For years technology strategists like myself have been working with business folks and C-Suite executives complaining that “you IT guys are too techie” or “you guys just get don’t understand the business”. Many CIOs and architects have been relegated to obscurity because of this perception. In the days when computers were new and technology was not integral to the business, it was ok that the “business guys” were frustrated with the “geeks” if they talked tech but those days are long gone. Tech ignorance among the business suite should not be tolerated because there is almost no area of our economy where technology and its applications like IT are the domain of a single department. This is especially true in healthcare.
Firms lose out when technology staff members are not integral parts of strategy and decision making processes. Given the central role of technology in many organizations, IT folks have some of the most knowledge about the way your business actually works (as opposed to the way it’s perceived to work). Given that many business processes are already automated and many or going to be, it’s only natural that technologists will understand the business because without understanding it they couldn’t have automated it. Of course, I’m not naive enough to believe that all technology professionals are equally adept business folks but it’s time to not treat them as separate groups.
What about the business side? There is equal frustration, well deserved in many cases, that many executives “don’t get technology” and ignore the time-tested and prudent advice of IT folks. We need more execs who value business technology (BT) knowledge, get trained, or at least understand that it’s important. When hiring senior executives, it’s just as important to ensure that they know technology as it is for them to understand the basics of finance and marketing.
Business Technology and IT knowledge is crucial in a competitive environment and senior executives should foster that by including questions about tech in their interviewing and hiring process.
If you’re a CIO or an architect or other senior technology leader you should start holding “brown bag” seminars at lunch once a month or other regular intervals to help train executives on technology topics important to your business. A simple topic like “Web 2.0” or social computing could be very useful.
The geeks have the responsibility to make sure the business side is armed with BT knowledge but the business side has to do its part by understanding it’s really their own responsibility to realize their knowledge gap and seek help.
HR folks should create a technology staffing plan that would include the task of helping create interview questions and recruitment strategies to ensure you’re getting tech-savvy business folks.
What do you guys think? Am I living in a fantasy world or is the biz and tech gap really something that can be bridged?