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The Value of IT and Business Partnership - From Silos to Collaboration With Purpose
By Darren Williams, CIO, Device Technologies
The continuously evolving product may grow to become complex over time, but the fact that it started from simple roots, was built in collaboration, keeps everyone engaged. In essence, technology is being reinvented; this time not inside the development laboratories of large software houses or in some suburban garage, but side-by-side with the customers, business practitioners and the technologists. As the approach to software development and implementations shift from projects to products, the role business practitioners’ play has evolved too. Product owners, a business role, are now the custodians of the technology. Importantly, however, they must collaborate with technologists to be successful; here, supporting toolsets are helping to bridge the gap. Collaboration Tools with a Purpose Tools focused on collaboration have been around for decades. Early solutions, including groupware like Lotus Notes, were narrowly targeted at either business practitioners or technologists. Intended to support teams divided by geography or time zones, open communication, and information sharing was the primary goal. Although flexible, these tools were generic in execution, leaving customers to establish their collaborative methodology to utilize the tools successfully. This resulted in unstructured implementations with long-term collaboration outcomes remaining questionable. With partnerships between customers, business practitioners and technologists increasing, collaboration toolsets have continued to evolve. Most toolsets have at least one methodology embedded, supporting a more structured approach to collaboration. Products such as Atlassian Jira and Microsoft Azure DevOps, born out of pure software development, are now being shared directly with the range of users. This new wave of collaboration is also influencing monolithic ERP. With a DevOps approach being applied to the configuration and customization of these core enterprise applications, business practitioners and technologists alike are empowered to deliver flexible and scalable advances. These inbuilt collaborative tools, underpinned by widely used methodologies, are supporting this customer-centric approach. Growth of Collaboration Toolsets There are, however, opportunities for these collaboration tools. Although many of the tools have addressed strong cooperation in the development of technology products, collaboration across business operations is less integrated. IT operations may be supported, but other operational areas of businesses are largely left isolated. To engage with other operational areas, collaboration tools will need to engage at a more functional level with ERP, CRM, and other business support applications. Also, unified communications have not effectively become unified collaboration. Integrations seldom go beyond surfacing one application within the other. Incorporation of natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning may provide a richer source of collaboration across operations in the future. The inclusion of graph database technology may unearth unforeseen insights into the structured and unstructured data collected within these tools. This powerful technology helps discover context and shape relationships between seemingly unrelated entities. By uncovering connections between sources and streams of collaboration, businesses could discover unexpected opportunities to transform customer outcomes. Over the last twenty years, the relationship between technologists and business practitioners has undergone a significant transformation. New ways of working supported by innovative tools have begun a collaboration that redefines the role IT plays in business. As toolsets evolve and support the mutual focus on customer-centric business, it will add fuel to the pace of technological change.