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Don’t call the business “Business”!

· agile transformation,business agility


I see this a lot: Anyone outside IT is referred to by IT people as “the Business”, and Agile Transformation efforts focus at establishing “IT & Business collaboration”. I particularly dislike using the catch-all term “Business” and advise against using it. There is not a single type of “Business”, there is no single “IT”, and there definitely is not only one type of “Collaboration”. Each business unit, customer segment or product has its own needs in terms of IT enablement and collaboration. It has been a long time since Agility was a thing coming out of IT, spreading to “the Business”. In fact, we see more and more organizations nowadays targeting Business Agility (as opposed to simple delivery agility) and start their agile transformations from the non-IT parts of the organization.

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There is not single “Business”. There is not single “IT”.

What has been achieved by the Agile movement in the recent years in various organizations is really significant.

Cross functional teams are slowly but steadily tearing down organizational silos and the flows of product development are becoming continuous, fast, and predictable.

Many times, though, during my agile coaching involvements I hear discussions about the benefits of “IT & Business Collaboration” or “Putting the Business in the Driver Seat”, usually from the IT part of the organization.

The thing is, there is no such thing as “the Business”. Calling everyone “Business” prevents the IT addressing their individual and specific needs. Let me explain.

Not two “Businesses” are the same. B2C business is not the same as B2B business. E-channel business is not the same as physical-channel business. Efficiency-focused business is not the same as growth-focused business. Each unit, customer segment or product is unique, and therefore the product development process has unique requirements and characteristics. Some need speed, some need innovation, others need security and control. Likewise, the expectations of these Businesses from the IT part of the organization are also diverse. Some need methods like Lean Startup, others Scrum, possibly with Design Thinking, LeanUX or Kanban.

Likewise, there no such thing as “Business-IT Collaboration”

There is not only one “IT” (which the “Business” needs to collaborate with). The model of IT as a centralized control-focused silo is fading away, fast. The New IT is distributed, and focuses on enablement, not control. It is more a network between members of autonomous teams delivering value on behalf of the specific business they are serving.

Effectively, we are seeing more different “IT‘s”, each with different qualities, corresponding to the needs of each specific product.

Even more, many times IT is, well, left for later. Business Agility is something that is being pursued by whole Organizations, not just IT or just “IT and Business”. In fact, we are seeing more and more organizations starting their agile transformation journeys from non-IT parts of the organization, such as units serving competitive marketplaces, or fast changing customer segments.

So, if you are in IT, stop calling all Businesses “the Business” and stop collaborating with them in one uniform way. Empower, train and coach your people so they can give each Business what they really need. And call them by their name.

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