The biggest enemy of many IT pros: bosses who bury their heads in the sand when it comes to technology, yet are still empowered to make critical IT decisions.
Businesspeople become the enemy when they refuse to acknowledge they have a role to play in how IT operates, says Daniel Teachey, senior director of marketing for data-quality specialists DataFlux. “Even if it’s something as simple as defining what the term ‘customer’ means to their business,” he says. “Data informs every action the business takes, and unless the business side takes some role in the management of data, IT will be left holding the bag and getting all the blame.”
Even worse, upper management types that don’t understand concepts like network security, yet override critical decisions of their network admins, says Randy Abrams, director of technical education for security vendor ESET.
“If you are in charge of network security but have no power to make decisions, then your job is to take the blame when things go wrong,” he adds.
The classic example: email attachments.
“Several years ago IT managers had an incredibly hard time getting management to allow them to block executable attachments in email,” says Abrams. “There was rarely a case when an executable file actually needed to be emailed, and the security advantages of blocking far outweighed the potential business costs of having these files blocked. Eventually the blocking of executables was built into Outlook, but it was a mindless battle of the clued vs. the powerful clueless for a long time.”
Recognizing the enemy: That glazed-over look when confronted with technical questions, or the moment they open their mouths, says Abrams.
“They tend to say no first without ever understanding the problem or seeing the trade-offs — even when the trade-offs are things that can ruin the business,” he says.
Your best defense: Seek air support from high command.
“You need a data governance plan that spans the entire organization, which means getting a CXO type to step in and say, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,'” says DataFlux’s Teachey. “They’re the only ones with the will, the persuasiveness, and most importantly the budget to get it done.”
But what if there’s no one to give support from above?
“Then you’re between a rock and a hard spot,” notes ESET’s Abrams. “The best you can do is hope to educate them. Figure out the best way to state your case so that it makes sense. Come up with a good analogy that’s relevant to them. Knowledge can be power, but only if it’s shared.”