30th

“How many of you know of a company where people aren’t real happy with their IT department?”  This question was asked in a room of executives from various businesses.  The response was immediate laughter.  There seemed to be almost unanimous agreement with the one executive who exclaimed, “No one is happy with their IT shop!”Dumb PC

In a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of BMC, 86% of the global business users surveyed reporting losing an average of 18 hours/month due to IT issues (Exploring Business and IT Friction:  Myths and Realities – free registration required).  That’s over 5 weeks a year!  #WOW!  Think about the effect that would have on the company’s bottom line!

 

In this same study, 46% of the business users surveyed experience IT problems more than once a week, 49% said that they experience difficulty in reaching the IT Service Desk when needed, and 43% responded that the IT Service Desk doesn’t provide the right answers to their problems.  Would it surprise you to hear references to the ‘Helpless Desk’ at these organizations?

Having never seen that much downtime, I must admit that I struggle with these figures.  I have, though, seen organizations that routinely spoke of their ‘Helpless Desk’.  In fact, when one service desk technician was asked about it, he laughed and said that even the Service Desk refers to itself as ‘helpless’ because of their lack of communication from the rest of the IT department.  #HowSad.

In further research on the subject, BMC reviewed almost 200,000 tweets that mentioned IT support experiences (IT Friction and Social Media).  Only 5% of those were positive!

But it’s not just about the Service Desk.  Aligning IT with the rest of the organization has been a hot topic for years.  How’s that going?

With social media, cloud, mobile technologies, and big data analytics, it seems that the pace of change is rapidly accelerating.  Companies are looking to leap into much more innovation.  CMOs are pushing the need for speed in transforming marketing through technology.  Expectations of technology are zooming.  After years of targeting cost-cutting and more efficient corporate operations, companies desire more from their IT departments in pushing revenue generation and competitive differentiation.  They want an IT department that is a true partner focused on the business rather than on technology.  It seems that many are questioning whether the CIO can truly be a player in this new era or will be relegated to simply keeping the lights on.

All is not lost.  IT departments can win the hearts and minds of their company while helping to propel it toward new heights.  We invite you to join in the discussion as we examine the issues and identify ways that IT can truly make a difference.  Will it take change?  Yes.  Must it be a total transformation?  Perhaps for some.  Will it be hard?  Definitely.  Will it be fun?  It can be.

So let’s hear from you.  What do you think are the top issues causing a disconnect between the IT department and the rest of the organization?

19 Responses to “Where Is The Disconnect?”

  • Mike Wise says:

    Terry, spot-on. One additional comment that immediately comes to mind – The dreaded IT Project Priority List. Everyone knows that if your project ends up on the bottom-third of the list, you’re screwed.

    But enter Crowdsourcing via sites like TopCoder. The idea is to convert one of the weakest coders in the IT dep’t into a crowdsourcing code guru. That person can then stop coding and focus exclusively on crowdsourcing the bottom-third projects.

    Imaging the increase in satisfaction, not to mention Velocity of the enterprise, with that one strategic change inside the IT dep’t?

    Thoughts from others?

    • KenHittel says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Aside from making a useful asset out of that “weakest coder, if you operate this at scale you can free up a lot of IT EE time to actually spend it w/ the business to gain a much deeper and more valuable insight into what the business wants and needs.

    • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

      Mike, I really like the thought! Projects typically do not rise to the top of a priority list because their return or strategic value is not as great as those projects placed higher. (Of course, sometimes there are corporate politics at play as well). That doesn’t always mean, though, that there is no value in them. On a percentage basis, there could even be a very high ROI expected, but if the cost is low, the project just doesn’t seem to rise to the top.
      Anything that would allow a company to move more quickly and cost-effectively must certainly be considered.
      Crowdsourcing of coding has very good potential in some situations. Obviously it would need someone to define the effort and ensure that the finished product is of good quality. I can see how it could work very well for new systems that are fairly standalone….for example, some mobile apps. I can’t quite picture, though, how it would work with modifications to large legacy systems.
      Anyone else?

    • Dmoore says:

      One of the things to keep in mind is that crowdsourcing can look attractive, but also contribute to the problem. Like Terry, it depends on what it is. Leadership is responsible for filtering out all the great ideas that also detract from the business strategy or add incremental cost. Department A has a great idea? Great, does it really add business value? Depends. That is the challenge with the IT priority list – how do you focus resources on the truly meaningful projects without adding to the IT spaghetti, that eventually adds cost, but not the best value. I think IT needs to be creative in how they tackle projects, and sometimes that means doing things differently, and somethings things aren’t done – the burden of leadership. Making the business happy also means tough conversations. How do you determine which of the “bottom” projects deliver true customer or business value?

      • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

        Dwight,

        Great point. It sometimes seems that people play with the projected business value in order to get a higher priority for their project. While this is a very siloed mentality, I’ve seen it happen. I wonder why more companies don’t implement a process to evaluate completed projects against their projected business value.

        Anyone have any thoughts on that?

  • KenHittel says:

    “They want an IT department that is a true partner focused on the business rather than on technology.”

