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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
9/17/2014
03:00 PM
Sarah Lahav
Sarah Lahav
Commentary
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3 Myths That Could Spoil IT's Future

IT leaders need to overcome the myths that keep hurting IT's reputation.

Stereotypes, ignorance, and misinformation. They're all still conspiring to create the impression that IT departments are more of an obstruction than an asset to businesses.

As information technology professionals, we all know that IT can be a source of innovation and competitive advantage. We also need the business world to see IT through this lens, but currently there are too many myths skewing public perception of IT. My goal here is to address these myths and try to convey the right way IT should be perceived.

The single biggest myth is that IT is about providing technology. It's not. IT is about providing people with the capabilities they need to do their jobs. Or, externally, it's about enabling people to buy and use your company's products and services. Companies don't have computer problems -- they have business problems.

[Do you relate to these real-life digital business problems? Read 3 Meltdown Moments In Digital Strategy]

If we want to convince the wider business world that IT is actually indispensable to a business, we need to defuse these three myths:

1. BYOD is a mess created by employees
This is false. The bring-your-own-device movement was created by IT. When internal IT departments failed to meet employees' demands for mobile devices and services, they began looking for outside providers. In fact, IT has been dragging this problem around for at least 10 years, when people began bringing BlackBerry phones into the office. From the get-go, employees tried to circumvent IT departments because that seemed faster than waiting for IT to provide mobile services.

We cannot blame employees for IT issues like BYOD, and we cannot be perceived as blaming them. Our job is to stay ahead of technological trends and address their impact on data security and business processes long before they cascade into a problem. BYOD is a problem because IT failed to provide mobile capabilities soon enough.

2. Service catalogues demonstrate good service
No, service catalogues do not guarantee good service, nor do they compensate for years of poor service. When IT departments create service catalogues, they forget that a service "launch" requires some PR. Your end users, whom I prefer to call customers, often have no idea what's in the catalogue, and they don't want to waste time perusing it. Some departments don't understand why they get emails requesting password resets when their users can just go into the catalogue and do it. Sadly, their customers don't know about the option because IT failed to communicate it.

IT is responsible for marketing and selling its own services. As tech companies have discovered, you can't release features and expect adoption -- you have to let everyone know about the capabilities and business value first.

3. Good service metrics = good service
It's a myth that first-contact resolution and high incidence volumes are signs of exceptional service. They can mean just the opposite. First-contact resolution doesn't necessarily mean that the customer was happy with the service or that the solution was effective. But because that metric is often put on a pedestal, IT departments feel pressured to fix a complaint while they have the customer on the phone or IM. Often, that just wastes the person's time. At some departments, IT admins rush customers off the phone to close the ticket within the first call resolution target window. In many cases, IT people need to forget first contact resolution and pass the problem to a specialist (second contact), who can potentially diagnose and solve it in half the time.

Similarly, a high or low number of incidents can indicate problems. Are the same problems repeating themselves? Is service so bad that employees ignore the service desk? Stop creating myths about success and failure out of individual metrics. Look at sets of metrics to form narratives about your service. Maybe even ask your customers what they think about the service desk.

IT's future
Some people believe that corporate IT organizations are as powerful as they were in the 1990s. They're not.

Many have moved from technology innovators to infrastructure administrators. In my opinion, we can reverse that trend by demolishing these IT myths and reminding businesses -- and IT professionals -- that IT provides capabilities, not technology. We are in an age of simplification, best illustrated by the consumerization of business software. People want IT to automate, streamline, or eliminate tedious processes. They want more time to do their jobs. Shadow IT and unmanaged BYOD merely reflect IT's failure to honor these needs.

IT isn't a standalone part of any organization. It's as much a part of the business as marketing or accounting. You provide a service, which means you must research, market, sell, and communicate that service internally. I don't believe IT will go extinct, but we need to overcome our own myths and improve outside perceptions to continue playing a vital role in businesses.

