You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. - Inigo Montoya, The Princess BrideIn a meeting today at a client, people were talking continuously about how the IT organization and business have to improve their collaboration. The business feels a considerable amount of pain about the lack of collaboration with IT, and IT in turn is feeling some pain collaborating with the business during a transition to Agile.
The problem is, though, that what these people are saying is collaboration isn't really what they think it is. Get together for a meeting, come to some decisions, write up some action items and go away to do some more work until the next meeting. All good stuff, right? Sure, and there's communication going on and people were working together. But is it the type of collaboration that's required to create a true partnership between business and IT? No.
Someone at this same meeting talked about how business was the Customer and the IT group served them. That doesn't sound like collaboration to me. It's a model for doing business, but it's quite deficient with respect to the delivery of systems.
What's required is Embedded Collaboration. There is no functional separation of business and IT on a project - they are living and working together, breathing the same air, meeting at the same water coolers. I worked in this model from 1992 to 1994 at a government client (see Agile Circa 1988), and at a smaller scale in earlier work. Having the development team located in the same physical space as the business it supports is an immensely powerful way to promote and support the level of collaboration required.
I'm interested to hear about other organizations that have used this model. Is it universally good? Are there hidden challenges?