business-IT relationship

Behave yourself – the business-IT relationship

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The Model Train-set Syndrome

Guerrilla IT

I conducted two pre-conference workshops about ‘Guerrilla IT’ at the itSMF Norway annual event in March 2015. The idea for Guerrilla IT emerged in conversations with itSMF Norway’s Sofi Fahlberg at a conference in 2014. We spoke about people feeling the need to make relatively low key and informal individual contributions to improving ITSM, possibly under corporate radar. And that’s when I coined the term Guerrilla IT. Then before I knew it, I had committed to delivering a workshop about it ad the Business-IT relationship in the new Service Bazaar format!

A major part of the workshops was spent exploring the kind of behaviour that contributes to getting more value from IT investments. The participants were split up into 2 groups of 4-5 people each. One group was tasked with taking the position of the business and thinking about the kind of behaviour that IT people should exhibit in their dealings with the business, and the other group took the IT perspective and discussed the desired behaviour from business people. This exercise resulting in 19 description of desired behaviour.


I started off doing this behaviour part of the workshop in 2013 and have compiled and summarized the results, fine-tuning them from time to time as new insights emerge. The findings are categorized in three sections: (1) behaviour that applies to business people and IT people in an enterprise in equal measure; (2) IT-related behaviour that effective business people exhibit; (3) behaviour that you observe in effective IT people.


  • The enterprise fosters a culture in which business and IT have an ongoing dialogue, share a joint vision, have mature conversations, and strike balances

Business people

  • Specify outcomes rather than solutions
  • Articulate needs clearly
  • Set priorities and take decisions
  • Understand IT’s capabilities and limitations

IT people

  • Understand business processes and outcomes, and the impact of IT
  • Talk about benefits, costs and risks, not systems and features
  • Proactively suggest innovations to the business
  • Replace ‘technical’ SLA’s by simple, honest and meaningful reporting

Changing Behaviour 

The burning question, of course, is how you achieve a change in behaviour. This is why I asked the participants to think about which factors drive behaviour. Their main findings were: understanding the consequences of their actions, belief that change might be for the better of the enterprise and customers, a common goal or enemy), likelihood of personal benefit, urgency, a ‘half-full’ attitude, and KPIs that are effective rather than those than invite contra-productive behaviour.

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Mark Smalley, also known as The IT Paradigmologist, thinks, writes and speaks extensively about IT 'paradigms' – in other words our changing perspectives on IT. His current interests are the digital enterprise, IT operating models, value of IT, business-IT relationships, co-creation of value, multidisciplinary collaboration, working with complexity, and as the overarching theme, management of information systems in general. Mark is an IT Management Consultant at Smalley.IT and Ambassador at the ASL BiSL Foundation. Mark has spoken at 100+ events in 20+ countries.