Pregnancy and IT: The Father's View
by Tony Kontzer
A new IT-business alignment analogy came to me as I was reading Brian Watson's enlightening interview with FedEx CIO Rob Carter. Carter talks about how important it is for IT folks to truly understand the business, rather than "being an order taker and going back to the mysterious world of IT and having something pop out six months later."
The words "pop out" popped out at me. That's probably because my wife and I are on baby watch these days; something about a woman in her 40th week of pregnancy brings a certain weight to the words "pop out." And then it dawned on me that the whole birth process has undergone a transformation similar to that of IT-business alignment.
When my parents were expecting me in the mid-1960s, pregnancy was hardly a team sport. Sure, men were trying to get in on part of the act, with the first waves of brave souls joining their partners in the delivery room. But for the most part, birth was a mysterious process that men had a hard time grasping. Oh, they knew what was happening in the larger sense, but they were distant observers of the myriad changes the expectant mothers were experiencing over those magical 9 months.
In the decades since, the male role in birth has evolved to that of side-by-side partner, one who does his best to be clued into every nuance of what pregnancy brings, who has a feel for what the mom-to-be needs at any given moment, and who is prepared to do whatever's needed to ensure her comfort throughout the ordeal. And as this change has occurred, so, too, have the changes men go through during pregnancy been better understood.
Those changes, most of which are considered psychosomatic, but which can often become very real physical symptoms, have even been given a name: Couvade Syndrome. Ultimately, this change has given expectant parents the ability to make birth more of a team undertaking, one in which both partners play an integral role in ensuring a successful and rewarding experience.
Likewise, it wasn't long ago that the business functioned like an expectant father of the 1960s: It would deposit its requirements with the IT department, wait several months, and voila!, out popped a finished project that IT hoped the business could handle, and that business hoped would make life rewarding without making it too much harder.
But the recent evolution of IT-business alignment has repaired that disconnect. By looking ever closer at the potential benefits a closer relationship could yield, the two sides have grown to be better partners. The business has tried to learn more about how IT works and what it needs from the business to make its work easier. In turn, IT has opened its doors to the business, demystifying what it does, and trying to better understand how what it does affects the business.
Now, rather than IT going through the pain, and then feeling resentful when the business shows little appreciation for, or understanding of, what it's done for it, both sides feel equal responsibility for what results, and equal pride in each success.
In both cases--IT-business alignment and modern birth--the results are similar. Couples who bond during pregnancy and work together as a team to bring their child into the world are more likely to be equally invested in parenting decisions, increasing the child's chances for success. Likewise, the closer IT and the business work in pursuing projects that will deliver business value, the more likely they are to realize that value.
I don't expect that Carter had all of this in mind when he uttered the words "pop out," but you just never know.