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3 Signs the Divide Between IT and Business Exists, and How to Fix It

A couple weeks ago, I left a conference with a promising new lead. A utility executive expressed a true interest in modernizing a backend system, and explained significant challenges with trying to efficiently serve customers using the antiquated technology.

The utility representative shared stories about redundant forms, painfully long customer care times, and other back office processes costing the utility time and money. We bonded over these “war” stories, and even laughed when reflecting on the hoops customer service representatives sometimes jump through to try and serve customers on old, ineffective technology.

Following the conference, I arranged for an on-site visit to demonstrate the application to a greater audience. My team was so excited for the opportunity to help the utility modernize business. We thought for sure, we had a solution that would help resolve decades of pain!

Then we arrived, and things quickly took a turn. As we talked about our extender application, IT team members questioned integration. As we addressed integration questions, business team members questioned ease of use. As we addressed ease of use, IT came back to question business rule implementation.

This concept of the divide between IT and business objectives is nothing new and not specific to utilities, as we can see from several online articles such as this article from Harvard Business Review.

By the end of our presentation, it was clear we had underestimated the trials and tribulations this utility had endured to result in a divide between IT and business. We left with a little less pep in our step, but we did recognize a few signs of the divide, and eventually collaborated on ways the utility could bridge the gap.

Here are 3 Signs the Divide Between IT and Business Exists, and How to Fix Them

  1. Lack of Trust in the Other Internal Team
    1. Utility IT and business leaders have a tough job! Discerning between the solutions and vendors that are here to stay and the ones capitalizing on new utility budgets can be difficult. Skepticism is a natural reaction after a person has seen several failed or delayed implementations.
    2. The Solution: Talking directly with other utility referrals who have worked with the firm you are considering is a steadfast method to be confident in the selection decision. Also, taking the time to set up an internal plan to make the most of the purchased solution is another way to ensure the project offers the most value possible.
  2. Inability to Accept Resolutions to Past Failures
    1. When you’ve been burned, it’s tough to move on, even outside of business. However, stating the same problem repeatedly only focuses on the problem, not the solution.
    2. The Solution: I recommend utilities spend time hosting an internal facilitation session. Allow all project failures, topics, and needed functionality to come up organically. Once they are on the whiteboard, identify solutions to each past challenge. Then, leave the problems in the boardroom and take the lessons learned to the next project.
  3. Forgetting the Common Ground
    1. It’s easy to become focused in our own day-to-day activities, no matter where you work. Pointing fingers or claiming one side does not understand the other is an easy, yet never productive, path to take.
    2. The Solution: Remember that everyone in the room works for the same company and has the same objective – to help grow or maintain the business. Focus on cooperation and empathy, which usually lays out the foundation for collaborative resolution.

If you’ve experienced any of these signs at your utility, check out this article for additional steps to end the divided mentality. Do you have a story about how your utility resolved the challenge of an internal divide? If so, please message me and I can help share your story and advice to support a stronger industry for years to come.

Discussions

Great article, Jennifer! 

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