Thought for the day: Fly a kitemark for IT

Credible external validation of the IT department's plans could do wonders, says Colin Beveridge


Colin Beveridge is certain many IT departments would welcome credible external validation of their plans.






No one is a prophet in his own land. This eternal truth is never more apparent than in the world of business technology, where I have observed countless examples of internal technology managers being disbelieved or ignored when they champion a change of business policy.

All too often, their cause faces an uphill struggle against corporate credibility. And yet, when the same message is played back into the organisation by an external consultant it invariably becomes instantly palatable and adoptable.

Perhaps my experience is founded upon circumstantial evidence, but I honestly believe it is simply symptomatic of that other old adage: familiarity breeds contempt. In other words, we would much rather hear the harsh words of common sense from a third party, than from our colleagues.

I know at least one IT director who has a pet firm of consultants he wheels in whenever he needs to sell a message to his board. He simply briefs the consultants with his desired objective, puts them into the board meeting and lets human nature take its perverse course.

He swears that this strategy has never failed to achieve results and is well worth the consultants’ fees. But isn’t that a sad tale, a sorry reflection on the poor state of trust between IT and other parts of the organisation. Why do we find it so hard to exert influence ourselves?

There may be many reasons, but most of them boil down to a lack of trust. This leads not only to an increasing spiral of frustration, cynicism and organisational inefficiency, but also to a very high emotional cost for ourselves and to a correspondingly high financial cost for our employers.

But if we accept the tenet that no man, or woman, is a prophet in their own land, we can plan an effective mitigation strategy - a way to live with the problem, rather than hopelessly trying to overthrow the millennia of human perversity.

I am not advocating the wholesale use of commercial consultancy to sell internally derived strategy, even though I make my own living through consultancy. Not at all, that would be just putting a sticking plaster on the problem.

What I think we really need is a new service from our professional organisations, bodies such as the IT Service Management Forum, who could review our various IT strategies and business-critical programmes and then endorse our plans with their “sanity-check stamps” – a bit like the British Safety Institute’s kitemark scheme.

I appreciate that we already have schemes such as Tick-IT and ISO 900x accreditation – but these are generally applied once expenditure is well under way, which is far too late if the technology is misconceived or misapplied.

I think that this is not just a good idea, it’s also a maturity issue. How many IT departments would welcome credible external validation of their plans? The majority, I suspect, so let’s get on with it.

The alternative is for us to remain forever as we are: the plaintive voice in the wilderness. Anybody got any polite suggestions for a suitable “good IT kitemark?”

What do you think?

Would you welcome a kitemark for your IT projects? Tell us in an e-mail >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the website. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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