Business is a Sport, You Need a Team

by Brian Katz on May 20, 2013 · 1 comment

Last weekend I had the good fortune to watch the FA Cup final on television. It’s the oldest football tournament in the world and consists of teams from the English Premier League down to 5 leagues below which can include some amateur teams. The final was played between Manchester City, a team that finished the season in 2nd place in the premier league against Wigan Athletic, a team that finished in 18th place and is therefore relegated to league below the EPL for next year. This was truly a final between a financial giant that had all of the expensive players, the average salary of a City player on the pitch during the final was above $16.5 million against a team whose total salary for the entire team was only $16.5 million. It was a terrific match and in the end, Wigan won the cup by a score of 1-0 and by far looked liked the best team on the pitch. Interestingly enough, this parable plays out at many companies today.

Team Of 8 Blue People Holding Up Connected Pieces To A ColorfulIt is quite common, especially as you get to large enterprises, that you look at established vendors who can provide you with all the tools that you need. They’ve built many of the tools themselves and the ones they didn’t have they acquired. It is quite common to look at companies such as BMC, Dell, HP, and IBM as the vendors of choice. They have quite a few different tools and they’re happy to upsell you on each one. The problem is, you have all of these premium products and many of them just don’t work well together. They may do just fine on their own. They can solve a bunch of problems in a specific area, but as MCFC demonstrated, unless you play like a team, it’s very hard to win the game. How often do you hear people bemoaning the way two products work together? “It’s like the two teams didn’t even talk to each other…” Many times they haven’t. There’s a reason why there are two different sales teams for the products even though it’s the same company.

This isn’t just an issue with buying products or services from one big company. The same thing can happen internally when 2 different products are bought by two separate IT teams to solve different problems. At some point you need them to work together and it becomes a nightmare trying to make the pieces fit. You build a great Active Directory infrastructure and you incorporate a Virtual Directory Service that isn’t compatible with the latest SSO tool that you have picked. You have a PKI infrastructure that isn’t compatible with your Enterprise Mobile Management tool either. Neither of them may have good APIs and it becomes a 6 month to a year struggle to figure out the best way to hook the two products together to achieve something that should have taken less than a week.

We see the same thing happen when the Business and IT don’t partner with each other. Many of the smaller vendors count on this. You see a company that is using SharePoint internally and then one business unit goes out and purchases Box so they can have access while mobile and then a second purchases Dropbox while a third decides to go in the SugarSync direction. This is all before IT even knows that it has happened. Now they have to figure out how to work with all of these different solutions because the Business and IT all forgot that they were working as a team, and they needed to partner to get the job done.

Technology is a team sport. It requires IT and the Business to work together to achieve goals. IT needs to stop saying no and trying to control everything and the Business needs to learn to let IT participate. It becomes a question of both groups sharing a common goal and understanding the needs to get there. It can be great for IT to have the best file sharing system in the world but if the Business doesn’t use it what do you have, a steaming pile of useless cow chips. It’s great that the Business picked 3 different file sharing systems, except for when the three divisions needed to share documents with each other and no one could figure out what to use. In the end, the business strategy is to be more productive and efficient while making more money. It’s a single goal that manifests itself in many different ways. The problem being, if you can’t play like a team, no matter how much you pay for the individual players,  you’ll never score and you’ll eventually lose the game.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Angela Lepadatu May 21, 2013 at 4:36 am

Great analogy! I think this is a problem coming inevitably from growing. When companies grow, it is difficult to keep things together and act like a single team. Enterprises are divided in departments, departments in groups, etc. and communication gets more difficult.

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