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The Traditional IT Attitude: Dumping it

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E-Week has two very penetrating and insightful articles on IT and the roles that it plays in business. These articles support the idea that IT needs to become more business savvy, and business needs to become more IT savvy to make it in the market place.

In the article Why It’s Time to Lose the Snide IT Attitude by Deborah Rothberg the premise of the idea is that the “classic” IT attitude, where “you are bothing me, why?” for all the trivial things that IT people do during the day has got to go. While Rothberg brings into the mix that people who have these kinds of attitudes will not get promoted. I will add that people with those kinds of attitudes also find themselves marginalized in the organization. Where the only option left to them to be effective in the organization is to scream, demand, and still not work with others. Winning the battle becomes more important than what the actual war is about. We have all met, seen and worked with people who always have to win. Eventually the do get left out of the bigger corporation, and might find themselves stuck in their position that will eventually mean their departure. In Rothberg’s article though this comment really stood out:

“Technology won’t survive with its thinly disguised contempt for users, aka customers. With enough complaints from customers, IT departments will either change or be outsourced.” (Deborah Rothberg)

This comment in context of the article makes one want to go and ask how many outsourcing decisions were made by business (because they are the ones that will make that decision) because they were unable to find any ground in which to communicate with the IT department or team that would normally work that that business line. The concept makes the idea that business just like any other customer will go elsewhere when service is not what they are getting, or the service is not what they need, or even worst, they think they will get no service or lousy service from the internal IT department. Every outsourced contract, every outsourcing decision made by the business units then becomes a failed project for the IT department. It is another lost opportunity to show business value, and an understanding of the business by the IT department. Over time, I agree with the idea that not only projects will be outsourced, but the entire department would be outsourced except for a few core individuals to provide continuity over time. Consultants by nature have to be more responsive to the customer, and they see the business as a customer and are willing to treat them as valued customers to keep what could be a lucrative contract.

In Rothberg’s other article, “Four Feckless, Counterproductive Business Approaches to IT” she states that these four things can impact the ability of the business line and IT to interact with each other.

Lacking a Long Term Plan – this is pretty classic Project Management, every major project and some minor ones that have a large impact should all have a long term plan on how they will not just be installed and used, but how they will be cared for and maintained over time. We all have been told in a rush to “just fix it”, and she quotes her source as saying:

“Fix this. It’s broken,” is one of the most commonly spoken interactions between business and IT units of an organization, and by many accounts, the first place communication breaks down. “One of the reasons there is distrust between the two groups is a result of tone. ‘Just fix it,’ people will say. The tone of it and the general imperative nature says ‘I don’t really care about this. I just want you to fix it.’ It implies a basic disrespect of the actual operation, to not care enough to understand why something is broken. There’s a difference in the curiosity and follow-through of business and IT guys,” said Bates.

Her second point on the process is “Rushing projects along, sometimes unnecessarily”. I have seen the impact of hard dates set in the project plan, that suddenly became soft dates, or the hard date didn’t really matter. This really impacts the department and ruins business IT trust because that IT department is going to turn and burn on the Hard PM date, and if they find that they didn’t have to go to all that work to meet an artifical date, they are going to be annoyed to say the least. She states though:

Right after ‘Fix this. It’s broken,’ the next most commonly heard by business to IT teams is ‘We need this ASAP.’ “The most obvious communication breakdown is instilling a sense of urgency where there may not be one. Everything is urgent, if we’re not completing it today, the world may blow up tomorrow. At the end of the day, we learn many of these things could have waited. It’s kind of like the blinders leading the blinders,” Brl said.

Her third one is pretty classic IT mythos, “Not knowing what they don’t know”. We all have known IT people that just would not stop thinking that they know everything about everything. We have also met Business people who are the same way. We might even find it amusing when both sides of the Know Everything fence are in the same room trying to work out a project. But she states:

“Nobody in IT expects business to know how to rewire a faulty router or upgrade a server system, IT managers expresses again and again, but they did expect them to know where their technology prowess dropped off. “Business guys tend to think of problems in terms of the technology that they’re familiar with, not understanding the magnitude of the IT process,” said Hewitt. A simple ‘do this’ can mean hours, weeks or even months of work on the IT side, where ASAP often only translates to how much business is willing to compromise to get a project moving on schedule.”

Then finally her fourth and final point is: “Blaming IT for project failures”. This is something that I have not only seen, but have been on the sharp pointy side of that blame as well. I know there are some projects that people have undertaken solo just to get the thing done because they can not or do not get the support they needed from anyone. Her point though on this one is the “point the finger game” that we have also all seen. The sad part is that the “Blame IT” part is so real, because of the “non-communicative” mythos that IT has.

“By most accounts, projects fail within organizations almost as often as they succeed. At the end of the day, someone has to take the blame for the failure, and all too often, this failure to deliver is dumped on IT. “It gets a bad rap. I think there’s a perception that IT is the cause of many failed projects, and they often get the blame,” said Bates. In psychology, there is an outcome called the “self-fulfilling prophecy,” which, in effect, states that in expecting something false to be true, these expectations are often met.”

Rolling these two articles together should be read by managers and by IT. While we can not help people who really do not want to be involved with other people, everything has changed since the early days. Now it is important to be communicative, social, and willing to work with people. That holds true if you are in IT or on the Business side of the house. Both articles can be found here and here.

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Dan Morrill has been in the information security field for 18 years, both
civilian and military, and is currently working on his Doctor of Management.
Dan shares his insights on the important security issues of today through
his blog, Managing
Intellectual Property & IT Security
, and is an active participant in the
ITtoolbox blogging community.

The Traditional IT Attitude: Dumping it
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About Dan Morrill
Dan Morrill runs Techwag, a site all about his views on social media, education, technology, and some of the more interesting things that happen on the internet. He works at CityU of Seattle as the Program Director for the Computer Science, Information Systems and Information Security educational programs. WebProNews Writer
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