Feature

Politics for IT managers - how to get streetwise

Always wanted to throw off that anorak image? Now you can, with the help of a new book and a little cartoon character called Martin, writes Mark Lewis

Much of the computing press has been advocating new skills for the IT manager based on an understanding of business, people and corporate politics.

Until now, IT managers who have wanted to work on those skills have had little to guide them. Corporate Politics for IT Managers fills that crucial gap.

Corporate Politics for IT Managers is a book about management, written specifically for IT managers.

The book deals directly with the frustrations felt by many IT managers who believe they are not being listened to.

IT is recognised in almost all organisations as important, but many IT managers feel personally undervalued. Their departments work long, hard hours but are also often rated poorly by users.

The credibility of the IT department is based on perceptions rather than detailed performance data and is influenced more by its relationship management and political adeptness than its ability to deliver a tangible product or service.

But IT professionals often construe political behaviour as being manipulative and unscrupulous. The consequence is either avoidance or confrontation.

Politics can be ambiguous and unpredictable. Competence in politics requires intuitive and discretionary behaviour for which there are no right answers, and where decisions are based on ethical and moral considerations.

This territory is unfamiliar to many IT people, and an arena for which they have had little or no preparation. This book addresses these issues and guides readers in enhancing their own political adeptness, business acumen and interpersonal skills to become "streetwise" and achieve collaborative "win-win" outcomes.

Part one of the book is dedicated to an understanding of the nature of the problem and tries to answer the age-old question, "Why hasn't IT delivered on its promises?"

Chatham and Patching believe the answer does not lie in the technology or systems, or in the use of information. They believe it is about the styles and behaviours of many of the people in IT. Here they introduce the concept of the "stereotypical" IT person.

Part two puts more meat on the bones. It looks at the workings of the IT function, its systems and processes, style and behaviours but - and here's the rub - through the eyes of its customers our cynical and difficult-to-please users.

Part three provides some alternative ways to think about IT services. This often means turning the problem on its head. Part of the challenge for IT managers is to avoid increasing levels of service by working harder, and instead address directly the perceptions of service levels in the eyes of users. This approach is backed up by many examples and case studies.

In part four the finer arts of becoming streetwise in today's organisational community are addressed. This is where the IT manager can find real insights which emerge from the complementary backgrounds and expertise of the two authors.

One author - Dr Robina Chatham - has spent 14 years as an IT professional, culminating in the position of IT director. She is now working in the field of psychology and management. The other author - Keith Patching - is a specialist in social anthropology. For the past 10 years he has used this understanding of people in a management development context.

Both authors are members of faculty at the Cranfield School of Management, where they apply the methods they preach in this book with practising IT managers.

To illustrate their points, Chatham and Patching have created the cartoon strip, "Martin and Terminal One".

Martin is a caricature of a stereotypical IT manager, and Terminal One is his best friend and confidant.

Martin goes on a journey as the book progresses. He begins his journey as an intelligent, hardworking, well-meaning, but politically naive, kind of guy and gradually develops his people skills, political adeptness and business acumen until, at the end of the book, he has become "streetwise" and is the hero of the day.

  • K Patching, Dr R Chatham, Corporate Politics for IT Managers, is part of the Computer Weekly Professional Series, published by Butterworth Heinemann and comes out in June, priced £24.99.

    Reading it will change your life

    Having read this book you will be able to:

  • Increase your effectiveness as a leader

  • Deal with organisational politics

  • Communicate effectively with non-technical people

  • Promote and market your IT function

  • Set a clear direction for IT within your organisation

  • Enhance your reputation as a senior business manager, and, above all

  • Stop doing the things that are getting in the way of your success


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    This was first published in April 2000

     

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