Gartner: It's Time to Evolve the Conversation Between Business and IT

Jul 21, 2016
6 Min Read
Gartner: It's Time to Evolve the Conversation Between Business and IT

Gartner: It's Time to Evolve the Conversation Between Business and IT

CIOs try their best to gauge how well IT is delivering to executive expectations, but unfortunately, executive expectations of IT often are not aligned to what IT is capable of delivering.

In their research, Gartner analysts Jeffrey Brooks, Heather Colella, and John Roberts found that CIOs believe current approaches to assessing executive satisfaction are missing something, and that IT organizations require a technique that puts the onus on line of business partners to articulate exactly what they need from IT.

Gartner has developed one such technique, which involves understanding the importance of a reciprocal relationship, refining value-added questions for business executives, and initiating the conversation in a way that promotes maximum participation.


According to the Gartner EXP report, The Politics of Powerful Partnerships: "At the heart of a powerful partnership between IT and the rest of the enterprise is reciprocity: the exchange of equivalent advantages or privileges. Without reciprocity, IT cannot move from order taker to powerful partner.”

“Individuals decline to enter into reciprocal arrangements with those they consider significantly different in power and status. CIOs can create powerful partnerships between IT and other departments by systematically building IT's power and status in key areas to reach equality with business peers."

One way to do this is through regular satisfaction surveys. By benchmarking IT through four types of satisfaction surveys, Gartner suggested that CIOs will be armed with the information they need to have meaningful conversations with their business colleagues. These types include:

  • Measuring satisfaction when a service desk ticket has been closed
  • Measuring satisfaction at the end of a project
  • Conducting annual IT satisfaction surveys with business users
  • Conducting ongoing surveys and conversations with business leaders to get their qualitative opinions about IT

Value-added questions

A key role of IT, said the Gartner analysts, is growing line of business technology capabilities. CIOs can do this by creating a few open-ended questions for business colleagues to gain a clearer understanding of what their people expect of IT. As stewards of their organizations, the business colleagues can then interpret that information for the CIOs. Finally, CIOs can work with business colleagues to redefine and rethink how technology enables the enterprise.

Gartner’s thought-starter questions included the following:

  • How is your personal success measured, and how well-positioned are you to achieve it?
  • How do you leverage technology to drive better business results?
  • IT tends to describe what it does in terms of services. What three services do you frequently use?
  • If you could divorce IT, what would you look for in a new partner?
  • If you were named CIO tomorrow, what would be the first three actions you would take and why?

The conversation

What’s the best forum to ask these questions? Gartner recommended getting creative:

  • Let the business executives choose the best channel for their organization: mobile, paper, Web, or phone.
  • Create a tweet of the day. Run one question a day for a week, consolidate the results, and adopt a plan to reshape the role of IT in the enterprise.
  • Host roundtables or one-on-one conversations to explore the various topics and questions.
  • Use a combination of high-touch and high-tech approaches: Crowdsource a question, hang the results on the wall, and have others vote for their favorite ideas by placing dots next to the top three ideas they prefer.

The Gartner analysts pointed out that when people participate in something, they tend to perceive it as more valuable. Not only will this process deepen the relationship between IT and its business partners, but over time, the executive team will gain a deeper understanding of the needs of its people and how to best leverage IT capabilities.

Of course, in any quest for authentic feedback, there’s the risk that you will hear something unexpected. And as we said in the beginning, you may learn that IT is not meeting expectations currently, and can’t meet them in the future without changing the model.

Agility is an important aspect of the relationship-building process. “CIOs should be prepared to rethink everything: what IT does, how it does it, and how it works within the business environment in order to deliver results. They should be willing to change it all,” said the Gartner analysts.

Learn how the CIO at USTA created and achieved a shared vision across IT and the business.

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