The Agile Tribe

The Reality Gap between Business and IT – Let’s build a bridge!

on April 14, 2010

Author: Robert McDonald

I believe software use in a company fits into an overall process rather than just being an end in itself. I have had long experience in Banking branchland and it occurs to me that the distance between the technicians and coalface staff is an area where organisation but certainly in banks where we can improve. Having worked on the Service Desk for a large financial institution, I found that throughout the company there was an issue with collaboration or should I say “ a lack of it”. It is either a blame game or just a total absence of empathy.

I feel that we could all benefit by closer relationships with our colleagues particularly where we have interdependencies. I suggest that we need to expand the experience of the technical staff to include the business processes rather than just working in a vacuum on the application. The difference between an application and a process is that the process is the overall activity of the staff member(s) which may include the application.

If a customer comes into a branch to withdraw $1000, the process includes greeting the customer, use of an application, determining the denominations required by the customer, counting the money, possible marketing opportunities or alternatives (BPay?) etc. The IT system used at the coalface is merely one small part of the overall process.

Understanding the full process of each normal banking activity is important to make the application fit with what is desired rather than having the process work around the application. The focus is on the business need rather than what IT can provide, and the change is very subtle, but important. I am not saying every teller should be able to dictate requirements to IT but there is certainly a Reality Gap between how the technical support for an application, the staff member using it and also how the end customer views the application as part of their overall experience.

It does exist and is the result of the lack of communication and true collaboration. In a company that boasts an Agile approach to their work where these two features are key principles, in my humble opinion, we need to build a bridge and get a regular thoroughfare going with our technical support staff going out to the branches and call centres on a recurring basis, so they can improve both their understanding of the many steps of the process and also how they can collaborate better with the bank staff.

This should also work the other way as well, allowing bank staff to understand where the technical support staff are coming from and what may be influencing their ability to assist as well.

Support people need to be in their internal customers’ pockets , not just at the higher levels of management. I would like to see a couple of our technicians working from a branch for a few days, or from a call centre for a day or two a month, to see what it is like to “walk a mile in their shoes!”.

Banks are large complex environments, but I think if we bring in this as a ongoing culture change (as we have with other major changes successfully) we can make it work, with all the attendant benefits which smaller companies have in this respect.


4 responses to “The Reality Gap between Business and IT – Let’s build a bridge!

  1. Anastasia says:

    Interesting idea Robert.

    I’ve found trying to get technical staff out of their comfort zone and also out of their offices can take more than talk about collaboration and good customer service :).

    Do you have any ideas about how you could make your suggestion work in a larger organisation? Have you seen it work in other organisations?

  2. Ryan McKergow says:

    Completely agree with you Robert. There definitely needs to be a bridge built. After going to the Agile Concept Phase training yesterday, it really highlighted how important it is to have collaboration between business and IT from day one. Otherwise things get difficult and both have to play firefighting in order to keep eachother happy.

  3. Fiona Mullen says:

    Robert, this is a great blog. Coming from a Call Centre myself I understand the need to be able to walk in the shoes of the customer. And really how can you make change/ offer suggestions for improvement to our coal face if you dont get what they do 🙂

  4. Robert McDonald says:

    I think it can be made to work in a larger organisation.
    I think if there is good support from higher levels of management from both IT and the business, then you would get technical people volunteering, and then just build an ongoing process, and expand the base of people who participate month to month.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s