An easy way to start a fight these days is to refer to “the business”. Whether as a grumble or a shout, the response will inevitably come: “IT is part of the business”.
Of course it is. Having written a post or two (or three or four) about that very subject, I fully agree. That being said, not all differentiation is evidence that one believes “the business” exists to be the life support system for IT.
“The business” can be a useful shorthand for “not IT” (also “not HR”, “not legal”, “not purchasing”, etc., depending on who is using the phrase). This type of differentiation is extremely useful to help ensure that we’re associating the different aspects of a system (both features and qualities of service) with their appropriate stakeholder(s) and prioritizing them appropriately. In dealing with storage, we might have concerns around time to back up (predominately an IT concern) and available capacity (more likely to concern “the business”). We can play word games to avoid using those exact terms, but ultimately we need to make sure the concerns of “the business” take priority. We also need to make sure that where IT concerns have business impact, that impact is presented in terms of business outcomes.
This is the main reason I prefer having IT’s funding reside in the budgets of those using it – nothing destroys customer service quicker than giving someone a target (e.g. cost cutting) that is at odds with serving their customer. However, it should also be noted that customers that are paying their own bills tend to be more responsible consumers. Helping business units find the most cost-effective way to achieve their ends meets the goal of providing good service to those units and serves to further the enterprise’s goal of reducing costs. Satisfying its immediate customer (the business units) and the enterprise as a whole is more important than merely paying lip service to alignment. As a support organization, it’s how IT contributes to the satisfaction of the external customer. Since IT is a part of the business, that should be our concern – whether our concept of service is contributing to the success of the enterprise, not whether we’re using the term of the day.