line of business it department relationship
By Brad Powell

In a blog post last month, I broke down the three reasons that the line of business and IT departments at many credit unions can't get on the same page. Those reasons can be summed up as:

  • The vastly differing level of detail each side offers and expects when discussing a project;
  • The different ways the two organizations define the desired results of a given project; and
  • A difference in the language each side uses when talking about technology.

Given that these differences exist, the next logical question is "How can a credit union solve them?" 

What follows are my suggestions on fixing each element of the disconnect between the line of business and IT:

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line of business IT conflict
By Brad Powell

When I speak with line of business leaders at credit unions, it's not uncommon to hear them say things like, "My IT shop is really hard to work with."

And when I speak with the IT department at credit unions, I often hear them say, "You know, the line of business doesn't really understand the complexities of what we have to do."

Sometimes, I share this observation with people I meet from other industries. They almost always shake their head and say, "I know, that's how it is at our company as well."

So it's clear to me that credit unions are not alone when it comes to the perceived misalignment between the line of business and IT organizations.

The good news is that the root of the problem can be explained easily, broken down into three simple parts:

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By Brad Powell

"Those dweebs in IT don't understand our business area."

- Executive handling a major line of business at a mid-sized bank

"Yeah, but those starched shirts don't understand technology."

- Response from the information technology manager

Those aren't actual quotes -- but they are representative of comments Scott Sommer, the president and CEO of Cornerstone Advisors, says he hears from many financial institutions these days.

Sommer blogged about these attitudes yesterday on Cornerstone's Gonzo Banker blog. In the post, he pointed out a fundamental divide between executives running various lines of business and the IT group that ostensibly supports their efforts to modernize.

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In the late 1980s and early 1990s, no baseball team won as much as the Oakland A's. Their roster was headlined by superstars such as Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Dennis Eckersley, and they played in three consecutive World Series.

The A's also led the league in player salaries. But in the mid-90s, that changed.

A new ownership group took over in 1995 and slashed payroll. The superstars all left, leaving the team's leadership with some tough choices:

"What will we do without X?" and "How can we compete?"

As big banks spend millions on customer-facing computing software, gobble up online customers and continue to shift customer expectations, many credit union execs may feel the same way when considering their software options.

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A vendor-client relationship is just that, a relationship. And all relationships require open and honest communication.

How does that develop between vendors and clients? It starts with the vendors themselves – and more often than not, the vendors that have the best relationships inside their own organization end up with the best relationships with outside clients.

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Are IT professionals falling behind? As a recent report from Foote Partners noted, pay among IT professionals has fallen during the recession, even as competition for talent has become more and more fierce. That's counter-intuitive. Falling pay would suggest an overabundance of qualified workers. So why is the right talent so hard to find? And if we're so pressed to find talent, why are we paying IT professional LESS?

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In a recent interview with Computerworld Magazine, Foote Partners CEO David Foote explained how government statistics dramatically under-report the number of IT workers in America today. But the question isn't who is an IT worker, but: who isn't?

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It's hard to miss all of the news stories about identity theft these days. Stolen laptops, misplaced backup tapes, hacked web sites-we hear about them all the time. Have you thought about how your company protects its customers and employees from identity theft?

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