Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three Reasons Why IT Doesn’t Get Respected

Today IT is so integral to the business that you are part of the business. 

IT seems to be always at the paradoxical position, on one hand, technology is omnipresent, touch every corner of the enterprise, on the other hand, many IT organizations earn very little respect from business peers, why, and how to turn around? 

1.   Lack of Cultural Readiness & Emphatic Communication 

     CIOs should not be fighters for the IT team vs. the rest of the organization. Bad communication between IT heads and top management. This misalignment of targets and concepts between two distant worlds and languages can create important risks to the business, and lack of respect for IT might be a co-product of this issue. Respect - in general, not for IT in particular - needs to be gained in the field by mean of the simple but good ingredient such as innovation, effectiveness, also communicate them smoothly. 
     Understanding the business with empathy: Usually, that psychosis is due to the fact that most people don’t understand IT and feel helpless because they are so dependent on it. Empathize with the user and understand that their frustration is with the technology not with the IT person. IT needs to train people to listen closely to what the user is saying. To reflect back their understanding of what the user is saying and gets feedback that they confirm. 

     Attitude Matter: IT does not get much respect because a lot of the people associated with the IT function (including the CIO sometimes) are not good at asking questions. Many IT specialists feel that they should tell/assert when asking/probing is often much more influential. Why IT stands out from other functions in this regard. It might be because of the way we train and develop IT specialists.

 The wrong people: Choosing the wrong individual for crucial roles on both sides of the fence. In some situations, interpersonal skills could be more important than technical understanding, otherwise, businesses don't understand the ideas (usually a symptom of excessive "geek speak") or even they understand the ideas but they don't see a connection to value (a symptom of not taking the time to connect the value dots).

     Leadership Influence: If IT isn't influential in an organization’s direction because there is a lack of integration and appreciation in whole or in part to a lack of common understanding. And "influence" dimension relates to IT leaders, as they should be the arbitrators and are probably the only people qualified to be so because they are the only ones who can really understand both worlds- the IT and the non-IT. 

2.    Lack of Clear Strategy & Achievable Goals 

We are facing uncertain times. In order to succeed in today’s highly competitive, challenging and volatile marketplace, a business needs to stand out from the crowd. Most businesses are looking at a total re-imagination of how technology can be embraced and used for competitive advantage. If IT doesn’t get respected, it could because:

  • Lack of strategy: IT strategy needs to be an integral part of business strategy. If the strategic objectives of the arrangement for both business & IT are not clear at the outset, no amount of management effort will make the partnering relationship successful. Today technology is so integral to the business that you are part of the business. If not, then make yourself so.
  • IT is seen as a necessary evil, not a strategic partner: What needs to happen at a CIO level is for IT to be seen as a crucial and positive business advantage and then IT will sit at the right level. It is when IT is seen as a necessary evil that attitudes need to change. This is not easy to do and requires a lot of work at all levels of IT. The CIO should be the expert adviser on how to solve a problem using technology, ideally through in-depth knowledge of both technology and business function/ requirements 
  • The symptom of weak IT leaders who don't act like business peers: Businesses have so little respect for (or awareness of) the IT leader that it simply doesn't cross their mind the IT leader may have something valuable to share, also, they don't believe IT leaders understand their world so they don't have time to listen to ideas as they expect it won't be relevant for addressing their specific pain points and opportunities (symptom of IT leaders not spending enough time learning the business at a fairly deep level). CIOs have been portrayed as transactional IT manager, rather than transformational business leaders and strategist. 
  • The goals are not clear and achievable: If so, the organization may not be ready to work in new ways or to be able to change in a short time. The well-communicated, clear-defined goals can help IT gain business respect. With such a volatile global marketplace, it’s time to consider how the business and IT can work together to make IT a differentiator between being mid-range or top of your game. It’s time for IT to make the leap from functional (Gartner level 1) or enabler (level 2) to transform (level 5), working with the business to create a new leaner business model. A leap that will see IT working together with the business to build a stronger business, a business based on performance, growth, and agility.

3. Inadequate Performance Measurement 

  • Measure the wrong things: The level at which services are currently provided, or the baseline from which improvements can be measured, is crucial to the way in which IT performance will be assessed.  Measure IT performance through the benchmark which can reflect IT value to the business, not only for the bottom line but also for top-line growth. 

  • Fail to meet customers' expectation: Criticism and lack of respect, even if comfortably disguised as about "IT in general" is more often than not about an actual poorly performing project, or failing infrastructure or poor leadership. In the same way, when people call the CFO a cost-cutting bean counter they are really criticizing something fundamental in his/her implemented operations or strategy rather than about the Finance function. When the business doesn't believe IT can deliver on promises so why to bother wasting time listening to ideas that won't be delivered in practice 
  • Negative customer experiences: One of the big hurdles IT has to overcome is to neglect the very negative effects when people have IT problems. People naturally and unconsciously seem to blame the guy/gal trying to fix the issue for the problem. This creates a very negative experience for all concerned, to help turn what could be a negative experience into a positive one helps IT to be seen in a positive light.      
IT is facing challenges and opportunities. Whether it's a challenge or an opportunity depends on the relationship between the business and IT. It's a challenge if the business and IT don't work as a whole. It's an opportunity if the business and IT work together, IT professionals need to add value - it's just as much attitude, confidence, and willingness as aptitude, strategy, and performance. IT today has a finger in every pie that the organization has. It's omnipresent and either venerated or hated, but the influence of IT cannot be underrated.


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