Sunday, July 14, 2013

Why is IT so Reluctant to Look at itself?

IT is core to most parts of the business and must, therefore, be visible and present.

With the rate of change is accelerated, it’s very important for contemporary organizations to continually do “self-reflection’ upon the business effectiveness, process efficiency, strength and risks, culture and brand etc. IT is a critical component of the business, commonly IT self-evaluation ability is a reflection on overall business culture within the whole organization. Some say IT is so reluctant to look at itself, is it true?


1. Self-Evaluation is Tough Both for IT or Any Function

Self-evaluation is hard due to ego, culture, process, budget, and other management issues, more specifically:

  • It is really no different than any other functional area or department - ego: Regardless of function, especially have they been in a position for a longer period of time, are afraid to know the "actual state" - this goes for all organizations and functions. It is so much easier to look at what someone else may need to change than to look inward.  People all like positive feedback but negative criticism is sometimes harder to take. 
  • IT often suffers from overload: lack of resource managing delivery including supporting process development projects in other parts of the company and sometimes no time left selling the idea about investing in their own processes.  
  • One key difference is funding any IT changes: You can sell departmental, infrastructural, and operational changes to department heads and board members with a relatively low level of pain. When you try to sell changes in IT, you need to prepare for some serious pain. The general perception is, "why do I need to spend money on that? After all, you have been successful in supporting all company initiatives" 
  • There has to be a catalyst for that introspective review regardless of the organization: IT has very few such catalysts. Major structural IT changes are rarely an option since they would require significant corporate changes. It may not be objective to think IT does not want to effect changes upon itself, there are just not many chances to do so, in the corporate world. 
  • Selling IT process improvements is relatively easy only when it is within the CIO's own budget authority: Once you cross that line, it is not easy and it shouldn’t be. As a CIO, you can get a lot done within your budgetary authority, but to effect corporate-wide changes requires approval, after a thorough review, anytime the budget or risks are sufficiently high, that’s the level needed for approval and that approval does not come easy, and it shouldn't.

2. A Forward-Looking IT Seeks to Improve Itself & its Processes 

Majority of IT organizations indeed seek opportunities to improve itself, to practice Covey's philosophy: "Seek to understand before you seek to be understood." -The eagerness to get our point across and our need to be right is a disadvantage to open communications. The truth is that the "IT Gap" - where people in IT had all the IT answers - is well and truly closed and we now simply deal with business issues that we need to be a part of it.




There are a few steps IT can take to improve perception of IT:

1) Regular updates on projects: no matter how small, the IT update needs to be shared to ALL levels of the business. Create your own press. 

2) Practice Agile: One of the ways to change the culture within IT is to implement and lead Agile practices, which force retrospectives and continual improvement. While it takes a while to do this and change the culture within IT, in the long term you can gain huge benefits.

3) Change Management - if your project delivers a new feature set, business process or anything else - place your people at the center of this and ensure it falls inline with the way they work today. What training can you offer? How are you going to ensure that the value you promised is realized if nobody uses it? Continue to collect feedback from customers upon IT performance and attitude.

4) Walk the Halls - IT is core to most parts of the business and must, therefore, be visible and present. Meet the key operational people, see how they work, ask open questions, what can you do to make their life easier? Showing that you truly understand the business and what is required to deliver value will create the "trust".

5) Be flexible: The best approach is to incorporate a bit of many different methods and remain flexible in an inflexible environment. Many times, the strict, "religious-like", adherence to any one method is neither wise nor effective.

6) It is all about personnel and management: Most of IT organizations have the intention to improve itself, regardless of methodology, it’s also management practice and personnel management.

7) Best catalysts for IT changes: Reality dictates that IT can take advantage of opportunities available by working on other corporate projects. That simply means you can squeeze small changes into IT through the projects you work on. Those are the best catalysts for IT change.







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