How ethics applies to change management

Consider what you would do if you were the IT analyst assigned to decide the technology for the next update to your system. CIPS Code of ethics applies every time you make a design decision or recommendation. Here it has several implications that you have probably thought about and one that you probably do not do much soul searching about.

Most IT analysts would think of ethical implications like:

  • I can’t just give a flippant answer about which is better. Even if I have a gut reaction, I must research it and do analysis to give an opinion backed by reasons. I must demonstrate competence and quality of service.
  • Is one of the technology choices safer or more secure for the public? Is privacy at stake? I must protect the public from harm.
  • What does my client really want and need? Am I listening, discussing and explaining or am I just dictating what I think and refusing to consider other facts and opinions? My conduct must be respectful of other people.
  • Do I have investments in any of the companies being considered? I must reveal any conflict of interests.

This might not be the phrasing that most IT analysts would use, but most would ensure these concerns were addressed. A junior analyst might have trouble protecting the public if it conflicted with a major benefit to the company, but most would recognize the concern and escalate it as best they could. What most of us would miss would be our bias about change.

Change Management is studied in most organizations and there are even certifications for helping people deal with change. Our projects often cause the change and IT has learned to communicate better with our clients so they can adjust and make the most of the opportunity as the project intended. But we rarely think of it as it applies to ourselves.

You may not have any of your money invested in one of the pieces of software that is being considered, but you may have a considerable part of your life and your training invested in it. In fact, you are likely the expert in the current environment and that is why you were chosen to be on the team considering the alternatives. You must search your reasons for any choice you recommend and ensure your answer is an ethical one and you are not putting your personal interests ahead of the client.

You probably gave a much better estimate for the upgrade to the current system. You know that system well and the variance on that figure would be small. You know all the issues you have worked through on the current system and it is reasonable to expect a new piece of software would have all that and more. But it is your job to work through that again, if the new system provides functionality the client needs. Yes, you would go back to being a novice and would no longer be an expert. But if the business case says that is worth it to the company, you cannot block this change just so your job is easier and your knowledge stays relevant. Ask yourself if tweaking the old software is truly the better choice.

And if you are one of those people who craves change, be sure to ask yourself the opposite question. Does the client really need this software or do you just want a new toy to play with?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Donna Lindskog
Donna Lindskog
Donna Lindskog is an Information Systems Professional (retired) and has her Masters degree in Computer Science from the University of Regina. She has worked in the IT industry since 1978. Most of those years were at SaskTel where she progressed from Programmer, to Business Analyst, to Manager. At one point she had over 48 IT positions reporting to her and she has experience outside of IT managing Engineers. As a Relationship Manager, Donna worked with executive to define the IT Principles so departmental roles were defined. As the Resource Manager in the Corporate Program/Project Management Office, she introduced processes to get resources for corporate priorities. In 2003 she was given the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Technology.

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