2 Aug 2013

About Consumer IT, Corporate IT and the collaboration between business people and IT people

Collaboration between IT people and business people on IT projects is essential to come to the best systems. Both groups have a fundamental different perception of IT. And this difference in perception is not favourable for the collaboration. Business people, although they are computer literate, have often unjustified or overestimated expectations from the IT projects. From their behaviour, priorities, norms, decisions and thinking patterns, it is clear that they don’t grasp IT. IT, and particularly Corporate IT, is still a different world for them.

Business people form a mental picture based on what they know of IT. This picture is based on what they can see and experience of IT. Typically, they are most often in contact with “Consumer IT”. They are in contact with smartphones, single user computers, Windows environment and office automation software, games, multimedia products, the world wide web, and so on. These products are equipped with functions like cut-n-paste, do-undo, plug-n-play, wizards, WYSIWYG, templates, one-click-installation procedures, logic based on user information, guessing algorithms, automatic synchronisation of data, easy interconnection, automatic configuration, and so on. Let’s not forget the marketing slogans like “one click away” and “The sky is the limit.”

Business people are a little bit in contact with corporate IT through their company. Most of it is only the GUI of corporate systems.

Consumer IT is oriented to the individual and his personal tastes. The focus is on the GUI. Consumer IT products are easy to acquire, easy to use, fast, relatively cheap, flexible and powerful. They are upgraded frequently, or new versions are put on the market regularly. Consumer IT products are often a single local system, although some acts like stations connected to a network. The complexity of the product is hidden for the user by the GUI. If something happen with it, it will usually impact only one person. These tools are close to the daily life of people. The usage of these tools is based on intuition, guessing, trying, exploration and discovery. The users are hereby driven by their spontaneity, creativity, their desires, preferences and the fun. It is reactive. It allows to respond unexpected changes and to a sudden desire. It emphasises the quality of the experience.

On the other hand, Corporate IT is oriented to larger coordinated groups of people. It servers the company’s interest and focusses on processes, services and ROI. Corporate IT is slow to put in place. Since every implementation is unique, it’s expensive. It is, or can be, flexible and powerful, but in a different way as consumer products. Corporate IT often consists of various interconnected systems forming networks beyond the borders of the company. People dealing with Corporate IT are in the middle of its real complexity. Corporate IT is in some way also very different from the daily way of thinking of people. It’s abstract, extremely detailed, formalised and require a high degree of clarity, consistency and completeness. Issues may have an enterprise-wide impact. It has to ensure business continuity and be secured.

The approach in Corporate is more planned, organised, formalised, controlled, structured, methodical, based on analysis and design (thinking beforehand) and driven by the need of the company or organisation to survive and to grow.

Corporate IT corresponds for 100% to this picture. It simply leans towards it.

What happens when people used to consumer IT have to collaborate with people used to Corporate IT? What happens if we deal with Corporate IT (too much) as if it was Consumer IT?

To have a successful collaboration with business people and develop a strong IT implementation in companies, it might be a good idea for the IT people to educate their customers.


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