When I first started working at this company, ISS was the traditional ivory tower from the 1950s. Analysts analyzed, programmers never saw the light of day and outside of the analysts, no one ever spoke with the customer (customer being defined as anybody who used ISS services, whether internal or not). ISS was also isolated from the business with all the members sitting in one area.
The group I joined (outside of ISS) was formed in the business to counter those problems. We sat in the middle of the business and, therefore, were intimately involved in what was happening. If only through osmosis our understanding of the business far exceeded the 'professionals' in ISS.
Now, virtually all of us are part of IT and, once again, removed from the business. However, a lot of the current members of IT were involved with the business directly over the years so the relationships are closer and the communication lines more open.
As a rule, the friendlier and more open the lines of communication between IT and the business, the better the quality of work performed by both. There is plenty of side conversation and, at least in years past, more business was accomplished on the stoop over a smoke than ever happened in a conference room or anywhere else. And those get-togethers were NOT limited to smokers.
The same is true within IT. As an example, our group maintains very close ties with the network support folks, frequently stopping by just to chat for a moment or two. It makes a huge difference when your a** is in a sling and you need some help, or when you are planning a roll out and need some help figuring out port assignments or you are simply curious about the network configuration and why it works the way it does.
Whatever the approach, Steve is right that while they may be viewed as inefficient, those side conversations, et cetera, are many times the most valuable pieces of communication that occur within a company simply because they build and cement personal relationships. And if you think about it, the same could be said to apply to this forum...
Buy the ticket, take the ride. -- Hunter S. Thompson