International data corportation surveyed 283 top executives across three vertical industries: finance, manufacturing, and retail/wholesale. They found "a strong correlation between the effectiveness of the IT department (IS organization) and the relationship between the CIO and the CEO. "We suspect taht this relationship, if it is close, permits the CIO to develop the IT department (IS organization) into a service that delivers competitive advantage for the company, thus enhancing the careers of every IT professional in the organization." In other words, "a certain amount of mutual esteem will help IT (IS) function as a business partner." In terms of alignment, sound relationships between IT and the business become even more important. Boar (1994) states that aligning with anything other than the customer leads to momentary success. For the IT function to achieve a state of alignment with the business, it must align with the businses scope, and through that business scope enable all business functions and processes to serve the customers in a superior manner.
It End-User Relationships: Historical Foundations
For many years, the culture gap between IT departments and their end users has been characterized by unfortunate differences like distrust, scepticism, and cynicism. This situation impacts negatively on the relationship of IT departments with their end users, and as such on their ability to produce service and support of high quality.
Historically, the gap was caused mainly by the difference in management culture, as well as human behaviour problems on both sides. Umbaugh (1991) states in his argumentation of organizational imbalances that too often IT exists as an adjunct to the organization and not as an integral part of the whole. This situation unfortunately still exists today and contributes to the so-called culture gap between IT departments and their end users. Du Plooy (1995) explains this gap as follows:
...the ‘culture gap’ should be understood as a gap of misunderstanding in the sense of two different organizational ‘cultures’ that, according to Grindley, coexist in most organizations. The two cultures under discussion here are the ‘culture’ of the IT profession and the ‘culture’ of the rest of the organization.
The culture on both the IT department and the business side is also an important obstacle in building mutual trust, and eventually in building sound relationships between IT and its end-user environment, and as such in creating alignment between IT and the business. According to Moad (1994), the IT professional has been fighting for recognition and relevance at the CEO level for the last 25 years. He gives many examples illustrating the kind of culture that exists, which could be described as the main reason for misunderstandings and misconceptions about IT amongst today’s end users.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Holistic Nature of an IT-End User Relationship: The important elements making up a relationship between an IT professional and its end user(s) at a given time should be organized together as a whole. If any of these elements are disturbed in a negative sense, the whole relationship between the IT professional the end user(s) is under-mined. In other words, the relationship as a whole is more than the sum of its elements.
Social Dimension of an IT-End User Relationship: Refers to all the elements in the abstract dimensions. Each of these elements plays a specific social role in an IT-end user relationship environment, which impacts on the soundness of such a relationship as well as the success of alignment between IT and the business.
Commitment: A state of mind that holds people and organizations in the line of behaviour. It encompasses psychological forces that bind an individual to an action.
IT-End User Relationship: A relationship between IT and the end user consists of two dimensions, namely a physical dimension and an abstract dimension. The physical dimension describes those elements that are necessary in order to enable contact between IT and its end users, whereas the abstract dimension describes the soft issues of a relationship.