When a concept gets a name and a set of backers, it becomes real. So it is with the newly minted term "technology business management" (TBM). The term is being promoted by the TBM Council, which describes its mission thusly: "TBM provides a practical, applied discipline for maximizing the value of the IT investment portfolio by enabling technology leaders and their business partners to collaborate on business aligned decisions."
In a basic sense, the idea is a solid one. For too long IT has been sequestered in the organization and has been unable (for internal and external reasons) to get pride of place in corporations, despite the fact that organizations increasingly rely on IT for even the most basic of functions.
The notion of IT/business alignment is meant to raise IT's profile within the company, and it's been a key topic of discussion for the 15 years I've been associated with the IT industry (and speaking to IT pros and IT managers). Unfortunately, even after all this time, IT/business alignment causes consternation and hand-wringing. I continue to see IT being castigated by "the business."
I also see a vast chasm between the perceived culture of IT and the culture of the business. These perceptions include notions that IT isn't connected to the customer, that IT is caught up in the power-game of governance, and that IT folks are a breed apart, more "geeky" than "business minded."
The perceptual divide between IT and the business is destructive because of what I call the IT-Business Singularity-- namely, that there is no business without IT (in the formal economy).
[IT and business integration is essential, but it isn't the only such effort afoot. The DevOps movement aims to align the developer and operations teams within IT. Get a primer on DevOps with the slideshow “8 Things You Should Know About DevOps.”]
Which brings us back to TBM and its relative merits--in which I am a strong believer. It's not that the concepts are new or that business/IT alignment is a particularly innovative idea; however, we've seen very little progress. That's why I welcome the work of the TBM Council and its well-heeled backers. The group's board of directors includes some high-profile executives, including the CIOs from Facebook, Cisco, Clorox and other brand-name organizations.
TBM is not only a conceptual framework but also offers a set of tools to create transparency and collaboration between IT and other parts of the business. The breakthrough here is not one of ideas, but one of execution because the tools finally exist for IT and business to converge not only in words and spirit but by through a transparent process of shared planning, shared growth and shared action.
Perusing the TBM Council's website, though, I do have one basic suggestion--with very few exceptions, all participants appear to be CIOs or equivalents. TBM will really come to life when CEOs, CMOs and others realize that TBM is about them just as much as it's about IT.
The time has come for the concepts contained in TBM to crystallize and become "operationalized" in the company. In the absence of clear technology-business alignment, goal sharing and transparency, IT will continue to be the most important part of the business not given a full seat at the table. So what's your best next step? If you are an IT pro, invite a marketer, a finance person, a sales person and an operations person to your next team meeting. Talk through your goals and find simple ways to collaborate. Crawl, walk or run--any speed is fine as long as you start the process today.