Government // Mobile & Wireless
Commentary
10/4/2013
10:19 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
Commentary
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

IT's Reputation: Broken Bad

If Coca-Cola had a brand that was the equivalent of IT today, they would kill it and start again, says Blackstone Group CTO. He shares 4 processes IT leaders can use to change IT's bad rep.

William Murphy, CTO of the investment firm Blackstone Group, seemed like a pleasant enough fellow when he came onto the Interop New York tech conference stage this week. He even promised to kick things off on a high note.

Then he proceeded to describe the perception of IT departments as at best adequate -- a cost center and a back-office necessity at many companies. Worst case, "we're categorized as people who say 'No' first and ask questions later," Murphy said. IT's too often considered defensive, late, overprice, uninformed and unhelpful.

"If Coca-Cola had a brand that was the equivalent of IT today, they would just kill it and start again," said Murphy. At Blackstone, Murphy changed the name of IT to Innovations & Infrastructure, and took some meatier steps (more below on that) to reshape the perception of IT.

[ Maybe you should just look for another job. If so, read 5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid. ]

Murphy wasn't a lone clarion call to CIOs and CTOs this week. Throughout the InformationWeek CIO Summit that followed Murphy's keynote, IT leaders described their efforts to rehabilitate IT's brand, to cast it in a role of innovator and problem solver and not an obstacle to progress.

Because as bad as IT's reputation is, colleagues know that "it's also central to creating business change, new products, efficiency of their current workloads, really the future of the company," Murphy said.

Murphy didn't just sound the alarm. He offered four operational pillars that are core to IT fixing its brand so it's seen by other business departments as a problem solver.

1. An Open Design process, driven by technology.

IT needs a prioritization process so business unit and IT leaders are working on the top priority problems. But IT needs to consider itself the tech innovator here, not the order taker -- non-IT employees only know what business problems they're having and not what's possible with technology to solve them. Expecting line of business staff and leaders to learn about technology "I think is much harder than for everyone in this room to learn the business," Murphy told the crowd of IT professionals. So IT teams must deeply understand their industry and company to match business problems to the right technology.

2. Iterative release model.

Global CIO
Global CIOs: A Site Just For You
Visit InformationWeek's Global CIO -- our online community and information resource for CIOs operating in the global economy.

Murphy warns that it can be hard to get both business unit and IT people on board with iterative tech project releases, since people just want to finish projects and move on. "You need to think of your projects as products that need care and feeding over time," he said, or else they'll grow stale and out of date.

3. Transparent cost and decision process.

It's scary to share detailed tech project costs and plans in the early stages, Murphy warns. But doing so explains the "why" of IT projects and avoids misunderstanding and even suspicion later. Be efficient and clear on how you communicate project plans and costs, but "include more rather than less people" of your business partners, he said. If you don't communicate, "people assume you're doing the wrong thing."

4. A simple, honest feedback process.

And when you get it, "you have to translate the feedback into positive change," Murphy said.

So how will IT know when it has built a strong brand inside its company? When a problem arises, Murphy said, business unit leaders "come to us for our wisdom, our knowledge and our help."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
ANON1242037829718
50%
50%
ANON1242037829718,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/14/2013 | 2:50:48 PM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
Chris, starting over is a good goal. But then too many IT folks look for "work plans" for the restart. The plan the work, work the plan ethos that serves IT well in many projects actually makes them vulnerable to structured "methodologies" and consultants when they need to re-imagine. I think they should also learn to "ad lib" like Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays does - see http://bit.ly/1fiAiQz
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 1:32:24 AM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
Is anyone really happy with corporate IT, from an end user point of view?
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
10/7/2013 | 6:14:06 PM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
I got this in-depth comment in via email from Alexander J. Keenan from Cincinnati Ohio. Good thinking and a good link here:

Have you considered that Gǣmanagement can have poor depth of knowledge regarding the tools and techniques IT provides to the organization?Gǥ

http://www.retailwire.com/disc...

Issues I have seen with management in a majority of companies.

1. Management do not understand the uncertainty involved in many IT project estimates. Many time you need a proof of concept, bench test, limited rollout, scaling up to division level, etc. IT can carry a learning cost.

2. Management fails to address Organizational processes when planning IT solutions. Automating a crappy process is called GǣPaving the cow pathGǥ in IT.

3. Management undercuts estimates believing the can force a cheaper and faster solution.

4. Management fails to say NO to features which results in features that are seldom or never used. Estimates vary in the cost of creating and maintaining these feature but it is very large.

5. Management fails to understand the difference between a structural change (major impact) and a cosmetic change (minor impact) when requesting changes to a project.

6. Management fails to plan and design for the life of the software asset. Many time the development cost is much less than the operating cost.

7. Management fails to understand impact of request on current operations. They love to create technical dept.

8. As the article above states, management is using tools that they have little true understanding of. I am taking a Intro to Operations Management for fun. I have created a IT study group and have a lot of members. IT is more than willing to learn the business side!!!

9. IT is about solving problems with knowledge workers. Operations is about efficiency and highly repeatable processes with low variances. Too very different work environments.
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2013 | 5:15:07 PM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
Our company does that, Lorna, but it does not really help. The survey is anonymous and questions so generic it does not give you enough info to improve anything. Mostly you are measuring how many people think internet connection is fast enough (not many) and whether they like having to use Lotus Notes (not many).
Before Corp started doing this, I sent out a request for feedback annually at our local unit. Very few people even bothered to reply and most of them just said things like "great job, keep it up" or "email system sucks", nothing you could really use to improve anything.
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/7/2013 | 1:30:32 PM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
To DDurbin's point though, generation all that communication in chunks digestible by the business is expensive - and in the end, the CFO may have veto power that would be unthinkable to give over the CMO.
rradina
50%
50%
rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2013 | 12:38:12 PM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
The financial crash had nothing to do with IT and everything to do with extremely poor business decisions. There's certainly opportunities for IT to improve and reduce cost but it has to be viewed as partner, not a cost center.

30 years ago my first IT concept was GIGO. Back then the meaning was fairly narrow but experience has proven its application to be universal. Contrary to IT pride or business vitriol toward IT, technology is not pixie dust. In my experience, driving decisions based on it isn't wise. Whenever I hear ideas like that I don't think of driving. I think of the chasing while throwing loads of cash out the window.

Throwing technology at questionable or unproven business processes/concepts/products after they are already failing is extremely risky and expensive. IT absolutely becomes part of this failure but never forget GIGO. If the business created a turd, photoshop can make it look like a supermodel but it will still smell like a turd.
parkercloud
50%
50%
parkercloud,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/5/2013 | 3:27:06 AM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
Cloud Computing abstracts business model from architecture, a main point of Cloud architecture
WKash
50%
50%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
10/5/2013 | 12:25:48 AM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
Another problem is that business models continue to be a work in progress, making it hard to architect IT into the business equation.
bfildes
50%
50%
bfildes,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/4/2013 | 10:19:28 PM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
Too often IT interaction with the business is framed within the chosen technology and goes something like, "We can solve your problem with our new enterprise service bus technology", before the business even completes the problem description. They're shopping a solution, trying to justify its purchase and not listening to the business, evaluating possible solutions and sharing with the business the pros and cons of each.
Shane M. O'Neill
50%
50%
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
10/4/2013 | 8:48:14 PM
re: IT's Reputation: Broken Bad
His first pillar makes a great point. It's easier for IT pros to learn business priorities than for business people to learn IT. Being more business-minded may be scary for some tech folks. But it's a big advantage as more companies confront digital disruption. The smart IT pros and CIOs will exploit it.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014
InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at InformationWeek.com.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.