4 IT Cultures: Which One Are You?

From White Knight to Curmudgeon, IT cultures fall into four categories. Which one describes your organization?

Romi Mahajan, Author and Tech Investor

July 21, 2014

2 Min Read

There is a diversity of cultures in IT departments. These cultures reflect the attitude of an organization’s top leadership toward IT, as well as IT’s own ability (or lack thereof) to learn, grow, and change. Given the importance of IT to modern business, an organization’s IT culture matters. The right fit can make IT a powerful force for positive change.

Though not an IT practitioner myself, I will attempt to classify IT culture by putting IT organizations into 4 buckets. Please bear with me.

They are:

1.      The White Knight

2.      The Work Horse

3.      The Agreeable Friend

4.      The Curmudgeon

The White Knight can also be called Hero-IT. In this organization, IT always comes to the rescue by initiating new projects, failing fast at errant ones, and keeping tight, value-added relationships with the rest of the organization. White Knight organizations are proactive and progressive.

Work Horse organizations are dependable but not flashy. They think of IT’s role as enabling the rest of the business in its current state. They are polite, SLA-driven, and approachable. Work Horse organizations give IT a good name and dispel the perception that IT is aloof.

Agreeable Friend organizations respond to the demands of internal customers, but don’t teach or coach the rest of the company. They get high marks from average employees but rarely impress the more discerning ones who look for sustainable solutions rather than quick fixes.

Curmudgeon organizations believe in rigid, rule-based approaches to IT. For them, the word “governance” is not a 4-letter word. Curmudgeon organizations love IT but don’t like their customers and have fealty to the abstraction they call “the company” as opposed to the people who work on the company’s behalf.

If you think this is fair taxonomy (howsoever imperfect), where does your IT organization sit on the list? Do you see elements of multiple categories within a single organization? Where would you like your organization to be?

My own experiences with IT organizations has been excellent and rewarding. I have not once worked for a firm with a Curmudgeon IT culture. But I’ve also heard the horror stories.

Please share your own experiences and let me know if this cultural taxonomy makes sense to you. Do the definitions work? Would you add other categories? I’d like to hear your feedback.

[Interop’s Business of IT Track helps IT leaders link technology and great business outcomes. Use the code SMIWBLOG to save 25% when you register for Interop New York.]

About the Author(s)

Romi Mahajan

Author and Tech Investor

Stephen Foskett is an active participant in the world of enterprise information technology, currently focusing on enterprise storage and cloud computing. He is responsible for Gestalt IT, a community of independent IT thought leaders, and organizes the popular Tech Field Day events. A long-time voice in the storage industry, Foskett has authored numerous articles for industry publications, and is a popular presenter at industry events. His contributions to the enterprise IT community have earned him recognition as both a Microsoft MVP and VMware vExpert. Stephen Foskett is principal consultant at Foskett Services.

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