How to assess how business-centric you really are

Werner BoeingHow much do you and your IT team care about the rest of the business? This seemingly simple question goes straight to the heart of an issue raised in my last post: in times of cloud computing, the role of IT has to evolve from a technology enabler to that of a truly business-centric IT function. But how much partying is going on in IT when month-end closing can be done half a day earlier, a new product is launched, a new yield level could be reached in manufacturing or a new customer could be acquired? So measuring IT noise is a first step, but how do you practically assess the business centricity of IT, or determine if you’re on the right track? Below, you find my two-cents worth on how to test that without boiling the ocean, and by answering just three questions. Interested? Let’s go …

I determined that there are three levels on which to judge business centricity:

  • Level 1: expressed business interest by IT employees
  • Level 2: proactive actions taken by IT employees to enhance business understanding
  • Level 3: actively embracing of accountability for business outcome by IT employees

Generally, expressing interest is easy; sparing time to enhance business understanding within your limited time is harder; and seeking accountability for business outcomes is hardest. Hence, the three levels are used as multipliers to calculate your overall score.
To assess different degrees of maturity for each of these levels, I used a simple scale from zero to five, with concrete examples given in the table below.

Let’s see how these elements work in a concrete example. You select:

  • Level 1 (interest): “I want to understand how my business partner is doing,” equalling three points multiplied by one, resulting in a total of three
  • Level 2 (business knowledge): “I participated in mandatory team training,” equalling one point multiplied by two, resulting in a total of two
  • Level 3 (accountability): “I jumped in as business project manager or test lead,” equalling three points multiplied by three, resulting in a total of nine
  • Total score: 3 + 2 + 9 = 14

The table below outlines this in more clarity (click to enlarge).


Now the fun part starts. How does your score compare with your average leadership team score, the IT demand versus the IT supply team score or the entire IT employees score? To what extent are your team results driven by what they think you want to hear? Have you articulated your expectations? How does your communication team feed the interest into the business? I firmly believe we cannot hire our way into a business- centric IT; we have to steadily build it. For those of you who think business centricity is far more complicated, I totally agree, but again, I would rather just get on with it…

I am looking forward to hearing of your journeys and lessons.

3 thoughts on “How to assess how business-centric you really are

  1. Thanks for sharing Werner. While we all strive to align ourselves closely with our commercial counterparts, this framework gives us a more objective and practical way to measure our progress and maturity along the way.

  2. Times have changed. Access to technology is ubiquitous. Technology is just a tool to solve business problems. Knowing business aspects is not an option anymore, it must be expected from ‘every’ member in the organization.
    At the same time, organizations must take extra effort in educating the employees about business, their clients etc. Understanding the need out clients is key to everything. People who know the ‘technology’ AND ‘business’ are the biggest assets (uncut-diamonds, they say) of an organization.

    1. Dear Shanthuk, I like your metaphor of “uncut-diamonds”. The funny thing diamonds are kept in a safe place however people with both IT and business knowledge have to be visible to the organization and some of them might be “stolen” into other roles. But I consider this to be a great thing, we need more talent moves between “IT” and “the business”. At the end of the day its the capability that matters and providing fulfilling career journeys to talents that could choose whom they work for is the best way to attract and retain these talents.

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