Tension with suits a fact of IT life

They are refrains that would inevitably be heard throughout corporate hallways, boardrooms and offices: “IT doesn’t understand business!” and “The suits don’t know a mouse from a motherboard!”

No doubt you’ve heard these or similar outbursts at some point in the recent past, as IT has begun to take a larger role in the mission-critical strategies that keep a business going. With most enterprises completely dependent on the health of their computing infrastructures, IT managers and CIOs are playing increasingly important roles in the direction of their companies.

The new reality has not arisen without its fair share of friction, however. CEOs and other executive leadership types, in general, today understand the importance of IT and accept that those whose responsibility it is to manage it must have a louder voice in determining the company’s direction.

This does not mean, however, that they have nearly as firm a grasp as their IS underlings when it comes to technology — often nowhere near it. Nor should they. Their primary task is to make sure all the pieces of the organization are working together in relative harmony to ensure success. There must be a basic knowledge of each cog in the wheel, but the leader doesn’t have to be an expert in any.

That works fine when it comes to comparably static divisions such as accounting or human resources. With tech, however, things are always changing; gigantic concepts that require years of financial buy-in are common. For the CEO, a naturally daunting topic becomes that much more incomprehensible when this state of flux is factored in.

From IT’s point of view, simple concepts and what seem to be bright ideas are often either frowned upon or met with blank stares of incomprehension, to be shuffled away into file folders forever with toothy smiles and slaps on the back.

Tensions grow and tempers flare. Often, the two camps exist in a tense, though productive, atmosphere.

The reality is that such tension exists between all departments and the executive level in most companies, and always will between IT and management. The firms that are most successful, however, will be those that recognize it and handle it the most professionally.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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