Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ten Symptoms/Root Causes of Poorly-Run IT Department

IT needs to not only look at symptoms but also dig through root causes.

The majority of IT organizations today still stick to reactive mode, and at the lower level of maturity. What are obviously telltale indicators of a poorly run IT Department or a department with poor IT Leadership?

1.  IT Leadership: Lack of Thought Leadership

    • Lack of Thought leaders and do not like change: IT leaders and personnel must be thought leaders constantly evaluating options to improve productivity and performance within the organization and then they must be able to bring their ideas to fruition in a timely cost-effective manner. Without having a strong vision and the ability to drive the department towards it, the Head of IT is only an order taker rather than a leader,  causing misconceptions and measurable errors in various areas of his/her responsibility
    • There's a difficult hole to climb out of misunderstanding: It starts with repairing the relationship with business decision-makers. The conversation has to move away from "How much does IT cost?" towards "How can we use IT to improve innovation, competitive advantage, agility, etc.?" Failure to deliver value in the eyes of the internal and external customers is a failure of IT leadership and a failure of whomever the CIO reports to.

  2.  Strategy: Lack of a Communicated Strategic Vision

 IT departments with an outdated roadmap: It does not truly align with business objectives. IT does not understand the business' life cycle and plans accordingly. There was no compelling vision or set of strategies that the IT group could follow.

  IT shows that communication is poor to non-existent. Reactive: Too often, IT is closed in their communications and is seen as a black box. Open and honest lines of communication can help any situation. No vision, mission, goals, or objectives other than what the business has handed them.

3.  People: The Un-satisfaction of Staff, Customers or Partners

Many IT groups have a US and THEM mentality: Is your team proud of what they do? Is there pride in their work? Do they feel like they're part of the company? and it's driven by IT management. There is no them, we are them. We have the ability to create an amazing experience, deliver simple, effective, productive and profitable technology.

Client Satisfaction from low to hostile. Vendors don't enjoy working in the account. Everyone seems to respond to requests, issues, etc., in a defensive manner. An unhealthy mix of employees, vendors, and contracts.

4. Process: Lack of Continuous Process Improvement 

The absence of improvement (plans) could serve as the main indicator of complacent IT. Usually, the root cause is a lack of alignment with business (needs), but it may also indicate an organization-wide problem

Heroes - if there are heroes, there is firefighting. Always a fire to fight, and a culture that rewards or idolizes the firefighters. Firefighting is a clear indicator and could be reflective of poor time management or very little measured (no KPIs), very little documented (every group has their own process). Constantly in trouble and at odds with Audit.

The other key sign is an IT department that is not involved closely with the business part of the organization. Inconsistent approach to processes and procedures and/or does not distinguish between a PMP and an SDLC. Lack of policy and governance procedures that define processes. Such as operational problems reported first by the C-Level executives or by end-users/clients. The IT Group does not have a process focus or defined/consistent processes for how they manage or perform project work or basic business services,

5. Silo Design and Technology for its Own Sake

Dated & Silos of technical knowledge & Lack of Resilience in Design. Every project is handcrafted to suit a specific need. Little thought on resiliency or reuse in the design of things to avoid reinventing wheels. Little rationalization & optimization.

Engineers or architects are focused on the technology only: and engage in individual projects - versus propelling architecture in the direction to capture more or new business (spend their time configuring servers and databases versus aligning architecture to exceed business goals)

6. IT Performance with Lower Maturity

Failure to do the fundamentals right: such as customer service, responsiveness, and reliable operations or very obviously it has poor performance statistics. Operational service level performance is relative to expected and minimum levels. The problem also exists in a scenario where the business implement small or large scale application themselves 

Failure to reflect business value: If the company feels IT is disconnected and brings no value, you have failed. Is the IT shop a cost center or a strategic partner? Once you have gotten past these indicators, then you can focus on delivery metrics and operational metrics.

7. Ineffective Metrics

    Another sign of a poorly run IT department is the way in which the business leaders choose to measure them: If their targets and measures are focused purely on controlling the cost of IT, then the group has failed to show the business value that IT brings. This can lead to a lack of trust from the business towards IT and continuous questioning of "what are you spending my money on?"

  • Four different ways to do IT metrics wrong.
-Measure the right things badly.
-Measure the wrong things, either well or badly.
-Neglect to measure something important.
-Extend measures to individual employees

   8. High Failure Rate in IT Project Delivery

  • Lack of track record of project delivery (relative to schedule, budget, and value) and the project is not defined specifically, measurably, consistently and dynamically, to reflect the continuous change 
  • Failure to adopt and adhere to a suitable project methodology. Using a waterfall in an organization where the business has an agile mentality leads to failure. Using Agile without a full sense of the overall plan/roadmap leads to failure. If you have a sound methodology, and it is actually followed, then it is much harder for a project to "fail"

  9. Poor IT Budget Alignment

  • “Keep the Light On” budget is still high, a low percentage of the budget goes to innovation: Spending on IT maintenance and mandatory changes for legal and compliance reasons will remain stubbornly high, at 67% of total IT spending. And the IT budgeting process at most companies still looks like the same old exercise in containing IT costs. What percentage of your IT budget goes to innovation, how much going to the maintenance
  • Lack of Agile governance for IT Budgeting: How good governance, like budgets, can flex to changing business needs when emerging technology such as Cloud and Mobile become the business catalyst, governance has to move at that same pace. You can’t have a nimble governance and resource allocation process with a governance team that meets twice a year.

   10. Short-Sighted Talent Strategy

  • High attrition: Employees are openly negative to each other, outsiders, etc: Hires only technical people and few resources with business knowledge, the best IT team should always have well-mixed strength, skills, cognizance, and experience.
  • The hiring of subordinate staff who are less talented than you are ... this is short-term in perceived "benefits" (shorter time to fill the vacancy, lower total compensation, etc.), but very problematic over the long haul. (much lower rate of mobility, the peter principle, etc.)
IT needs to not only look at symptoms but also dig through root causes. It takes visionary leadership, solid governance process, talented people and the latest technology to climb up maturity and build up a high-performance IT in achieving premium business value.


As we all know the PMBOK® Guide is the global standard for project management. It provides fundamental practices needed to achieve organizational results and excellence in the practice of project management. I also took my PMP Classes from PMstudy. You can have a look at their offerings.

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