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Changing IT to BT with BPM

Appian Contributor
October 18, 2011

I recently gave my "Business Process Management 101" talk at a meeting of the National Credit Business Exchange. The audience was eager to learn about a new approach to software and peppered me with questions, showing their excitement and enthusiasm. But I noticed the enthusiasm waning in my discussions with the group after my talk as reality quickly set in. The reason for the decline is exemplified in the comment I got from one attendee.

The words this person used were powerful and telling. But I got more from their body language which showed the excitement I had generated ended up bringing back painful memories. I knew right then and there that they wouldn't even bring this to their IT department leader and a chance for their company to gain a competitive advantage was lost.

I wonder what this person's CEO would have thought if they had been a fly on the wall for this conversation. How did we get here?

I recognized that I suddenly had a front row seat in the battle for "business and IT alignment." Achieving that alignment is a nearly perennial topic. It's been around long enough that it has its own acronym ñ "BITA." Every business has a mission and all groups within the company should be working to support it. Working towards the same goal should foster natural BITA. But it so often doesn't happen as my story above illustrates. The reasons why this happens are many, which I'll save for a future post. Right now I want to cut to the chase and outline what I see as the best solution. It rests with one simple key. Let's abolish the phrase "information technology department." Every company should rename it the "business technology group." In short, "IT" should now be "BT."

Radical? Not really. When IT is its own department with a special name, the group develops a life of its own. IT begins to think about what's best for itself, not necessarily what's best for the business. The rapid death of enthusiasm I witnessed after my presentation stems from that. Business leaders have to have their technology staffs totally focused on the innovation they can drive and how fast they can make it happen. Let's marry them back up with their business counterparts and remind them of their purpose, highlighted with the new name.

Here's just one example of what can happen when we empower business leaders to more directly control how they make technology work for them. It's a tweet from Connie Moore, a noted business process management (BPM) analyst at Forrester Research.

Connie relays how Appian's BPM software allowed a business leader at Starbucks to bypass an IT bottleneck. Not only does this attest to the power of Appian's software, it shows how we can be a point of transformation. Because of this experience there are now people at Starbucks who think differently and ask what's possible with business technology (BT) instead of assuming that information technology (IT) challenges will prevent their innovations from happening.

Is this a threat to existing IT departments? Actually, it's just the opposite. IT departments are threatened now. Delays in delivering new systems and mounting frustrations from the rest of the business only raise the threat level. Traditional coding continues to move off-shore. But if we move to BT, information technology people get the chance to tie themselves closer to the business and get a seat at the table where they can craft strategy, drive innovation and agility, and help improve their company's ability to compete. With a "BT" perspective, IT leaders should gain the courage to pull the plug on troubled projects that aren't likely to deliver results. In an "IT" world, that's a visible failure, but in a "BT" world, that's a tough, but smart decision.

So no more "IT", it's time for "BT." That's what I'm going to be telling every CEO I know. This is a seemingly minor change, but one that can have huge impact. The status quo is literally taking energy out of some of our most driven, creative, and committed employees. Let's clear this roadblock and watch what they can do for our businesses. And just imagine what those driven and creative employees can do with Appian's mobile BPM and social BPM capabilities.

Evan McDonnell

Vice President of Solutions

Evan McDonnell