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As SysAid Technologies' first employee, Sarah Lahav has remained a vital link between SysAid and its customers since 2003. She is the current CEO and the former VP of Customer Relations. The two positions have given her a hands-on role in evolving SysAid solutions to align ... View Full Bio
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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2014 | 7:50:38 AM
Re: IT: The State of the Union ?
I have to say that I've seen all of that too.  I got started in IT by accident, I was supposed to be going to work for a design firm building assembly lines but was part of a massive lay off the day I was slated to start.  I got my first and last week's paycheck without even making it past the lobby.  I scrambled for a job and ended up doing desktop support because I had an aptitude for it.  Many years later I'm in that management position but the difference is I came from the bottom up so I understand how IT works at every level and I get a bit irritated when I hear things like "I'll just have my nephew look at it"  because I know that means it will end up with one of my employees spending twice as long fixing the issues once it finally makes it to us.  On the flip side if I'm asked to look at something outside of the company I work for I'm very careful how far I'll go with supporting them.  I will do basic troubleshooting so that they can speak intelligently to another companies support team but I won't go in messing with software settings that I don't understand hoping I accidently figure it out.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
9/28/2014 | 3:46:13 AM
Re: IT: The State of the Union ?

"..I don't see BYOD as a problem, I see it as an opportunity to build out solutions that people will actually use."

 

@SaneIT     I agree.  This was a poor reference by me - I really don't have much against BYOD, as long as security is maintained - I don't care how people access data. 

As long as you have some controls it should be a win-win for everyone.

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
9/28/2014 | 3:29:41 AM
Re: IT: The State of the Union ?

" I agree but what is the solution?  I've hired people who can talk the talk and had the experience but when I turned them loose it was a nightmare. "

 

This is a tough question to be sure.   And I really don't see an answer - because the only answer would be a fundamental reintroduction of IT - with this most companies would have to start over and do it the right way, which of course we both know is never going to happen.   You have people who walked into IT because they have some sort of aptitude for some aspect of the industry.  

Many got they're start by "letting my son do it" or "Wow, you are good with electrical stuff can you head the department ?"  

These people are now bosses who have no clue what IT really encompasses - those are the ones who tell you, your only reason for being is "to assist the user" - all the while telling you this in flip-flops.  Yes, this actually happened to me. 

There are many things to be proud of in tech, but there are equally as many things to be embarrassed by as well.   This fundamental remake of IT will not happen realistically due to execs who have never understood the importance of IT to begin with, to the heads of IT whose claim to fame is that they were able to understand HTTP, load an OS and network some computers before anyone else did.

I thought there was hope, but we are just kidding ourselves and as a result be prepared for much of the same to continue.  In many ways business had one golden opportunity to leverage IT for the power it has and yet again American Businesses for the most part fell short.

pfretty
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pfretty,
User Rank: Ninja
9/26/2014 | 8:56:44 AM
So true!
"You can't release features and expect adoption." I see this far too often, and I would argue it's in part a reality because IT is constantly tasked to do more with less.  However, IT needs to be more diligent in it's ability to encourage use of more advanced thinking and the necessity of moving outside the status quo.  This is especially true as IT organizations introduce more people within the fold of big data analytics. According to a recent SAS survey, organizations struggle dissemenating information across the enterprise.  Yet, there are significant benefits of empowering more people with access to data insights -- most notably turning insights into actions.  However, this nver happens if there isn't promotion and training associate with the release. 

Peter Fretty

 
SaneIT
IW Pick
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2014 | 7:44:36 AM
Re: IT: The State of the Union ?
@Technocrati, "There are serious issues in most IT departments, many are holding positions that they are quite frankly unqualified for.   This phenomenon encompasses every title and function. " I agree but what is the solution?  I've hired people who can talk the talk and had the experience but when I turned them loose it was a nightmare.  I get a lot of "oh my nephew loves computers"  and "I'll just have my son look at it" which really makes me cringe.  A lot of IT is being done by individuals with no thought toward the bigger picture and that's hard for some in the IT field to grasp.  I don't see BYOD as a problem, I see it as an opportunity to build out solutions that people will actually use.  The trick is thinking past a single user and their device to deliver solutions that will work across the most popular platforms.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2014 | 4:43:12 AM
IT: The State of the Union ?

@Sarah Lahav  Thank you for exposing what many consider a decline in the perceived importance of IT.   I agree IT needs to do a better job of proactive promoting themselves.  

There are serious issues in most IT departments, many are holding positions that they are quite frankly unqualified for.   This phenomenon encompasses every title and function.   

While opportunity based on precieved ability is a great aspect of IT -  the field is one of the few that allows those with ability to potentially contribute - there are times when this ability has been miscast. 

This of course results in a whole host of issues both apparent and under the surface.  Of course there is more this issue of IT's reputation  than the ability to do the job  - yet this is a major aspect that leads to BYOD, Shadow IT and all the rest.

 

So while I agree with your arguments,  I really hope those that should be listening your message actually do.

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