In which Jill remembers Sophie's selective hearing and likens it to the rigor-at-will approach of many IT managers, who--when it comes to business requirements--may find themselves barking up the wrong tree.
I once had an Akita-Shepherd mix named Sophie. We rescued her from the pound on her last day, so she was even more loyal than an Akita-Shepherd mix would be in normal circumstances. She was also scary-smart, great on hikes, and, wellâŚwillful.
When Sophie turned 10 she stopped listening to me. Iâd come up from behind her and call her name. She wouldnât budge. Iâd jangle her leash. Iâd tap the food bowl. Iâd yell âcoo---kie!â in a high, sing-songy voice that made me hate myself. Nuthinâ doinâ. I finally took her to the vet who did the requisite inner-ear exam and loud-clicker tests and summarily pronounced, âYour dogâs not deafâsheâs just ignoring you.â So much for being pack leader.
I feel the same way sometimes when I talk to IT execs about engaging business users. Some really, really want to. Some assure me that they already know what the users need. And some just ignore me.
But ITâs ability to engage the business is critical, not only for data-intensive initiatives like MDM, data warehousing, and BI, but for a range of operational applications. As weâve all heard by now, and as many of us have learned the hard way, âIf you build it, they will comeâ is a fraught philosophy. But many IT departments donât have formal requirements processes that would be the logical vehicle for opening a regular dialog with the business side.
The result is that business people try building what they perceive to be appropriate business requirements and give them to IT. Then IT either pushes back and requests more detail (but doesnât really say what detail) or relegates the project to the Futures list.
IT needs to define the business user engagement process. Itâs much easier for IT to learn about the business than it is for the business to learn about IT. In fact, open any IT industry rag and stories of CIOs struggling to partner with business executives are as plentiful as, well, black labs at the dog park. It means defining a process, choosing a reasonable group of business users with a pressing need, refining the process with them, and then with other business users over time. It means documentation, frequent headchecks, and regular follow up.
The business should ultimately own its own requirements. But business people canât be expected to invent the process for engaging IT. IT has to make the first move, and lay out the process for not only initially engaging the business, but incrementally re-engaging them as the project moves forward. As my vet says, âGood communications makes for lasting friendships.â This is usually right before he tells me how much the bill is going to be.
Posted July 24, 2007 7:01 PM
Permalink | 1 Comment |