Government // Mobile & Wireless
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8/2/2013
12:30 PM
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Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers

Nobody will win if IT and business leaders continue playing Mortal Kombat. Let's step back and redefine our roles.

IT personnel don't have to perform common activities such as project management, risk assessment, market and product research and ROI calculation. Their departmental colleagues can take on some of that responsibility. But in today's world, IT is expected to do everything on a so-called technology project. Then when it runs out of capacity and cries uncle, departments fume or go rogue.

We must get rid of the phantom or explicit rule that "nothing that touches technology" can happen unless IT is involved. IT must become more of a guide, a teacher, a subject matter expert, a facilitator, an advocate and, to be sure, an implementer of many things. But IT can't do it all.

This is a very tough proposition for both IT and line-of-business folks. Today's IT organization generally wants a pretty tight span of control (it's that accountability and authority thing again). And business units generally expect that they can call on IT for all of their technology needs or that they will sneak off and do it without any IT involvement.

Everyone is talking about the CMO vs. CIO smackdown, whereby marketing departments implement websites, campaign management and other systems without IT involvement. Critics warn of security breaches and other red alerts that will require IT to jump in blind. But if IT organizations can get their heads out of the span-of-control mindset and into the facilitator mindset, they can take on a new role as facilitator and advocate.

Maybe the answer is simply: "OK, you don't need us." Or maybe IT will add value by pointing out to the marketing leaders that their chosen system vendor has no security chops, and that they might want to either harness IT or a third-party security provider.

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Under this new mindset, when IT sees manufacturing doing big data and installing "unauthorized" operating systems on the company network, it won't start World War III, but instead help manufacturing patch their OSs to be secure and figure out a support plan. Notice that I didn't say "do it all." In some cases, IT won't have the expertise and will have to figure out which vendor could help.

In short, IT will quit acting like a petulant teenager when everything isn't under its control.

But the CMO will stop acting like a jerk too.

The CMO and other business executives will learn something about tech. They'll invite IT to the table, not because they long to obey IT, but because they know that IT pros are smart about digital tech, and that it's in the organization's best interests for subject matter experts who have skin in the game to sit at the table.

The question isn't who is going to win, because nobody's going to win if we continue playing Mortal Kombat. The question is, who's going to put their big boy and girl pants on and admit that we've all got some changing to do?

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Michael A. Davis
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Michael A. Davis,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/8/2013 | 2:18:14 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
Marketing, HR, of whatever group wants to move forward with more of their own decisions have a big problem though. They don't know what they don't know. Moving IT to a true IT as A Service platform with real consulting and advisement services makes getting into the conversation with those groups upfront easier. Otherwise, interjecting the CIOs opinion into a process may be seen as taking control or playing mom and dad.

It may sound weird, but the more internal IT companies become similar to IT consulting firms and focus on the results of their work instead of the work itself, the more likely they will get called to help with the new tech marketing project.

This is a soft skills and a internal sales/marketing job that most CIOs are clueless about. It isn't about the technology and that mixes up many CIOs.
Sacalpha1
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Sacalpha1,
User Rank: Strategist
8/8/2013 | 6:13:57 AM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
That's great until Marketing wants the system integrated with core ERP and/or CRM applications. Then you have a mess. If a function wants to go it alone, that's fine as long as there is a business case to support the stand alone system, but it should be understood that it will ALWAYS be stand alone and IT will NOT support it. If Marketing later wants integration, then there must be agreement to reevaluate the stand alone solution and throw it away when necessary because Marketing may have made the wrong long term decision considering the corporate whole of systems, integration, data definitions, etc. This kind of problem is the reason why IT does not like having rogue systems and departments. Chris, you are pretty naive if you think its about a contest to see who can spend the most on IT. In all but the most immature of organizations, its about have an integrated solution that serves all parts of the business and follows standards on data definition (e.g., the difference between customers, prospects, and consumers is clearly understood and dictates both data and process usage in systems), tools (so you have a skilled staff to adequately manage the systems), security, etc.
Ultimate Consumer
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Ultimate Consumer,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2013 | 10:39:31 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
You're spot on with what they need to give up. It's been my experience that IT may want to control the technology spend in these areas, but they don't want to be accountable for the process capabilities and the results.
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Strategist
8/6/2013 | 10:21:07 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
Totally, totally agree, Chris. Where IT adds value, it should be involved. When there's no value to be added, get out of the way and let people do the equivalent of drive a car without a third party driver. Yes, IT used to be race cars and back hoes, but now there are lots of cute little subcompact automatic transmission jobs. Train folks and let 'em drive!
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
8/6/2013 | 10:12:44 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
Despite all the panic about marketing outspending IT on tech, what's happening around marketing tech is actually the map for what IT can give up. Yes, marketing tech often is acquired without the coaching and consulting that Jonathan encourages, and marketing misses some opportunities when it does that. But it's an example of technology that is very domain-focused being pushed (or often pulled) into the department to run.
Ultimate Consumer
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Ultimate Consumer,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2013 | 9:13:29 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
"The best IT can do" pretty much means that the widespread and deep-rooted dissatisfaction with IT - which has many causes, and potentially many cures - will continue.

