Your answer will determine how effective your organisation can be in serving your customers.
The answer of course should be "partner." In the words of Susan, "IT only has one customer — and that is the customer who buys the company's products and services." Serving this customer requires an effective IT-business partnership to find win-win solutions that can be sustained and return optimal value over the long-term.
I suggest business leaders who answered "customer" are not:
- Treating IT as an organisational asset and considering the needs of all stakeholders to find win-win solutions that enhance, rather than undermine, this asset
- Involving IT early enough in planning and decision making so that business and IT plans and resources can be aligned (supporting point 1 by doing the right things the right way)
- Wanting to commit their very busy staff and resources to ensure successful outcomes but prefer to commit very busy IT staff (all resources are over stretched due to point 2)
- Accepting accountability for the outcome of this approach - it is easier to transfer the responsibility for the business case and risks to IT (also the blame when it doesn't work, which is common due to points 1-3)
Meanwhile business leaders are engaging with IT how they were 50 years ago and expecting a different result.
"The onus for strengthening the IT-business partnership is on line leaders...IT has done pretty much everything they know how to do. Unless business leaders commit to forging a better partnership with IT, whatever IT is today, it will still be tomorrow."See Susan's blog, Can the IT-Business Marriage Be Saved? for more on this.
Susan closes with the even more important and challenging question for business leaders: "What are you doing to forge a productive partnership with IT?"