IT Needs To Grow Up

I've been in the IT business for a long time, and a prevailing theme I have heard since I can remember, is the desire to deliver increased business value – and how we can best “align IT with the business”. In many cases however, a rationalization or “excuse” if you will, to this almost evangelical profession of unmet business needs and harnessing of IT “potential” is the backdrop of rhetoric, about how “the business” just needs to be more like US. I am sure you have heard it. “If only the business was more process oriented.” “If only the users took the time to use the tools we gave them “properly”, we wouldn't have all the issues we do.” “If only they used the system the way it was designed…after all the requirements came from THEM!!”Yes, I am an IT Professional. And yes, I once also probably said, or more likely “thought” something similar. I am here now however, saying that yes, IT you need to GROW UP!

Now of course, I am painting things with a broad brush – and there are many examples of IT Organizations who have ″Grown Up” thank you very much. Much like the boy in the picture however, in many cases, there is still a lot of growing left to do. So now that I′ve probably rumpled some feathers, it is time to explain myself. Throughout this week, I will look at the different dynamics at play, which ultimately affect IT’s ability to solve real business problems, talking through many of the “levers” you need to start manipulating, whether you are an IT leader in charge of a small team or a CIO responsible for an enterprise, right down to the individual IT associate, and what YOU should be doing (and in some cases NOT doing) if you are going to deliver the value expected from you and your IT organization.Since I have started things on a “less than serious foot”, I will follow through in this post with a “Top 5 Signs Your IT Department May Need To Grow Up”.#5 – How Do I Matter?Does *everyone* on your IT team understand how what they do each and every day ties to the company vision, strategy, balanced scorecard or key initiatives? Can they explain what success in their current projects, activities or deployments will mean to their customers? The fact is, if members on your team do not understand their connection and cannot explain why what they do is important to their customers in a meaningful way, how can you be sure you are solving real business problems? Or if the problem you are solving is still what your customer needs to be solved?#4 – IT gets called when there is a problem. Problem Solving is what we do bestSo you are reading this thinking, what is this guy’s problem? What is wrong with that? I’ll tell you what is wrong with it – that may be the way IT was best described in the past, but that is not what today’s solution toting, value-added business partner of an IT Organization needs to be viewed as. You need to be at the table long before anyone has even mentioned IT. A key competency of a high performing IT team is their ability to detect synergies or opportunities to leverage IT tools, skillsets or systems that may be available, when presented with a situation or issue by their customers. You do not want your customers to try and figure out how you can help them…you want to let them know how YOU think YOU can add value. The shift to this services model has all kinds of implications – some of which will be touched on throughout the week. But make no mistake, it is a shift that is required, and if you are not already making the move…you have some catching up to do!#3 – A successful deployment means it has been successfully moved to ProductionI love this one. Not because I think anyone in your IT department would actually agree with this statement…to your face anyway. But seriously, most IT professionals would protest vehemently, and point to training, documentation and lots of other “IT GoodNess” that is done specifically to ensure that the end-user community derives the benefit of the solution. The problem is, in many cases validation of business value and beneft “post implementation” are often not done – or if they are, there is often a lack of mechanisms deployed to ensure that systems and processes keep running “as intended”. Unless your customers think it is a success, guess what, it isn’t a success, so stop saying it is.#2 – Continuous Improvement? Sure, that’s what I do. Methodologies? Who needs ’em…There is a term with Japanese origins called muda which refers to activity that is wasteful and does not add value. If your IT team has not started aligning their activity and building competencies in some form of CI framework, whether it be 6 sigma, lean, or something internally developed, they are likely not delivering the type of value or business benefit that is possible when a culture of Business Process Improvement exists within your IT team.#1 – You sound like such a “user” – You have to be more like “US” I like calling this the “US vs. THEM” mentality. The IT team that ’only moves in packs’ through the user community for fear of being confronted and “pulled into” some issue that they rather not deal with right now. Or the belief that the path to all things good begins and ends with IT, and anyone not on that path, just doesn’t get it.There is no US or THEM, it’s WE. They are not “users” that just do not understand how significant the impact of the Star Trek franchise is almost everything we take for granted today. They are your “customers” and if anything, you need to become more like THEM. Being intimidated by you is not a good thing. Making them feel like they are asking “user, i.e. dumb” questions does not increase your power, but diminishes it. If technology is hard, it IS up to you to make it easier. If your customer does not understand how to use it properly, it IS your obligation to figure out why that is and if you in fact, can help.To solve real business problems, you need to understand your customer’s business and be seen as a solution partner, not as part of the “technology problemthey have. To understand the business, you have to accept the fact that it is up to you to learn the business. Don’t waste your customers valuable time trying to figure out how to approach and talk to you, surprise them and maybe have lunch in that cafeteria that you see so little of. Spend your time demystifying technology for your customers, and spend their time helping demystify their world to you.Are you ready to grow up?? Let me know if you are already on your way!Looking forward to the week ahead and your commens and feedback!

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