And herein lies the problem…..the perception of IT within a business.In most organisations this perception is directly driven by the behaviour of the internal IT team.
In my first in this series of blog posts I talked about transformation, and how in the best organisations IT has already transformed into an important pillar of the business , seamlessly working to the common goal. In those organisations where IT is hidden away perhaps as an offshoot of the finance team and seen purely (at best) as a service function, it is the IT team that gets blamed for all the woes of the business , and is largely seen as a bunch of “technical geeks”, who make uninformed decisions that thwart the organisation’s goals. Sounds extreme, but I bet it rings a few bells with some!
Actually, this is really an IT management issue….where the IT managers are constantly defending their decisions usually in a language the rest of the organisation cannot understand, or, worse still, think they understand!
“The soft stuff is the hard stuff”
To break this situation there are a series of activities that must be undertaken. Most of them are to do with people. The phrase “The soft stuff is the hard stuff” is the one I often quote because sorting out people and their behaviour is far, far harder than sorting out the software, flashing lights and the stainless steel.
I always used a DMAIC Approach (from Lean Six Sigma) — Define-Measure-Analyse-Improve-Control.
- Firstly, understand the situation. What are the issues at hand?
- Secondly, how do you quantify those issues? What are the measures you can employ? Simply put if you don’t or can’t measure it then it will never improve.
- Thirdly. look at the information, and understand it, don’t just think you do, seek clarifications.
- Fourthly, put in place measures to improve,
- Lastly, the most important of all, don’t leave things to chance, monitor those measures and control them.
Common things I have encountered were, IT staff with little or no understanding of the organisation and its goals, a lack of organisational relationships (a good internal relationship manager can be worth their weight in gold!), IT staff not knowing what their ‘IT neighbour’ did and why (classic things like, apps, hardware, telecoms, security hand offs not existing). But more often than not, performance measures that were both meaningful and organisation appropriate failed to exist, leading to little chance of improvement.
A common complaint I heard was from IT staff was that “the business does not understand….”. Well do you know what? IT are part of “the business”, and should be a trusted business partner. Now moving your people to become trusted advisers is not a five minute job…..as typically you are best known for your latest failure, not a series of successes. And herein lies one of the biggest opportunities - establish an IT comms policy to establish how to tell your organisation what is happening. Use the organisation’s language not IT language. Don’t expect a miracle overnight, this needs to be worked at. And most important of all identify and work with senior stakeholders. Getting the ear of the board will result in support when the going gets tough, plus it starts to get you a seat at the table.
What your IT team does and how it works are critical, so invest in “soft stuff”. Get them out in the business, give them training in working with the business, and make sure you helped them work up a clear and shared message to be delivered.
Remember “The Soft stuff is the hard stuff” and you won’t go far wrong.