In this series I'm interviewing my good friend Robert Castel, whom I have known since 1990. Robert is a project manager with the same IT roots as I have, working on financial trading floors. Without further delay, here is Robert Castel chatting about the relationship between IT and Business
One of the paramount concepts to absorb between Business and IT is that the Business’ (|profit) model is the real reason for existence of the Business. By contrast, IT has no ability to sustain itself without a business (profit) model supporting it.
Aligning IT with the business is critical to understanding the ongoing relationship between the business and IT. As it relates to project management and IT interfacing, we will address the three areas below:
- Different elements of alignment
- Forces in the organization that can work in favour of the alignment
- Achieving alignment
Part 1 - Alignment
The three most often cited types of alignment are strategic, structural, and cultural. For the purposes of this discussion, we will bypass the strategic alignment and assume IT is highly integrated into the business or organization’s strategic direction.
Organizational Structural Alignment and IT’s Relationship with Project Management
- In this case, what we are talking about is an outcome of the interaction between technology and organizational design
- In today’s world, the intermediary between these two identities is the Project Manager
- By and large, project management is a centralized business process
- In other words, getting from the business concept to ultimate implementation of a product and/or service is where IT becomes one element (of many) that needs to be orchestrated
- Here we have a plethora of activities that are carried forth, under the banner of project management, inclusive of project planning, resource allocation, budgets, business and IT risk management, and communications to mention a few
- Typically, the larger the amount of monies involved, the higher the business and/or IT risks and the more critical communications becomes an overriding factor
- In other words, whether it is infrastructure related and/or application development generated, either one, or both, may have a profound effect on the organizations way of doing things given the project’s objectives
- Never lose sight of the fact that most organizations are hierarchically designed
- This is true of the business as well as IT
- It is also a truism the more complex a project is, the more likely there will be changes in the managerial structure, roles, and processes
- It is the project manager’s responsibility to deal with these organizational entrails; however, one cannot underestimate the resulting impact of IT changes on the organizational structure
Culture Alignment: the IT/Project Management Communications Protocol
For our purposes cultural alignment can be viewed as the way people perceive themselves and others, how we think, respond, and communicate issues, problems, and opportunities in front of us.
In a sense, culture acts as an overarching stabilization force within the organization.
In many respects, the culture of an organization has a very strong bearing on that organization’s structural design. Organizations may not be countries but in many respects they are quite similar.
Culture will often dictate how innovative or non-innovative a business or IT solution would be acceptable.
- Project management tends to be very much in line with this organizational behaviour design
- Within any given organization you will have both formal and informal means of communications
- Both are powerful in their own right
- It’s very important to understand, within your organization, where formal and informal communications are most influential
- From a project management perspective, formal lines of communications (e.g., status reports, architectural systems design documentation, change management, etc.) become the most important. This is particularly true of project’s that move up the complexity curve
Having a better understanding of how IT’s organizational alignment is related to the Business, the deeper the insight one can gain of how valued IT’s role is perceived. Both IT and Project Management share this common foundation when the two identities interface.
Equally important, culture is far more pervasive and often overlooked. Individual and collective interaction is a critical function as to how successful IT and Project Management will ‘work together’ to accomplish their mutual objectives.