The divided IT-business team can only lose

When the business units and IT aren't playing as a real team, everyone loses except those selling them tech

Last weekend, I enjoyed the FA Cup final on television. It's the oldest football (soccer) tournament in the world and consists of teams from the English Premier League down to five leagues below, which can include amateur teams. The final was played between Manchester City Football Club, a team that finished the season in second place in the premier league against Wigan Athletic, a team that finished in 18th place and is therefore relegated to league below the English Premier League for next year. This was truly a final between a financial giant that had all of the expensive players -- the average salary of a Manchester City player on the pitch during the final was more than $16.5 million -- against a team whose total salary for the entire team was only $16.5 million. It was a terrific match, and in the end, Wigan won the cup by a score of 1-0 and by far looked liked the best team on the pitch.

Interestingly enough, this scenario plays out at many companies today.

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It is quite common, especially in large enterprises, that you look at established vendors that can provide all the tools you need. They've built many of the tools themselves -- and the ones they didn't build, they acquired. It is quite common to look at companies such as BMC, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM as the vendors of choice. They have many tools, and they're happy to upsell you on each one.

The problem is that you have all these premium products that often don't work well together. They may do just fine on their own; they can solve a bunch of problems in a specific area. But as the Manchester City Football Club demonstrated last week, unless you play like a team, it’s very hard to win the game. How often do you hear people bemoaning how two products work together? "It's like the two teams didn’t even talk to each other." Many times, they haven't. There's a reason why many companies have two sales teams for the same products: to exploit that internal division at your company.

This isn't just an issue with buying products or services from one big company. The same thing can happen when separate IT teams buy different products to solve different problems. But at some point you need them to work together, and it becomes a nightmare trying to make the pieces fit. You build a great Active Directory infrastructure but incorporate a virtual directory service that isn't compatible with the latest single sign-on tool you picked. You have a PKI infrastructure that isn't compatible with your enterprise mobile management tool. Neither of them may have good APIs, so it becomes a six-months-to-a-year struggle to figure out the best way to hook the two products together and achieve something that should have taken less than a week.

We see the same thing happen when the business departments and IT don't partner with each other. In fact, many smaller vendors count on such a split. As a result, for example, you see a company using SharePoint internally where one business unit purchases Box so that it can have access while mobile, then a second business unit purchases Dropbox -- and a third decides to go in the SugarSync direction. This is all before IT even knows it has happened.

Now they have to figure out how to work with all of these tools, simply because the business units and IT all forgot they were working as a team and needed to partner to get the job done.

Technology is a team sport. It requires IT and the business units to work together to achieve goals. IT needs to stop saying no and trying to control everything. The rest of the business needs to learn to let IT participate. It becomes a question of both groups sharing a common goal and understanding the needs to get there.

It can be great for IT to have the best file-sharing system in the world, but if the business units don't use it, you have only a steaming pile of useless cow chips. It's great when three business units picked the file-sharing systems that fit their individual needs -- until the three divisions need to share documents with each other.

In the end, the business strategy is to be more productive and efficient while making more money. It's a single goal that manifests itself in many ways. But if you can't play like a team, no matter how much you pay for the individual players and their gear, you'll never score -- and you'll eventually lose the game.

This article, "The divided IT-business team can only lose," originally appeared at A Screw's Loose and is republished at InfoWorld.com with permission (© Brian Katz). Read more of Brian Katz's The Squeaky Wheel blog at InfoWorld.com or at A Screw's Loose. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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