Why Business Hates IT

This is a very real scenario that occurred this week.  Names and companies have been removed to protect the innocent(?); apart from that, the content posted by each party is verbatim.


Change the design of the “Contact Us” Page : mock up sent, live demo seen, easy for business users to do and maintain.  Business part of a bigger team full of IT people, so shows IT the design.

“Don’t you just love the contacts page?????  Pleeeeeeeeeeeze can we do this …. All we have to be able to do is open the page in Designer and add an image with hotspots”.


“Very cool creative brief. I’m all for it as long as we document each page layout and make sure we understand the technical requirements. Also, we haven’t done the visual upgrade either so we need to take into consideration what is required from the product before we go and deploy the new layout. Do you have wireframes to match the design? How much of it requires CSS?  My suggestion would be to relook at the components that make up the site first, as there’s still a lot of customization from 2007 that has been brought over. We definitely need to get the site up to proper standards, seeing as we still “living in” 2007 mode here. Something to consider as well is the MetroUI.  Anyhow, just my 2cents – awesome stuff. Its a new take on what the possibilities could be. We definitely have to go down this avenue”.

“Do it, do it, do it. I thought the site would be done by now ;-).  Personally, what ever it is, I wouldnt spend too much time on it, it is not as if this is the cornerstone. I would rather spend time making the in person meetings more attractive.  But if someone has the time (I certainly don’t), and would like to play around, I say GO FOR IT. You can make the pages hidden if you worried about their appearance until they go live.”


“This doesn’t require any special developments. All we need is a blank page that we can edit in designer to add the hyperlinks in and funk up the contacts page a bit”.


“It looks like there would be 7 individual page layouts unless you doing it differently. Also note that the site, in its current manifestation uses custom code to display some of the information. In 2007, CKS was used to handle all the login’s and surfacing some of the info. There’s also a custom blog aggregating app that is used as well. If it was OOB SP2010 then yes, by all means, open up SPD and go to town but in this case, its not that simple.  We would need to know what is involved in putting together the mock-up’s using SPD in order to understand what you mean by “doesn’t require any special developments”. Once in place, when an update is required to the layout and or artwork, i’m assuming it would require some form of design, which would require more than just opening SPD and adding hyperlinks?  We would need to standardize on css and take into consideration typical prime font issues people may incur using multiple browsers, etc.  My biggest concern is around the artwork. If one of the contacts wanted to add a new line item to the mock-up, we would need the someone to create the artwork for the link seeing as you mentioned that its all hyperlinks behind an image. Do we have a designer on call that would be able to produce the imagery required. Will we always have to request the addition from the designer, etc.

Added to that, we need to know what is behind each hyperlink, hence the me wanting to see what the wireframes look like and also have it documented accordingly. Not all the mockups self explanatory.  Apologies for being anal but we need to uphold the brand and when we do change the site, we need to insure that there’s minimal complications during the rollout.


“Ok, never mind”.

I.T.   (going to a different business user, not the to the one that requested the change) 

“I really like the design.  Can I suggest you create the actuall mock up on a dev site, I can supply one if needed, and we can then see what is required to go live with this design?”


“You people are unbelievable……………………………………………. Epic fail!”


“To add my few cents here, I’ve worked  on SharePoint User Interface design for one of my clients, so I can give some feedback – the technique used was blogged.  Wire-framing the suggested Design of the site won’t be necessary, as it works relatively quickly, and can have several iterations prior to go-live.  The User Interface re-design can be made accessible via private URL’s to us until we are in agreement, prior to making it Public.  Yes, the pages are “static” and won’t update when we change SP elements (without changing the artwork) so this is best suited for relatively static content. Re the “custom code to display some of the information”:  Yes we will need to know where this is the case, as these can’t be replaced by the Page redesigns.  Re the ‘need to know what is behind each hyperlink’ : As I understand the presentation is an “example” of what is possible, with no actual links, they were simply throwing around ideas.  My suggestion is we first need to agree on the Site’s Theme / Branding, i.e. how professional / informal / funky, and then that will allow certain colours / graphics / CSS options.  Also critical is what the new Navigation and Site Structure should look like, rather than the exact technical aspects of how to achieve this.  This will then allow us to decide on which Pages require the new touch.  In summary, I’m in total support of redesigning our Site, where it makes sense.  I agree with the request for having a meeting / telecon, anyone?”


“I think its high time that we look at a total overhaul as we moved the old site as is across to 2010. No point in just changing the frontend, we will need to do a complete visual upgrade.  Lets start with a Dev environment so that we can build the features we want, test the UI and any additional components we need/want and once we happy, we can port it across to the live site over a weekend.  Dude, can you provision a WebApp for us?”

“I agree.  By the way, for the links with the different pictures, why not rather use a picture library and add in a URL column with a workflow that automatically assign a picture if you do not include one, then we could create a view that is a picture with a link which can redirect to the correct place. It would mean that we can still add as many new links as we want and upload a new photo, but we do it into a Picture Library instead of a link list.  I would also recommend creating some separate sites templates for each branch, as it would allow each branch the flexibility of having their own content that is specific to them, but still being under the umbrella of the site.  Maybe we should create a Wiki as a scratchpad on the site and use that to put in our ideas on, then we could use this to brainstorm.  I hope that these ideas add value or help in some way.”