In August 2011, Mark Andreesen wrote Why Software is Eating the World. It will continue and accelerate:
"More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online servicesGÇöfrom movies to agriculture to national defense. Many of the winners are Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are invading and overturning established industry structures."
Most IT organizations are protectors of the old guard and bear little resemblance to the winning entrepreneurial tech companies.

IT needs to be held accountable for the business objectives, just as the business leaders are who depend on them. IT can't be it's own business, or divorced from the realities of the business. It starts with shared accountability to common goals. Some of those goals will be reliability and low cost. Others will be increased revenues, new services, and dealing with more customer and product variation. Collectively, IT may be more structurally setup to do the former, and is rarely set up to do the later.
dchasselshp5
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dchasselshp5,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/6/2013 | 6:53:13 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
Have we forgotten what a "mess" enterprise software is - ironically led by the marketing departments of the vendors.......sounds familiar...? Until the vendors can produce software technology that business can understand and see it deliver exactly what the business needs including that in built flexibility with front and back office then IT will not get to that top table. What happened to the 6GL vision that was the next step after Progress pioneered 4GL....30 years ago? Why are we still coding business logic that has not changed since commerce started.......time for change?
Sacalpha1
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Sacalpha1,
User Rank: Strategist
8/6/2013 | 8:37:06 AM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
I agree with the sentiment of this article, but disagree a bit on how to solve the problem. In my opinion there are two main problems. Yes, IT needs to change. There needs to be a greater focus on a business mindset, a better ability to speak about solving business (not technical) problems, and no more technology because it looks cool or would be a great skill to have. However, the biggest change needs to come from business leadership with the Finance, Marketing, and Sales organizations being the main culprits. Finance has to STOP pushing IT as a cost center and thinking they know more than the IT organization about how to save money. Marketing and Sales have got to stop being cowboys and start engaging with IT in cooperatively solving problems and also in providing some lead time on needed capabilities. Too many times their poor planning and knee jerk reactions to the marketplace are what creates the problems with IT....demanding something be delivered in a couple of weeks that takes months in reality to deliver. And finally, the biggest issue, every business function needs to stop playing arm chair quarter back for IT. They all think because they bought a smart phone or laptop they can run the IT function better than IT management and know what it takes to deliver IT projects, when in matter of fact they don't have a clue. It's interesting, that IT is the only functions where this happens. You don't see IT or Marketing or Sales, or Operations trying to create their own A/P functions and make payments themselves. You don't see anyone other than HR trying to dictate personnel policy or set up benefits programs. The expertise and boundaries of every business function except IT are respected. Until this changes, the in fighting will not stop. Unfortunately the best IT can do is encourage the change by doing their part, but the rest of business leadership must change to be successful and CEOs need to start stepping up to force the accountability and the needed changes.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
8/5/2013 | 10:57:31 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
I agree about the relationship being a two-way street. If IT pros are asked to step out of their comfort zones and learn about business best practices then business execs should do the same with technology.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
8/5/2013 | 7:39:16 PM
re: Dear IT: No One Likes Petulant Teenagers
Today more than 65% of the head IT positions still report to the CFO. Yet more than 70% of data used by the business does NOT have a direct impact on the G/L. The penny pinchers will always sell IT short of the authority (and budget) it needs to equal its responsibilities. The Mortal Combat isn't going to change until the lead IT position has a seat at the evaluative table. Only then can the necessary changes this article identifies can happen. Otherwise its off to battle as usual.
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