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Business and Technology Teams: A Match Made in Digital Heaven (or it should be)

The rapid acceleration of technological advances means keeping pace of emerging opportunities can be challenging. Market segment implications and competitive advantage can be won or lost on how a company reimagines its operations using the technology available to it. These decisions need to be made at an organisational-wide level, where the business and technology work together, hand in glove.

Overtime technology will become synonymous with business, and there will likely be little separation between the business and technology areas. Especially as the prevalence and integration of technology becomes increasingly seamless in our lives.

In the meantime, many organisations have separate organisational functions, with technology usually incorporated into the corporate services division, along with other foundational business operations such as human resources, finance, media and legal services.

So what are the common challenges to having separate teams in a digital age that all organisational leaders need to be cognizant of?

In general, technology is an expensive investment that remains in an organisation for an extensive period of time. This means many organisations sweat their assets for as long as possible, with many left managing legacy technology.

In addition, technology upgrade decisions may be made without proper guidance or input from those who will be using it to do their job. This can result in poor uptake, misuse and people reverting back to old practices.

The issue is that both disciplines have traditionally been isolated from each other. As a result, they do not have a shared or common vernacular, logic-frame or practice. Communication can become unclear, misguided and mis-interpreted causing confusion, bafflement and behaviours that seek to alienate technologists from business discussions or reinforce stereotypes of the tech-geek.

So how do leaders effectively manage business in the digital age?

Business Team

As previously stated, technology is an enabler of the business. This means the business needs to be clear:

  • about what it seeks to achieve;
  • the customers they serve and how they access those products and services;
  • how the service delivery may change over time;
  • what that time period or horizon may look like;
  • clear prioritisation of initiatives to be delivered and why.

Technology Team

The team needs to be in the room during discussions to provide its knowledge and expertise to:

  • better understand what the business is seeking to achieve;
  • advise on whether technology is the best solution;
  • advise on how technology may help enable the outcome being sought;
  • provide insights, alternatives and recommendations to service delivery options over the time horizons;
  • provide estimations of cost and time to help plan budget, capabilities and any pre-design work (e.g. streamline processes, review business practices)

While this all sounds straight forward, and perhaps we may even think we are exhibiting these ways of working, human behaviour is a funny thing.

In the work we deliver with organisations, people say the right things, however when asked to provide further detail around “what they mean” and “how they would go about doing it”, these questions are not so easy to answer. The reality is deeper thinking is needed when it comes to digital leadership.  

A shift in power dynamics needs to occur where the business and technology teams are considered equal. Historically this has not been the case with technology seen as an asset in the same vein as human resources. It is now much more than this – it is the future of business.

Creating a common link between the business and technology will be important to translating across disciplines. This is the role we played in government, translating technology jargon into business language, governance processes and approvals, as well as creating an understanding of value.  

Checking for bias is also key, recommended solutions may be presented based on familiarisation or being a hard-core fan of a specific brand or technology. While it may validly be the best solution, ensuring a bias-free process will be required so decisions are vendor agnostic and made for the betterment of the organisation.

The quality of decision making can also be impacted by taking the least productive approach via advocacy. Frequently decisions have been made due to people arguing their point of view, as anything less would be a bruise to the ego or deemed a loss.  The weakness of the recommendation is downplayed to boost the chances of getting endorsed or “winning the point”.  Unfortunately, this can have poor outcomes and serious consequences.

Allowing input from across the organisation helps to ensure any technology plays are beneficial, impactful and are supported. Taking a curious and inquiring approach to genuinely consider options, encourage innovation and creativity, and play out implementation will help to advance the outcomes being sought. This can only be achieved with the business and technology teams working side by side.

Technology is a tool. A tool, in and of itself, needs to be wielded purposefully and with intent. It needs to be relevant and suitable for the job or task it is being employed to undertake. It is therefore imperative for both the business and technology teams to work in an integrated and seamless way, just like how we envisage the way we work.

“Marion Burchell is a seasoned executive delivering pragmatic and practical solutions that deliver impact. Her unique value proposition is humanising strategy, processes and procedures so they work for both the customer and the organisation. Her experience across strategy, policy, innovation, digital, data, science and sociology makes her highly adaptable, insightful and sought after. Her multi-skill and interests continue, being involved in the entertainment industry, technology companies and Boards. She is the Managing Director, Azolla Holdings Pty Ltd, a bespoke consulting company putting people at the centre of the modern age.”

Find out more: marionburchell.com

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