the customer journey, bring together perspectives from your customer experience leaders, business units, and application development and delivery teams. The new process maps can help you chart future improvements.
What new business processes are required?
In every project, there may be any number of unstated assumptions about new capabilities IT should deliver. These assumptions include integration, scalability, and a range of user needs. If IT is too keen to adapt and change, it might miss hidden roadblocks that stand in the way of fully meeting business needs.
For big projects involving process changes, don’t accept a flurry of change requests right away. Instead, uncover the reasoning behind business decisions and any assumptions your partners are making. Then, create a plan that includes all the technical requirements for the new business processes.
How must existing business processes be changed to support this?
Your business customers probably want the ability to move more quickly, with greater agility and flexibility. Ask questions to understand their roadblocks and areas they want to improve. Consider these as a starting point to integrate automation.
Intelligent automation can help you meet the business goals for speed, performance, and resiliency. Business goals include accelerating the development of customer-facing apps and managing infrastructure with greater security and reliability.
What is your ideal and realistic timeframe?
Seek to understand not only the end goal but milestones your business colleagues want to hit along the way. Creating a timeline of the full project, with incremental objectives, can help IT divide projects into manageable pieces.
This approach helps you deliver the business processes and capabilities the business needs. At the same time, you will be demonstrating IT value earlier and more often as you execute the project.
The path toward closer alignment
Generating answers to these seven questions provide closer collaboration and alignment with your business partners. This is a starting point to help simplify your planning process, modernize your IT infrastructure in line with business needs, and accelerate the deployment of innovative solutions.
SUSE works with leading companies around the world. Learn from their experience with our eBook, “Successes in IT infrastructure transition.”
To take the next step in your journey of IT transformation, contact SUSE today or learn more on this web page.