Thursday, May 26, 2016

"CIO Master" Book Tuning XXXVIIII: Three IT Management Dilemmas

Dealing with IT Management dilemmas is about how to leverage, balance, innovate, and improve overall IT and business maturity.

Managing a highly effective IT is not an easy job, and improving IT maturity is even harder. IT leaders have to avoid a lot of pitfalls, overcome many change management roadblocks, and deal with quite a few of IT management dilemmas in transforming IT from a cost center to value creator, from a support function to a strategic business partner and innovation engine. Here are three IT management dilemmas.  

Customer dilemma: Running a customer-centric IT organization is the goal, but are customers always right? IT has always gone through the dilemma of "customers are always right" vs. "rational approach in designing a solution." Customers are always demanding, and IT is already overloading. So what’s the right attitude in the face of such customer dilemma?  If IT always sees this as two conflicting forces pulling in opposite directions, you are most likely to get caught and always fall short of business and customer expectations. Instead of just taking the order, IT should turn on the ‘debugging mindset’ to do a root cause analysis. Get the customer to focus on the root cause and get away from a preconceived solution if you believe that the proposed solution is not the optimized solution for both the company and the customer. Discover what is at the heart of the problem, and suggest the solutions that will benefit the customer, the company and the overall direction of IT. Being customer-centric doesn’t mean IT should just take the order blindly, do what customers ask to do without the doubt. Instead, IT needs to play as an advisor role in solving the problems more creatively, holistically and intellectually.

Talent dilemma: Shall you invest your people? What happens if you invest in developing and training the people and then they leave? What happens if you don’t invest and they stay? IT skills gap is not a fiction, but a reality. With the digital dynamic and volatility of the economy, talented people flow around more frequently. There’s no doubt, organizations need to treat their people as human capital to invest in, but not necessarily through traditional approach, talent managers can leverage tailored leadership and talent development approach, as well as informal training to ensure you have a digital workforce with updated knowledge and skills, also build a culture of learning and improve employee engagement. Because employees without the right skills or not at their best performance levels will impact the quality of their work -not only win new and repeat businesses, but also meet or exceed customer expectations. Therefore, you should develop your employees so that they can leave, but you should also treat them in a way that they wouldn't want to. As the old saying goes, people do not quit the job, they quit the bad bosses. It is the responsibility of the leadership to maintain and identify the needs of their employees. Influencing people and understanding to catering their needs are the great qualities of the leaders. Develop the collective workforce capabilities so that they can do more for your organization. If you have these abilities, you can certainly know the right person to be trained and retained for the people-centric organization.
Agile Dilemma: Are managers happy, developers are unhappy or the other way around, if the organization applies Agile methodology? Agile is an emergent methodology to manage IT teams and projects, also a philosophy to run today’s digital organization. Can Agile make everyone - both management and development team happier, or only make one party happier, and the other one less happy? Compared to traditional Waterfall methodology, will Agile help to improve team productivity, management effectiveness, and product quality? When applying in an effective way, Agile makes the team happier, because it provides more freedom and autonomy for them to explore, make changes as needed, get things done without too many hassles, and deliver value much earlier. The result-driven managers should also be happier if they do not get stuck with “status quo” or micromanagement, and they should enjoy moving up the level of agile management discipline. The point is that the managers and the team need to have the Agile mindset before they work on a project. That is the biggest miss found in some organizations who say they are Agile, indeed, they only “do agile - take some agile practices,” without clarifying the set of agile principles and cultivating the agile culture to “Being agile.” The very meaning of Agile philosophy is to set the guidelines and build more productive and happy working environment for both individuals and teams; for both engineers and managers, with the result to bring happy customers as well.

Fundamentally, these are all IT’s innovation dilemma, to overcome silo thinking, drive changes and improvement, discover the root causes of the problems and pursue the better way to solving them, innovate IT management discipline, grow creative workforce, and improve IT maturity from functioning (keep the lights on), to firm (deliver service on time and budget,) to delight (customer satisfaction and employee engagement.)


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