While it’s the job of Business Technology to provide tools and processes that make it more efficient for lines of business (LOBs) to do their work, it’s also up to line of business to lay out their tool preferences (if any) as well as their objectives so that systems leaders are clear on how this will fit into their ecosystem and can weigh expectations against current capabilities.

This was the topic of the final session at Biz Systems Magic, the first and only conference for business technology leaders. Moderated by Natasha Irani, business systems lead at Veeva, the panel comprised a diverse set of lines of business leaders – including Saad Shaikh (head of revenue ops at BigPanda), Michele O’Connor (chief accounting officer at Veeva), Frederik Hermann (senior director, marketing at BirdEye), and Saumya Chopra (global people ops lead at Square) – who spoke about the importance of building partnerships between IT and lines of business and offered best practices on how to maintain strong relationships. 

Building a Partnership Model With Business Technology and LOBs 

From left to right: Moderator Natasha Irani of Veeva, Saad Shaikh of BigPanda, Michele O’Connor of Veeva, Frederik Hermann of BirdEye, and Saumya Chopra of Square discuss what it’s like for lines of business teams to work with business systems during a panel at the Biz Systems Magic conference on Aug. 27, 2019, in San Francisco.

Shaikh emphasized the importance having LOB and systems teams work together from the start to ensure things run smoothly when it comes to adoption. “When you have a 5,000-person sales team that moves pretty fast, you want to make sure that your processes move pretty fast and that you take the right steps proactively to ensure their tools are up and running,” Shaikh said. “It’s not good for the sales team, it’s not good for us if we lay out a tool that doesn’t account for the things we need, so it’s helpful to have this professional [team] here that knows the inside and out of systems very well.”  

Hermann echoed his sentiments. “At BirdEye, a heavily sales-driven company, we want to talk about what we can do better,” he said. “I’ve had experiences where, in hindsight [on the marketing side], we should’ve involved sales and business systems in the whole process and not then ask to better understand the implications and impact on the rest of the business.”

“What [business systems teams] are working on requires a deep understanding of the entire tech stack in order to filter projects in. So it’s helpful to involve each other much earlier in the process, to be able to make the right decisions faster.”

A member of the audience asks the LOB panel a question at the Biz Systems Magic conference on Aug. 27, 2019, in San Francisco.

Following Hermann, O’Connor said it’s instrumental to clearly identify your use case first as well as whom else in the business is going to be impacted. “Is it a financial only application or is it far reaching on finance? We reach out to our peers, we talk to our network group,” O’Connor said of how systems work at Veeva. “We learn about what sort of the best-of-breed [apps] are out there as well as the lesser known ones just to see if that would meet our needs.” 

“Once we get down that path,” she added, “then we do always engage IT. It’s really a no brainer for us because I can think all day about what my needs are in terms of finance applications and what I want it to do features and functionality wise, but I have less knowledge about security and how to integrate with my other applications. So I get far enough down the path and think, ‘OK, I have some ideas. Let’s go talk to Natasha [moderator of the panel and Veeva’s head of business systems], let’s pull them in, let’s start the dialogue.’” 

Chopra said the process at Square is similar to Veeva’s. “We definitely have an initial evaluation of what we need and try to loop in our technical teams as early on in the process as possible. It’s very, very important to know what technical capabilities exist and what they can support and what they can’t,” she said. “Otherwise, you may end up in a non-ideal state.”

How to Measure Success With Business Systems 

All panel members also emphasized the importance of measuring success with business systems teams and how feedback drives this innovation. Hermann at BirdEye mentioned attending weekly meetings with business systems, seeing all their pending “big asks” and making sure any changes you need are included on their list. Shaikh at BigPanda mentioned establishing OKRs or anywhere up to 40 targets that teams could clearly identify and work with. O’Connor at Veeva mentioned actually pinning company values to the wall during business-critical app adoptions and seeing if your outcomes match those objectives. 

Having worked in both and IT and ops, Chopra at Square understands why complete visibility throughout adoption is key. “Having been [in IT], I know what we tried to do is provide visibility into the work and I think as a business partner now, it helps me understand what the workload is like and why they know some things and don’t know others, or what things might have come in the way of that visibility into each other’s work. And having those ongoing conversations to circumvent those issues really helps.”

How Partnering With Business Technology Improves Your Company’s Future

In the end, everyone agreed that partnerships between Business Technology and lines of business ultimately breed innovation and success, which can only mean good things for the company, efficiency and profit-wise. “Having an aligned view that we’re all marching towards the same goal and we’re in it together is important here,” O’Connor said. “It’s sort of like a rah rah team. You’re not on the finance team or IT, you’re on the Veeva team,” said O’Connor of how they realize it at her company.

“We’re all getting after the same thing and as long as everybody has that same mindset and we’re aligned to the same goals, you’ll get a good relationship as an outcome — and I think it’s the trust and the respect and the willingness to be open with each other that helps get you there.”

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Pamela Seaton
About Pamela Seaton

Pamela is a journalist and technology enthusiast writing for the growing business systems community.