8 things execs hate about IT - HBR Blog

. Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I recently read this really good article by Susan Cramm in HBR blog on '8 things execs hate about IT. This article highlights the key issues we learn about in any IT strategy course in a business school.

1. IT limits managers' authority: IT's bureaucratic processes rival the tax code in complexity. When challenged, IT justifies red tape as necessary because the business makes half-baked requests and is clueless about enterprise impact.

2. Consists of condescending techies who don’t listen: The CIO may be impressive, but he or she is also totally unavailable. When you have questions, your only option is someone a few rungs down, who lacks the breadth of expertise to advise senior executives. The irony is, these “techies” often feel just as frustrated by managers who treat them like servant-genies.

3. Doesn’t understand the true needs of the business: IT nags you for requirements and complains that you always change your mind about what you want from your systems. Why doesn’t IT understand that change should be expected in a dynamic business environment where nothing is static?

4. Proposes “deluxe” when “good enough” will do: Your “simple” request requires a boatload of specialists and weeks (if not months) of analysis. Yet you wanted a timely, cost-effective solution, not an expensive panacea.

5. IT projects never end: It’s not just that IT projects are never completed on time…it’s that they never feel completed at all. They’re perennially 90% done. "Finished" projects don't have the agreed-to functionality.

6. Is reactive rather than proactive: When you need help, you feel like a technology pauper, going door-to-door begging for help from functional specialists who complain that you didn’t get them involved early enough.

7. Doesn’t support innovation: When you try to brainstorm with IT about new technologies you could use to innovate – like 2.0 tools, for instance – they patronize you by dismissing your questions and noting that your people aren’t properly using the systems already in place.

8. IT never has good news: No matter how much you spend or how hard you work, the promise of technology seems perpetually beyond your reach. Even the “successful” launch of new systems is accompanied with the inevitable onslaught of bugs, crashes, and change requests.

While the article makes IT organizations appear like inflexible, bureaucratic organizations, no other division in any organization has an enterprise level reach like IT. And from there flows the constant tussle between IT and business. With the role of IT becoming more involved in different business units, I believe that some of the following steps can help organizations have better IT departments:
1. Know thy role: The IT team must know if they are going to be equal partners, revenue generators or support functions in an organization. Every person, manager and leader in the IT organization must primarily know the role of IT in the larger scheme of things.
2. View the profitability of IT divisions, rather than its costs: In most of the articles that I have read, leaders and organizations often talk about IT spending. I think that a better alternative is measuring the profitability of IT organizations. Irrespective of the role that IT plays in the larger scheme of things, it must be able to earn revenues from the other divisions in the business. This will result in BU's being more selective in putting forth their IT requests, and IT teams becoming more accountable for their deliverables.
3. Clear Organization Structure: From my current job search experience, I have felt that most firms do not have a lean IT organization that have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. I think it is important for firms to outline a clear organization structure and roles.
4. Integrated approach to projects: In most businesses whose core competency is not IT, most IT projects are viewed as technology issues rather than developing an integrated IT services model, where emphasis is given to integrating a new solution with the existing IT infrastructure. This can result in lots of 'blank spaces' between multiple 'support points' or rather, a spaghetti architecture. Eventually, these organizations feel the need to integrate their IT solutions, and the more delayed this process is, the more difficult (read as expensive) it becomes to untangle this mess.

The purpose of IT teams is to support businesses in their operations. But effective support requires clarity in terms of organization structure, processes and how the IT organization is viewed within the organization.

0 points of view: