Strategic CIO // Team Building & Staffing
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1/18/2013
10:04 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization

If IT doesn't deliver everything a business wants, it's not all IT's fault, readers say.

I've received a lot of responses to my recent column, "6 Ways IT Still Fails The Business." Some of you didn't like it. "I believe you are wrong on every point you have made," offered one reader.

The most common response was along these lines: "Agree, but the problem is a two-way street." That is, business unit leaders share the blame when IT teams can't deliver everything a company wants. Based partly on your feedback, I offer some of the ways business leaders fail their IT organizations.

1. Treat IT As Irrelevant To Customers

IT's still a back-office function at too many companies. Those companies fail to see IT as critical to serving customers and to creating new, tech-enabled products. Mock the Internet-linked fridge all you want, but companies that aren't exploring ways to use the Internet of Things, mobile apps and cloud services with their offerings will miss out. Says reader Terry Bennett: "In far too many companies, IT is used as a cost-cutting engine, and IT's capability of generating revenue or of providing a competitive advantage are pushed to the back."

Our InformationWeek 500 research suggests attitudes are changing. Last year, 46% of IW 500 companies cited introducing new IT-led products and services among their top three innovation priorities, up from 37% in 2009.

[ Want more on CIO strategy? Read 6 Uncomfortable Questions IT Teams Should Ask. ]

2. Don't Even Try To Get Marketing Working With IT

Marketing must "stop throwing darts at the wall and have analytics-based marketing campaigns" and improve project discipline, writes one reader. He laments that "marketing will request 50 projects with a few weeks to months of lead time, and then when IT does not deliver, [IT] is not flexible enough or quick enough."

Prediction for 2013: more frustration.

Marketing, you see, doesn't think it has a technology problem, and if it does, it doesn't see the IT organization as the fix. In its excellent State of Marketing 2012 report, the CMO Council asked marketers about the organizational or operational changes they plan for this year. Just 10% cited "improve alignment and collaboration with IT." Yet 43% expect to add marketing or customer analytics, 20% will increase mobile applications and 25% will implement marketing automation systems.

Either marketing departments think they have a great relationship with IT to make all of that tech work, or they don't plan to work with IT.

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3. Have No Plan, Or Don't Share It With IT

At InformationWeek, we've bristled at the concept of business-IT "alignment" -- either business units and IT have the same business goals or they're sunk. Some of you feel the same way. "Maybe it is time (actually, has been for a long time) that 'IT' is no longer positioned as being separate from the 'business,'" a reader says. "What an organization needs is a clear priority on what it wants to accomplish, and to organize its resources to do it." Obsession with org charts works against teamwork, the reader says: "Cross-chart teaming of resources is needed to actually do something."

Resources are key. Business unit and IT leaders must allocate IT like capital or any other scarce resource. When we asked IW 500 companies about their biggest mistakes last year, one of the most common was an unrealistic IT pipeline, leading to missed deadlines, lost credibility and burned-out staff. If outsourcing or cloud apps are the answer to an IT shortage, IT leaders must be willing and active participants in making that call.

4. Treat Data Security As IT's Problem

The reader who said I got everything wrong was particularly steamed about security risks when I said IT is doing well in embracing cloud apps but poorly in enabling mobile devices: "IT's responsibility is not to give their users every single toy and fun new feature that is released. IT's responsibility is to maintain data security and integrity. Things like mobile devices, cloud services, remote access, BYOD all are security risks."

Some financial services companies do treat security and compliance as their own functions, ensuring security isn't just an after-the-fact problem dumped on IT. Regardless, IT can't use security as an excuse for dismissing productivity drivers, such as tablets, as mere toys.

5. Not Hiring, Or Keeping, Great IT People

One reader lamented that his organization can't keep talented young people because they get fed up with the bureaucracy and leave.

The best IT jobs will be those that let IT pros look outward and build technology that matters to customers. Leaders in IT or any part of the business should ask reader Terry Bennett's question: "Is it possible that the root cause is that too often we in IT have focused either on the technology itself or on internal operations, rather than on the overall business and the end customer?"

