In technology enabled disciplines we often like to divide an organization into two distinct parts being IT (Information Technology) and “the business”.
I am aware that we do that to emphasize that our solutions has to be business centric opposite to technology centric. We mustn’t fall into the trap of discussing technology too early and certainly not selecting certain technology brands as the first step of our solutions.
A problem however is where to find “the business” in an organization. The top management surely represents all of the business (including the IT part of the business). But in order to find the so called subject matter experts we are looking down the levels in the organization where people don’t belong to “the business” but to sales, marketing, customer service, purchase, production, human resources, finance and so on.
Some technology enabled disciplines belong to a certain department. But disciplines as (enterprise wide) data quality and master data management are supposed to support most departments. The business. So where do we find the business? And who are we by the way?
Assuming it doesn’t matter who we are: Let’s go find “the business”. I guess it doesn’t help calling the reception and ask them to put us through to “the business”. Actually the manned reception probably doesn’t exist today. And it will be surprising to get a machine asking:
- Do you want to speak with IT? Press 1.
- Do you want to speak with “the business”? Press 2.
If we are in my home country Denmark we also have a linguistic issue. If I ask google to translate “the business” from English to Danish I get the word “forretningen”. If I ask google to translate “forretningen” from Danish back to English I get the word “shop”. So calling “forretningen” will probably get me to the shop floor. Not a bad place, a true gemba, but maybe not the only one.
Everyone belongs to “the business”
In data quality and master data management there is a question used all over to exemplify a common challenge within these disciplines.
The question is: What is a customer?
The challenge is that people from different departments will have different definitions. Marketing defines a customer one way, sales tend to do it a bit different, finance sees it yet in another way and production has their view point. And the stereotype IT guy defines a customer as a row in the customer table.
So now we are asking for Alexander the Great from “the business” to come cutting the Gordian Knot.
That is probably not going to happen.
More likely someone from any business unit will be able to negotiate a proper conceptual solution covering all requirements from the different business units. And from what I see around it may often be someone who’s human resource master data record is related to the IT part of the business. Or was. The main point is having a holistic view of the business where everyone belongs.