Profile your IT department's DNA

IT is the most negative corporate department regarding the way the company is run and its characteristics. But why is the IT department so pessimistic?

IT department DNA profiler

IT departments are surprisingly negative about the companies they work for, according to a long-running Booz Allen Hamilton study that investigates companies' "organisational DNA".

The term "organisational DNA" was coined as a metaphor for the collection of traits that characterise different organisations. The concept originated from a desire to distil years of experience about the factors that differentiate successful companies from their competitors.

Over the past five years, Booz Allen has been collecting data from employees in a range of industries and functions using the Org DNA Profiler, an online tool that has been used to survey individuals about the companies they work for.

It evaluates companies in terms of decision rights, information, motivators and structure, and uses these assessments to diagnose the company's health. The survey has already had 50,000 responses globally - about 10% of these respondents work in IT functions within their companies.

IT workers are most negative

When the results from the Org DNA survey are grouped by corporate division, it is clear that the IT respondents have a particularly bleak view.

The profiler classifies companies into archetypes that indicate "strong" or "weak" execution capabilities. Nearly 66% of IT staff responded in a way that resulted in their companies being labelled "weak", a more negative view than every other division surveyed.

Most IT respondents highlighted shortcomings in decision making structures. They were of the opinion that their companies were unable to translate important strategic and operational decisions into action quickly. The majority felt that managers do not get involved in operational decisions, and therefore do not get their hands dirty.

Furthermore, they declared that decisions are second-guessed once made, and few staff thought it was clear who was responsible for which decisions or actions.

IT staff similarly complained about the availability of information. Only about 30% believed that employees had sufficient information to understand the bottom-line impact of their choices.

Most felt that line managers do not have the metrics needed to measure key drivers of the business. The view of employee motivation is also cynical, with IT staff more likely to attribute motivation to re-muneration alone than their counterparts elsewhere in the business.

Why so pessimistic?

There are a number of possible explanations for the extreme views expressed by IT respondents. The most forgiving reason could be that IT departments suffer more in a negative environment.

As they respond to demands from other corporate functions, they may be relatively powerless to change the root causes of poor organisational performance. At the same time, they are subjected to pressure from unhappy internal customers.

Another explanation could be that IT organisations are poorly managed compared to other corporate functions. Both the performance and the morale of the IT organisation suffer as a result.

Yet another reason could be that the type of people who choose to work in IT will always be focused on the availability and use of information, the clarity of decision making structures and the means of getting the job done.

Turning the spotlight on IT

In order to gain a deeper insight into the effectiveness of IT organisations, we have created a new variation of the Org DNA profiler that is exclusively focused on IT. The survey is aimed at CIOs, IT executives and non-IT business executives who liaise with IT departments.

Using the online profiler is anonymous, quick and easy. It provides instant feedback by classifying IT organisations and proposing levers to improve performance.

The data gathered will highlight what the key factors are in an IT department's organisational DNA, differentiating the successful from the unsuccessful. The survey will facilitate comparison of IT functions across industries and geographies, and will also make it possible to contrast IT's self-perception with the way others see the function.

By isolating the underlying success factors in IT organisations and locating the origins of IT negativity, this survey aims to reveal the "source code" of the IT organisation. The results of this survey will be published later this year.

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