I am struck by the fact that discussions about the perennially fraught relationship between business and IT always seems to omit all reference to the very different natures of business and IT. IT reality has always worked more or less at right-angles to business reality – an engineering discipline in the midst of business. The links between are generally limited to very high levels at which the relationship is mediated by very general language that does not really require either side to have any insight into the other (i.e., requirements), and at very low levels that actually have little influence over the relationship as a whole (i.e., day-to-day system users).
While this remains the case, there is no practical need for this relationship to get any better, and each side will continue to prioritise their owns engineering/business perspective over the other side’s concerns. And while IT technology always reverts to a strictly engineering mode of thought and the business side lacks a genuine ‘engineering’ element of its own, it is very unlikely that this impasse will be overcome. We can all agree that ‘something should be done’ and even agree what it is, but however important this is, it will never be urgent, and certainly not capable of being built into both sides’ day-to-day ‘common sense’.
However, my own impression is that there are developments in the pipeline that will overcome this. On the one hand, the emergence of service-oriented architectures in IT is forcing IT people to define what they do (even for themselves) in terms even the business can understand. On the other, the (rather slower) emergence of formal business process management is creating a kind of ‘business engineering’ that obliges businesses to thing of their own activity in quasi-technical terms that even an IT person can recognise. Between them, SOA and BPM are creating the language, the conceptual framework, and the technical toolkit business and IT need to create that ultimate goal, a unified business/IT worldview.
Not that this is either all that is wrong or likely to offer a complete solution. All the same, I doubt that there will be any solution until business and IT alike learn to think of themselves in such terms. This does not mean that IT people need to understand business or vice versa, but it does mean that they need to think of themselves in mutually compatible terms. Which is what, I think, a combination of SOA and BPM will achieve – without either side intending it.