“We could use CQ and xsl to pull images from a list with the referencing hyperlinks.  Lets get the dev environment up and we can take it from there.”

“I would wait for SharePoint 2013 beta.”

“Looks like Q3 release for beta though. It would be cool if the first vNext Internet facing site was us.”


“I didn’t know that a simple request would be blown sooo out of proportion!”


All business wanted was to change the design of one ‘contact us’ page. The names in that page have only changed 5 times in 5 years. Not once did IT even try and understand exactly how the change would work and what business wanted to achieve with it; the mock up was the wireframe.  The site was a publishing site template so could have stayed in draft mode till tested and approved.

IT decides the right solution to the requirement is to rebuild and redesign the entire SharePoint environment and possibly wait for the new version of SharePoint first.  What would have taken at most 1 hour to design and implement; and 10 minutes to maintain with changes in future, has turned into a monster project not even close to what business requested.  Result …


  1. Hi Abid; yes there are absolutely two sides to the coin – it’s a very complex subject that seems to have little solution – which is disheartening. There is fault of both sides, for sure.


  2. Theres certainly two sides of the coin. I myself am an IT Techie but its often frustating when Business dont understand the underlying system and seem to throw any request at you. With a great assumption that you have a magic wand and it will all work. I understand this particular blogpost and comments but really ive often found is the bridge. Business needs to know what can be done out of the box and what cant before assuming everything is possible out of the box.


  3. Hi Doug,

    What a great reply, thank you so much for taking the time to do that. You are indeed a rare techie!

    I know it’s sad. It’s such a long standing war that is just so heartbreaking. Like you, I have been on a serious quest for 5 years now to bridge the gap between business and IT – but after all this time, I honestly think it’s just getting worse. No matter what we try, it just doesn’t change, I can’t understand it and it really upsets me. One of my business colleagues this week said, “V, don’t get upset; they live in a different world and they will never understand ours, just accept it”. One simple sentence that is just so true. But why????

    There are the rare techies out there like you and a (very) few others I know personally, who are moving Heaven and earth to truly try and meet business half way – and we thank our lucky stars for them! You have no idea what a difference you make. IT thinks business people are idiots, it gets said all the time, and business people know it. But business people are certainly Not idiots and don’t appreciate being treated as such, using big words to pull the wool over our eyes and laughing behind our backs – yes, we see you. Do they really think we don’t check what they’re saying is right?

    Business people are getting more and more technology savvy, and more importantly, building vast networks of very smart people that can lift mist for them. How much longer can IT still get away with this kind of behaviour? I’m not saying business is perfect, because they aren’t; requests can be vague and keep changing, we know that; but it’s no reason to have such a huge divide between us. Even I won’t dare to go to any of the techies in my network to ask certain questions because they just make me feel so stupid! Or they launch into endless hardcore technical waffle when I ask for a non technical answer. With all the hundreds of people I know, there are only 3 that I trust to help me without degrading me. One in my country, two on the other side of the world. What does that say about the IT industry, the SharePoint industry?

    It’s awesome that you have a manifesto. I don’t know the background to your world there, but if you really wanted that manifest to be top notch and put your money where your mouth is, you’d change the order of it. The first principle is delivering software, but collaboration and understanding are only being talked about. To truly bridge the gap; the first principle should be “listening very carefully to what the customer is saying, letting them finish before suggesting a solution, repeating the requirement back to them to ensure it has been understood correctly”, then delivering valuable software.

    In this blog, the entire incident could have been avoided if the request was read properly, or a simple email sent asking for clarification to ensure it has been understood. In this case, quite literally not reading one sentence and letting egos get in the way sabotaged the entire initiative and drove a very damaging wedge between the teams – all which could have been prevented.


  4. Veronique. This is sad. Very sad. But it happens way too often. IT does not, will not, or doesn’t care to understand what the business really wants. I am a developer. And I hope that I have never ever done anything even remotely like what occured in this situation.

    Recently, I spoke at the Twin Cities SharePoint Saturday about Agile Development in SharePoint. While I covered a lot of different material throughout the presentation, one of the key points that kept coming up over and over again was the first principle behind the Agile Manifesto: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. We also talked about collaboration and the importance of not only working frequently and continuously working with the customer but also understanding their needs.

    IT need to change. We provide a service. We provide that service to customers. Our customers may be internal or they may be external to the organization. Regardless, they are our customers. As such, we have to listen and seek to understand our customer’s needs. Then we have to deliver on them. The lack of even rudimentary customer skills is epidemic in certain areas of IT.

    This is a passion of mine. This is something I want to change. Thanks for writing this post and sharing your experiences. Hopefully, it will gain some traction and help raise awareness of the problem.

    Doug Hemminger


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