IT needs to stand up for itself in the business, says Margaret Smith
We all know the old chat-up line, “My wife/husband doesn’t understand me”. Well it is used in the world of business too.
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard IT people say that the rest of the business community doesn’t understand them or even that the developer doesn’t understand the operations guys and vice versa.
It always irritates me and makes me want to say “grow up and handle yourself differently”. It is also a fact that it happens at all levels in the IT organisation and is not just a trait of management levels.
People work not only to be paid but also to feel satisfaction in what they do and to feel that they are giving the organisation value for money. Karl Marx had this sussed out years ago.
Alleviating the problem
Management always talks about how the key to success is morale and motivation but does little to alleviate the problem.
I know of quite a few IT people who are hurt (sorry to sound touchy feely but they do feel hurt) by the attitude of others to their performance in the business. Everyone goes to work to do a good job so how come their efforts and results are not recognised?
There are a number of reasons for this attitude. The buck always has to stop somewhere and it is easy to blame someone else less well versed in the art of defending themselves.
It is also true that IT costs most organisations a hefty whack and occasional mistakes can be costly.
But I believe the most critical reason is that IT has not done enough to educate the business community (or other parts of IT) about the processes, procedures and the art of the possible.
I know of one business leader, for example, who demanded that a knotty technical problem be solved within the next hour or else. This did little for morale and little for the credibility of the business leader.
If the business leader had understood how things work they may have been more supportive and helpful.
Developing self esteem
Every discipline within an organisation has their own special way of operating and their own way of protecting and developing their self esteem.
IT seems to enjoy casting itself as the whipping boy for a company rather than learning from other business units.
The sales guys have worked out that they get so many rejections from the customer or potential customer that they have to have a way of working that protects them from getting depressed. This modus operandi has often surfaced as blag and boast.
However, they do have a point in that no one else is going to protect their reputation and standing in the company so they have to do it for themselves.
Maybe IT people are just too sensitive and need to develop their own way of operating, which includes a mixture of self-defence and proactive education for their biggest critics.
IT continues to be instrumental in making businesses even more profitable and IT people should be proud of being part of the success story.
CV: Margaret Smith
Margaret Smith advises business and government on IT and skills issues. Formerly chief executive of CIO Connect, she was also CIO at Legal & General. She has been a non-executive director of insurance standards body Origo Services and sat on the UK Cabinet Office Portal Board.
This was first published in June 2006