Building a bridge between IT and business starts with problem definition. Many times we can trace the gap between these functions to the fact that they both address different problems. The problems they address are directly related to the goals they plan to accomplish.
The business side's goals may include improving sales figures, profitability, market share, reducing inventory carrying costs, improving customer satisfaction and many other business-specific key performance indicators (KPIs). Meanwhile, IT may be looking at metrics such as server downtime, data throughput and the frequency and cost of support calls. These disparate goals do relate. But how?
How do the business and IT functions know what are the assumed interdependencies between their respective goals? Unfortunately, they often have no way to relate these to show how successfully completing an IT goal supports the realization of a business goal.
One way to make this work is to establish Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that define the business KPI and the IT metrics that are necessary to accomplish this. You are probably thinking that SLAs are “old news.” What is surprising is that in 2012, many IT departments do not have these types of SLAs in place. Why is that? I suspect it is because it is hard to create meaningful ones.
The missing ingredient is often visibility. IT needs deep visibility into how its technical activities map to business KPIs. For this to occur, IT needs automation that can tracks its messages and transactions end-to-end, in real time. But that is not enough. What IT calls a transaction is not the same as what the business understands it to be. IT needs to be able to track where in the business process it is as IT completes technical activities; consider these to be milestones. This is similar to tracking a package over a route. The package is the business KPI and the route is the set of IT activities. Once we have automation to map the two sides of IT and business and immediately know that successful conclusion of an IT transaction completes a milestone, we can then have SLAs in place that can bridge this important gap.
Charley Rich is VP Product Management and Marketing at Nastel Technologies.