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Good Communication between Operations and IT is Vital to Growth

There are reasons that the co-operation between your Operations function and your IT function are difficult. The conflicting agendas and miss-matched expectations that these two areas naturally have can be difficult to overcome. However, like many relationships, solving the communications breakdown and developing a good two-way dialog between them is a key to your organization’s operational excellence.

Your organization undoubtedly has a business operations function with its own jargon and KPIs which tend to be poorly understood by IT. Operational leaders and personnel have a poor understanding of the capabilities and limitations of any IT system. This leads to sub-optimal use of technologies or unrealistic expectations about the capability of IT solutions.

Most times Operations personnel have a very basic understanding of the various components of IT systems. In the best case scenario, they know that the IT system is made up of hardware, network infrastructures and software applications / user interfaces.

Quite often Operations people in your organization tend to think in terms of value-derived transactional value streams. These often follow a very basic path in their minds. For a given product or service provided to the customer, this journey starts with marketing / sales, travels to operational delivery and ends with the duration of the lifecycle of the product or service being offered. Operations, being very dynamic, seldom feel they have the time to adequately define requirements collaboratively with IT.

In contrast, IT is by its nature very technical and requires very specific knowledge and skills. Your IT department’s jargon and way of thinking is centered on the movement of information for different purposes. They tend to think in terms of the flow and protection of information in narrow silos related to specific customer areas. These may be finance, operations, marketing, sales, engineering, HR, supply chain and others. Since IT department at your organization must operate in a very linear manner with many technical constraints this naturally leads to a different mind-set. The issues you often see are simple misunderstandings.

IT tends to operate in a ‘tell me what you want and I will give it to you’ mindset. The challenge you face is that Operations is unable to communicate requirements to IT in order for them to properly design solutions. This often results in over or under-engineered solutions being developed to measure your results. In addition, your IT function is often severely constrained by the speed at which deployment can occur. The constant changes you experience in operations and the requirements needed for future success are not captured dynamically.

The general issue or barrier you will find in your organization in the co-operability of your operations function and your IT function is a failure to communicate. Because of the inherent technical aspects of IT, most of your operational leaders and staff have a very poor understanding of the components required of IT solutions. How they work, their capabilities and limitations are foreign to them. By the same token, most of your IT professionals, particularly those in the lower levels, have little or no knowledge of the frustrations of operations. They don’t understand how the manner they do what they do affects the operating results of your organization.

The object for leaders like you is to facilitate a shared vision and different methods to communicate effectively about how the operations business value stream is aligned with the custody of data and information supported by IT. This can be done in several ways, but it is up to you as a leader to develop these skills in your people and yourself. Fostering this type of good communication between Operations and IT, along with employing other methods will support the future success of your organization.

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