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Be All You Can Be to the Business

    "Be or become the expert -- and if you can't become it, at least know it."

This is a great philosophy, one that just about anybody in any walk of life would do well by embracing. Alas, I can't lay claim to originating it. But I have remembered it months after hearing it, a fact I feel stands as a testament to the power in the message (rather than my capacity of recall).

Back in March, during a user panel discussion at Enterprise Connect 2015, Darrius Jones, executive director of emerging capabilities at USAA, told attendees that IT and business users within his company share this "be or become" mantra. At the time, the refrain struck me as one that undoubtedly would jibe with the experiences of many of Jones' enterprise peers in the audience -- and so it stuck with me.

Darrius Jones, USAA

For example, during that EC panel discussion, we learned from Jones that the folks handling the contact center from a communications perspective have had to get "less technical and more oriented to the business."

Honing business acumen has been a priority, so that those contact center technical managers understand the impact of their technology decisions on operations and the bottom line, Jones said. "That's never been a core competency of groups I've belonged to or in groups outside of our industry."

At USAA, the business imperative has led to the creation of a "community effect," Jones said. "We're not a voice channel organization. We're a community that consists of technologists and business partners."

And consider what another user participant on that panel, Bob Galovic, vice president, IT Delivery Network Services at Marriott International, told us about how he views the data networking role.

"Heads-down network engineer types" used to fulfill data network job requirements -- but not today, he said. "Now it's like you have to be a little bit of an architect and a little bit of an engineer, a little bit of a project manager and a program manager -- and you have to know this business really, really well."

The idea that IT needs to understand the needs of and better align with the business certainly isn't new or novel. In fact, it's been a persistent theme for years, if not decades. But when marketing can spin up a cloud contact center in a flash to meet the needs of a campaign that just got super hot, or when a project manager can download a freemium app to facilitate collaboration, well, IT-business alignment moves from idea to imperative rather quickly.

Rest assured, if IT isn't working at understanding the business, the business is working at understanding IT. It may not want to be IT, at least not over the long term, but in the short term it'll grab what it needs from the cloud or download an app in an instant if that's the quickest way to meet its needs. Even for USAA, which I would say seems to be thinking along the right lines in terms of its becoming an expert for the business, it sounds like some tension between IT and the business persists.

That's because, from a business requirements standpoint, it's "absolutely paramount" that lines of business invest in communications, Jones said. "Every single business partner we have has an assigned resource that understands what the capabilities of the communications platform is, and how it applies to their business." Sometimes this results in a tug of war, "but we work to come up with the best application and the best opportunity."

Looking ahead to Enterprise Connect 2016, helping enterprise communications managers understand how best to meet business needs will be very much on our agenda. If you have ideas to share, let us know!

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