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IT Should Get Naked

To drive real change, IT must shed its invisibility and engage with the organization’s politics and culture.

Running IT in a transparent and accountable fashion -- with regard to finances, investments, operations, and personnel -- is desirable in any business. In this regard, IT is no different from any other part of the organization, save perhaps "skunkworks" projects and R&D.

But to much of the organization, including the CEO, IT looks opaque, or even invisible. Executives know that IT spends (spending is loud) but what IT produces -- the day-to-day functioning of essential business systems -- is often unknown because those results are quiet.

Things just work, and no one outside of IT gives a thought to why or how. Most great IT departments power the business day after day and don't boast of their feats, unlike sales and marketing folks (I can say this because I'm a marketer).

Many CIOs enjoy this invisibility. They like running their own worlds, from hiring to finances, and would prefer not to call too much attention to themselves. After all, just doing your job and producing good work without the encumbrance of politics or engagement with the corporate culture can be a comfort.

The problem, however, is that this isolation limits the CIO's ability to truly transform the business.

Invisibility or opacity leads to misperceptions about IT and "the business" being separate entities, not as parts of the same organic whole. These misperceptions keep IT out of planning and business processes. They encourage other departments to bypass, rather than engage with, IT.

So the real test of the CIO and the IT department in toto is whether they are willing and eager to drop the veil. This can bring collaboration and empathy, but also scrutiny and criticism. In that sense, the decision to do so involves cultural and emotional elements as much as it does business factors.

Either way it's a journey. Some call it Technology Business Management (TBM). Others refer to it as aligning IT with Business. Whatever you call it, openness to scrutiny makes for better leaders. It's time for IT to show a little skin -- and then put it in the game.

Join Romi at Interop Las Vegas for the panel Diversity in IT and the Myth of the Talent Gap, which will discuss IT's lack of diversity and offer practical tools IT managers can use to make sure they don't overlook talented candidates.