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Apart from her agent and possibly her entourage, there probably aren’t a lot of people who look at Katy Perry and say, “That’s a business!” But for a moment, I’m asking CIOs to treat the pop singer as a sort of metaphor for their corporate stakeholders.

By now, I imagine most people have at least heard about Perry’s Super Bowl half-time performance, even if they weren’t among the record-breaking crowd that watched it. More than the vocal theatrics or even the costumes, however, most of the commentary has revolved around one of two sharks who were dancing on either side of her. The one on the right seemed to have the choreography nailed, moving in sync with Perry at every moment in the song. The one now known as #LeftShark, on the other hand, seemed muddled, moving in an occasionally jerky and off-kilter rhythm all his own.

If you want an image of how many people in the enterprise see the results of an IT department’s efforts, this is it. In fact, although some have championed his do-your-own-thing approach to the half-time show, I’d suggest using Left Shark as a sort of internal symbol of what CIOs want to overcome in their digital transformation projects.

Right Shark sets expectations: Everybody noticed Left Shark in part because the one on the other side was performing so well. The same is true in enterprise IT. For all the failed or imperfectly deployed software and hardware, users know that there are at least a few things that tend to work well — often systems that have been in place for long periods of time. That makes their frustration all the more acute when half of the organization’s IT doesn’t quite have it together, because they see a more successful end state that had yet to come to pass.

The instant replay runs forever: Perry’s performance with the sharks is available on-demand across YouTube, and even in some animated GIFs that have certain moves happen over and over again. That’s nothing compared to the institutional memory of enterprise IT users, who will file away Left Shark-style foibles of the IT department and pass them on to future generations of staff to snicker at. It’s important to transcend those sometimes legendary escapades and refocus everyone’s attention on a more successful, Right Shark-style initiative.

The star of the show is overshadowed: Katy Perry is arguably one of the most high-profile names in the entertainment industry, but Left Shark’s celebrity is downright viral, and not in a good way. Unfortunately, Perry’s reputation will forever be associated with this incident, much in the way an IT failure can cast the business leaders of an organization in a bad light. The role of CIO is to ensure IT departments realize that even if they’re not dealing directly with customers on the front line, their work has front-line implications.

Here’s an exercise for you: What kind of Left Sharks are starting to surface in your IT organization, and how can you best shield your business leadership equivalent of Katy Perry from the potential damage? Whatever you do, it has to be something better than the title of one of Perry’s most popular songs: “Roar.”



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