Changing Roles. Changing Rules.

Changing Roles. Changing Rules.

Even with common objectives, IT departments and business users can end up working against each other, resulting in bad feelings between them and dissatisfaction with the results. That’s because the IT and business sides of the house don’t see things the same way.

Consider what happens in investment firms:

Scenario A: Investment managers want reports that sort investments by their own criteria. IT provides ratings reports from Moody’s, S&P, Fitch, Duff and Phelps, and the like that don’t include some of the investment manager’s bonds. IT says the system’s standard reports won’t include those bonds.

Scenario B: Investment managers need reports that show accrued interest. The system shows only par value, market value, and book value. When investment managers ask to add accrued interest, IT says it can’t be added.

Scenario C: Investment managers oversee portfolios that include growing numbers of foreign investments. Their earned income reports don’t show the foreign exchange gain/loss. IT says adding foreign investments will take several months.

Investment departments have an enormous number of data elements to track. Those elements can change daily — ratings, book values, market values, realized gains and loses, deferred gains and losses, accounting changes, and more. What’s required is a system built to adapt to change and to make it possible for business people to get the information they need.

But IT departments are charged with controlling variables, which is at odds with the realities of the business people. To IT people, putting the reporting function in the hands of business people circumvents the change control process they’re responsible for maintaining.

What’s needed is a balanced approach to reconciling the needs of investment managers with the responsibilities of their IT departments; otherwise, frustrated investment managers are likely to create cumbersome and error-prone workarounds that only frustrate IT and create administrative nightmares.

Organizations are better served if they define their data requirements explicitly. Then, IT people can be responsible for acquiring and formatting that data. And business people can select the reports they want that contain the data they need. Such an arrangement requires a shifting of perspectives on the part of both parties: Business people could no longer expect IT to solve undefined problems for them. And IT people could no longer abdicate their responsibility to solve the operational problems of the business.

This shift in perspectives comes with challenges. In a perfect world, IT will commit to creating the necessary infrastructure to allow the business people to solve their own problems instead of solving them for them. And the business people would be diligent in defining their requirements for the IT people. But it’s not a perfect world. So, both parties must re-commit to their shared organizational objectives and meet each other halfway.

It’s not easy. If it were, everyone would do it.

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