How to improve IT and make friends at the same time

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, the role of CIO was being questioned as one not earning the respect of the CEO.

One of the reasons cited in the article was because of the reporting line and how the IT function is viewed.  I touched on some of the reasons for IT’s position here. Gartner has been writing on the subject of how the CIO should be a key member of the board for the best part of a decade.  But, there is really little change in many organizations in that time. This is strange given that the information age is in full swing, and much of our competitive edge is locked in IT systems, and the data stored within their databases.

So, IT still has a bad name in the enterprise. It still causes problems. It still fails to deliver. It is still slow and cumbersome. It is still too expensive. It still rarely does what is required by the business. It still fails to keep its promise. You may object to these statements, but there are some in your own business who think this. We all know the problem, but what can we practically do to improve the situation? The people in IT need to show more leadership and not just moan about the situation they find themselves in. Here are 5 things that will help:

  1. Deliver something regularly. Anything to get things moving. Success breeds success, and delivering creates credibility and predictability. IT shouldn’t be the place where projects go to die anymore.
  2. Go faster. Automate things (you are IT). Automating is not a business case to be written, it is a fact of speed. Time is money, and IT departments that don’t automate build, test, deployment that can happen in a continuous manner are wasting time and money. Business is getting faster.
  3. Learn the business. Technology is changing the business in many industries. Economics are changing because of technology. IT-based people need to learn to speak as business people do in terms of brand, value proposition, economics and customer needs and wants (that is the real customer, not ‘the business’).
  4. Build Relationships. This is not something done by appointing a single representative in IT to be the ‘Business Relationship Manager’, it is by creating credibility, delivering results, adding value and knowing your subject matter better than anyone.
  5. Manage expectations. The amount of IT people I hear (and I used to be one of them) that say ‘We’re IT we can do anything, what do you want to achieve?’ is wrong. Some things are better NOT to be done with IT. Use the right tool for the right job. This is not about saying no to the business. No one likes that. Build a model that helps prioritise things together. Grow capability, go faster and build relationships in order to develop the quid pro quo required to get what you need from the business too.

I’m sure there are many other ways that your IT department could or should show leadership in the successful running of your business.  These are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling, but the key thing is that the people in IT need to do something and not remain subservient.

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