Who Exactly Is ‘The Business’?

Do you work in an IT role within an organisation where ‘The Business’ are considered as entity, somehow outwith?

I used to work for a defence subcontractor where we built (amongst other things) a biological and chemical weapons detector. I then moved a software house that produced legal practice management software. The key feature about both these jobs for me was that I was building the ‘thing’ that they were selling.

My current position is as a programmer at a financial services company. When I was interviewed for the position nearly 8 years ago, I acknowledged that I was moving from a position where I was producing the thing that was sold to supporting the thing that was sold. I perceived that IT was considered a support function of ‘the business’.

My view about that has changed. Profoundly so.

Gone are the days where people in financial services worked with quill pens and ink pots, doing financial calculations by hand and filling in ledgers. It really is the case that the things that IT department build and support are ‘the business’.

The business are selling the things that we make. IT is more central to anything ‘the business’ does than any other part of ‘the business’.

To justify this, imagine a scenario where a key part of ‘the business’ disappeared.

If your company’s board of directors disappeared you’d probably muddle along in the short-term with no strategic or long-term vision. If the customer service department disappeared ‘the business’ would fail pretty quickly with no ability to service the products it sells. ‘The business’ would also fail quickly without business experts. Removal of marketing and product development functions would see ‘the business’ flounder in the long-term.

However, remove IT infrastructure, and everything disappears. Instantly. No more ‘the business.’ It’s gone!

Your company’s user interfaces are part of the face of the company. Your company’s products and client records are merely rented space on your company’s storage racks, rented processor time to process your company’s rented intellectual property embedded it’s algorithms. Your company’s code base is the only definitive source of truth for ‘the business’ – all other documentation is out of date (probably).

I find it refreshing that there are moves afoot in my organisation to change the challenge any perception of IT as a support role that is ‘off to the side.’

How are your companies fairing?

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