Wednesday, November 6, 2013

CIO as "Chief Insight Officer": Is IT Management a Science or an Art?

It is science from a learning perspective and art in implementing what you learned in combination with other skills.

IT management success directly impacts the organization’s bottom line efficiency and top-line growth, especially large, complex IT-led business initiatives, which have a very low success rate to reach customer expectations. So what’re the root causes, and is IT management science or art?

The management of IT is based on your leadership skills and styles, which is more of an art, but it is based on a scientific methodology as well
: IT management has put a baseline set of definitions, rules, typically a methodology, a schedule to follow and work products to develop. CIOs and IT Managers must assess the situation constantly and be able to get tasks done with the proper leadership style for that institution. IT management is both art and science as it’s complimentary by skills, experience, competencies, and capacities.

Part science, part art, often creative, always professional and occasionally magical, that’s what IT management is: IT management requires the ability to think through and solve problems is being the paramount requirement in IT Management. They have to demonstrate the experience of delivering value on time and to budget, be able to demonstrate that they can think out of the box and adapt where necessary. IT management is science from the learning perspective and art in implementing what you learned in combination with other skills. Now place that knowledge in the hands of professional IT managers who become intimate with the practices, tools, and use of the knowledge, one must consider that as the transformation into the art form. Examples that illustrate that point can be:
• IT management that uses a structured approach will deliver results quicker
• Choosing the right tool to get the right result to improve quality
• Aligning the customer needs to meet the business goals will increase overall satisfaction 

In reality, it is a hybrid of both science and art as the science gets interpreted and colored to suit the individual project and client: The art is always required to some degree, but there is no way you will succeed in a complex environment without thoroughly understanding and implementation of the science. One major part of the 'art' is knowing how much science you need for each business initiative. It involves a lot of planning, processes, risk management, and execution skills. It also requires an equal amount of people skills in identifying the right team composition, task assignments based on people skills and understanding team chemistry. Even if you have all the right people in a team, sometimes the project may fail or slip if the team does not work together very well. For some, IT management is science as it is precise, exact and can be accurately and logically represented and reused. For others it is the art as it allows a great deal of interpretation and latitude, it has a scientific part where a lot of things are proven, repeatable, and methodology that can be effectively used, etc. On the other hand of the subjective part (art), one needs to apply more like the 'soft' part of this profession. One needs to have a good sense of the situation to make the right decision and often the decision making more subjective, it takes both logic and intuition.

It is both science and art. IT management per se is science from the best practices perspective, it gives a holistic view of considerations, approaches, structure, and components. However, It is also about having a common-sense approach, being able to think in a structured manner and having the ability to engage and communicate. It is possibly more of an art. So IT management is both art and science. One needs to develop capabilities or the art of understanding the team members and the customers (internal/external) and the science of available technology, standards, quality, etc. It is a mix of this art and science which helps in governance, open communication, realistic expectations, and mutually acceptable timelines for deliveries.

Thus, the CIO needs to be both a strategic business leader and an artistic technologist. IT management is an "art" of scientific application to make all fit and be flexible. Any sufficiently complex activity or endeavor that exceeds the capacity of a purely analytic and logical process crosses the boundary is from science into art. Sometimes you have to trust your gut and do things outside the box. Things only become systematic and best practices after others have learned the hard way through creativity, innovation, trial and error, and taking risks to find a better way. Perhaps the even tougher question about IT management should be: What’s the golden ratio in IT management, 20% of science and 80% of art or the other way around?


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