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RPrabhala
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RPrabhala,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/25/2013 | 4:13:39 AM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
They both fail each other. One critical area is testing. Business views establishing a dedicated test team as unnecessary overhead and IT fails to stress the importance of it enough. Here is a detailed thought on this http://tinyurl.com/b2xhfl9
dchasselshp5
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dchasselshp5,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 10:07:38 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
Just shows the divide between IT and Business is still there and until Software delivers exactly what business users working with customers want in their language then it will continue - think about why are we still "coding" business logic that never changes - oh yes remember big vendors and their ecosystems like to keep the mystic of application deve,lopment in their control as complicate as possible. BUT this could be changing with IT needing to move to business language with supporting tools Business will never move to IT
Terry Bennett
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Terry Bennett,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 7:14:47 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
Great thoughts, Chris. There is no single solution to these issues...and no single entity totally at fault. Everyone can point fingers, but that doesn't accomplish anything. Everyone is busy with their own challenges, but that cannot be allowed to become an excuse. Each of us needs to be pulling on the same rope to move the company forward together. After all, shouldn't we all have the same overall goal?

How much progress could be made, though, if each of us resolved to actively work at improving the relationship with every other leader in the company ...on both a business and a personal basis? Would that help the CIO, for example, better understand the challenges faced by other departments (and vice-versa)? Could that lead to more cross-involvement in discussions on how we are going to move the company forward together? And if leadership sets such an example, would it proliferate throughout the organization?
gwilson153
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gwilson153,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/23/2013 | 4:56:33 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
I laughed as I read this and thought "misery loves company". Actually, my company isn't terrible, but it isn't perfect either. Also, IT is not alone. I hear complaints from a variety of departments or functions that they are not kept in the loop either, so I think in general organizations fail to communicate within their own walls effectively.

Good article and a good summary of reality.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
1/22/2013 | 1:59:39 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
Agree, it's not IT v. the business, IT is a business function. But IT is a distinct function and discipline, as surely as marketing or manufacturing is. And a company can support and build that function well or poorly, it seems to me.
Mike_Acker
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Mike_Acker,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/21/2013 | 12:52:53 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
it is easy in IT to feel like you are "out of the loop" . but this problem originates in communication . in spite of all the commo gear we have created we still aren't very good at talking to each other . and this may be because we use the word "talking" where we should be using the word "listening"

in my experience most troubles with IT originate from IT marketing. IT is generally over-sold . IT is just a tool . like any tool we have to learn to use it to our best advantage
gjones495
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gjones495,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/19/2013 | 12:31:53 AM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
I think you got it wrong again Chris.

First, your whole paradigm of IT vs the Business is wack. There are no enterprises today without Information Technology, not like in the 1990's when technology was just beginning to be utilized by business to generate profits and grow their customer base. In those days resources responsible for the technology were dictated to by so-called business leaders who had a different focus and mindset in pursuit of "productivity drivers", giving birth to outsourcing and downsizing talent. Some of these cultures created by these "leaders" are still struggling with the notion that technology resources are more valuable than ever, thus the misalignment still exists.

Second, you seem to have lost sight of the data breaches and other Information Security problems that have occurred within the Financial Services industry with the statement "Regardless, IT can't use security as an excuse for dismissing productivity drivers, such as tablets, as mere toys." Really? IT is using security as an excuse? If that were the case, then why not put all you data processing into the cloud and be done with it. See how that works out for your business!

Last, just by using the term IT shows you are still stuck in the 1990's. Think IS, Information Systems comprised of People, Processes, and the technology that is used to generate results, and IS, Information Security, the key to success in this interconnected global environment that ALL businesses must account for to exist, and the hammer that will achieve alignment.

George E Jones Jr, CISM CRISC CISSP
Intrinsic Security Practitioners, LLC
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
1/18/2013 | 11:07:48 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
Very true. And it goes farther than having to involve IT in projects. It means holding business unit leaders accountable (along with IT leaders) for the effective use of IT.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
1/18/2013 | 8:10:18 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
As No. 3 suggests, part of this problem has to do with the fact that companies still see IT organizations as something separate from "the business." Priority No. 1 for IT and every other department in a company is to serve customers.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
1/18/2013 | 8:03:10 PM
re: 5 Ways Business Still Fails The IT Organization
To the point #2 Chris makes regarding the gap in expectations between marketing and IT, big data startups have zeroed right in here on what they see as a big opportunity, to sell analytics right to the marketing people, no (or little) IT help required. IT can't ignore this fact.

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
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