I recently posted an answer to the age-old question of the great divide between IT and the business, almost to the extent of being like a Dilbert comic. Why is that, the poster asked. Here’s what I wrote.

The age-old scenario of IT vs. the Business, to me, is driven by company culture. The symptoms stem from the organization and hierarchy of the company itself, the org chart. Even after all we’ve learned about the makeup of successful companies having the flexibility and adaptability to thrive in an era of networked, speed-of-light change, businesses still embrace old, outdated models that in my mind encourage this kind of divisiveness.

Whether it’s business vs. IT or marketing vs. operations or any other scenario, you have opposing sides are in a predefined position on the playing field, already set up to treat what they do as a sacred cow and defend it to the death — thinking that the other cannot possibly grasp the complexity of their world. The following joke, to me, is sadly illustrative:

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost. He reduces height and spots a man down below. He lowers the balloon further and shouts: “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”

The man below says: “yes you’re in a hot air balloon, hovering 30 feet above this field.”

“You must work in Information Technology” says the balloonist.

“I do” replies the man. “How did you know.”

“Well” says the balloonist, “everything you have told me is technically correct, but it’s no use to anyone.”

The man below says “you must work in business.”

“I do” replies the balloonist, “but how did you know?”

“Well”, says the man, “you don’t know where you are, or where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”

This is an old stereotype, but the organizational models most companies embrace encourage the division. How? Projects are usually tagged as either a “business” project or an “IT” project, and that’s a mistake to begin with. The “or” should be replaced with an “and”. When companies set up this kind of us vs. them environment where one side is in a position to overrule the other, the results will never serve either side properly.

The typical line of thinking in business seems to be that those with the money make the rules. I think that should be changed to “those with the most knowledge and experience across all related subject areas make the rules.” And I will bet you my paycheck that that team is comprised of people across BOTH the business and IT disciplines.

Organizational change is damn hard and it takes time. Progress comes in inches. But these walls must be torn down. Any company that does not learn to collaborate across these bullshit boundaries will eventually go the way of the dinosaur. If you’re paying attention you’ll see the evidence.

Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. It isn’t any more difficult than that.