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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?