In which Jill recounts the origins of her lifelong need for retail therapy.
I grew up the curious product of parents with very different backgrounds. My father, a third-generation Californian, majored in animal husbandry at Cal Poly. For my eleventh birthday, he bought me a horse, which we kept in our suburban backyard to the chagrin of our middle-class neighbors. My mother, a Canadian with a master’s degree and a big job in health care, appreciated the finer things, tolerating my dad-decreed 4-H club membership with remarkable sangfroid. Dad and I would spend Saturday mornings with my troop studying the conformation of dairy cattle. Then I’d decamp with my mother to Bullock’s Wilshire for shopping and tea.
This peaceful coexistence took a turn when my father and some other 4-H dads decided to castrate my horse in our front yard. My mother and our long-suffering neighbors—never mind the new gelding—were not amused. After a heated exchange between my parents, I found my father solemnly hosing horse blood off the driveway. I made a smart-ass kid remark about the post-argument symbolism of that. Thereafter, I had fewer 4-H stars on my white cap and a lot more clothes for school.
Memories of my parents’ dueling child-rearing philosophies evoke past experiences helping companies align business and IT around analytics programs. Business people complain that IT doesn’t understand how to solve their problems. IT, in turn, laments the lack of business engagement. “They don’t know what they don’t know,” one says about the other. Then, in a familiar matrimonial dance, the parties retreat to their comfort zones and do what they’ve always done, flummoxed about how to collaborate.
Some visionary companies are now changing the game by redefining business and IT partnerships. This involves more than convincing people to attend requirements meetings or formalizing rules of engagement. These companies are letting business strategies drive their project portfolios, joining forces to refine delivery approaches and spur (sorry, old habits die hard) innovation. They’re not only talking, they’re coming together as blended teams, revamping budgeting and delivery models in the process.
“We’re moving away from our traditional funding model where you have a business case and you try to justify it,” an executive at a major property and casualty insurer explained to me. “IT and the business are now pooling budget money to support discovery efforts. Our objective is no longer about having all the answers up-front. Instead, we want to deliver jointly and quickly, fail fast if we need to, and move to the next business problem.”
Redefining collaboration between business and IT means bringing people together in more innovative ways. Managers more likely to dispense with protracted in-person meetings in favor of using on-line social communities and automated workflow software, letting different organizations and remote workers participate fully. Job roles and work tasks are clearer and delivery times are tighter. Lifting lessons from the agile playbook, these companies make sure that outcomes are well-understood by all, and those who are closest to delivery have a say in the cost-benefit conversation. Projects are not only being delivered at a faster pace, but a greater percentage of them meet requirements and are delivered on time.
The only constant in life is change. These days, Bullock’s Wilshire is a library and the 4-H Club has expanded its mission beyond livestock. My horse is long gone, but I imagine he’d have wanted a say in the cost-benefit conversation too, if he’d had a say.