Now that the hype around the Business-IT gap died down, it looks like the issue has been solved. No, the gap is still there and it will never go away. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so, but we need to have a good look at the Agile principles.
Why the Business-IT gap still exists
The Business knows the process that needs to be automated, but knows little about the technology it is automated in. Developers know the technology intimately, but have little knowledge on the business process. Hence, from a knowledge standpoint they are equal. However, the Business supplies the money which gives them leverage. Good design(s) take time; the impatience to start developing quickly leads to the metaphorical house built on bad foundations, ultimately leading to project delays and soaring project costs.
How to bridge the IT-gap
If you cannot solve it, you need to manage it. In my opinion, an Agile way of working will be best. Of course you could “just do SCRUM”, but if you only follow the methodology without incorporating the base ideas, it has lost much of its potential.
Hence I always go back to the Agile Manifesto. There are four general values in this manifesto, which have to be interpreted. Here is my interpretation of them regarding this subject:
- “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”: Always keep in mind that Business and IT have different knowledge and cooperation is an absolute necessity. Keep improving collaboration between Business and IT.
- “Working software over comprehensive documentation”: Yes, documentation is necessary, but remember that your goal is creating working software. Use diagrams and process charts over text-based documentation. Create text-based documentation only when more explanation is needed.
- “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”: A project needs a structure, like squads, but this should never hinder people from doing their job.
- “Responding to change over following a plan”: You should never be either Business or IT. This has to be a fluid thing: Employees should be able to switch roles to accommodate the demand.
The Business-IT-gap is a problem that cannot be solved. Managing the gap, on the other hand, is doable but requires constant attention. It’s like a bonsai tree. It becomes a beautiful tree if you persevere. Don’t focus on the destination but on the journey.
This is what Agile is really all about.