    Nope, I don’t think so. I think what the “business people” increasingly want is to be able to MAKE those technology decisions, preferably with the assistance of techies WITHIN THEIR organizations, rather than have those decisions dictated to them by a centralized & all-powerful IT Dept.

    Should there be a centralized IT org? Yes, but only to “keep the lights on,” to run the network, keep the phones working, etc. (And, yes, to run a real Help Center.) But other than that, put those coders and IT emerging technology expertise within the business orgs, subject to business priorities and capable of understanding those priorities & choosing the most appropriate tools to realizing them. Then there need not be any question at all about generating revenue, because that will be accomplished within the business orgs, with the indispensable assistance of techies.

    As for keeping the lights on as a cost center? Fine, We all like lights and working computers & phones…

    • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

      Ken, thanks for your comments. Perhaps I should have said “They want a true partner focused on the business rather than on technology.” I agree completely that there are many issues resulting from an “all-powerful IT Dept.”. There are several ways to organize the functions typically associated with an IT department (centralized, decentralized, federated, etc). Each has its pros/cons and could even be somewhat dependent upon the size and makeup of the overall company.
      We have to recognize also that there are many more options available today as we consider Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, IT-as-a-Service, etc.
      But in any event, everyone in the company needs to be on the same page — focused on driving it forward.
      Would you agree?

      • KenHittel says:

        Well, in my case over the past five years, w/ a 1,300 EE-strong IT dept. and a technophobe CEO, the CIO & IT Executive team (none of whom are techies!) wield tremendous power. Unfortunately it was they who fought hardest against “Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service, IT-as-a-Service.” They are increasinly losing battles in this respect, but not the war.

  • Marx Family says:

    I agree with the thesis and that it does not have to be this way. I have had the honor to be associated with some IT orgs that were bottom dwellers but eventually made their way to the top in terms of customer satisfaction in their enterprises. Top issues have been mentioned such as lack of partnership and perhaps the biggest one is rather simple to fix…relationships. Relationships cover a multitude of sin and are the basis of everything. Edward Marx, SVP/CIO

    • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

      Ed,

      I love your point on relationships! Isn’t it interesting how much value can be gained from enhancing relationships? It makes a true difference when others realize that you truly care about them & their success.

  • ElliotJolesch says:

    I agree with your article. The biggest problems seem to be an IT Department that doesn’t follow the “mission” of the company and an upper management group that has IT-phobia. It can be resolved but it takes a lot of work, and some give and take from both ends. It’s sometimes hard for everyone to remember that the end goal is to have satisfied customers.

    • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

      Elliot,

      Thanks for your observation. You’re right that it can be resolved — & that it takes work. It requires leadership and a willingness to work together & move forward together.

  • Martha Osborn says:

    I do think IT leaders need to approach company concerns with a collaborative business approach. With mobile marketing, social media & websites, marketing needs a “friend” in the IT department. Some companies dedicate IT resources to marketing. I have heard IT leaders say “We got you this far, now you will have to finish the project. We have other projects with more priority.” I have also been in meetings where IT & Marketing discuss concerns as to … does marketing “own” the project or does IT.

    • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

      Martha,

      Good point! A collaborative business approach is imperative. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be working toward the same goal! Why is that so hard?

      Anyone have a thought?

  • Charles Araujo says:

    Terry, thanks for inviting me to the party. This seems to have stirred up an interesting conversation. Here’s my take. We are living in a new world for IT leaders and organizations. The rules have changed forever. Ken commented that ‘business people’ want to make technology decisions. I don’t think that’s quite true. But they do want a much higher degree of control. There is simply too much riding on technology for them to NOT want control. The balance of power has shifted and IT leaders need to change with the times if we are to remain relevant.

    For IT leaders to take their organizations into this new era, I think that they need to embody two key characteristics and then focus on two key deliveries. First, I believe that IT leaders need to approach their business customers first and foremost with a “posture of humility.” We need to see ourselves as being in the service of our organization. That can rub IT executives the wrong way, but we must allow an attitude of service to pervade the core culture of the organization – and not in the “we provide IT services” kind of way, but in the “we are here to be of service” kind of way.

    Second, we must then use that posture of humility to “seek intimacy” with our customer. I believe that this is really what they want. They don’t want to spend any time talking about technology, per se, or making arcane technical decisions. They want to talk about their most pressing business challenges and opportunities with counterparts who speak their language, live in their world and can bring heretofore unforeseen possibilities to the table, powered by technology. But that kind of intimacy requires trust, investment and mutual vulnerability. Something that can be very tough for IT leaders to open themselves up to.

    If we can get those two characteristics right, then it comes down to how you act. I believe that there are two key things that the IT organization must deliver. First is predictability. This gets to the core of “operational excellence.” No one likes surprises, especially when your business – and your bonus – is riding on it. IT must create an environment in which IT services are delivered consistently and reliably – all day, every day. That means having the courage and strength of relationship to educate and inform your business counterparts when the decisions that they’d like to make will threaten the thing that they really want the most.

    The second key deliverable is innovation. Not technology innovation, per se, but business process innovation. Innovation that takes commodity technologies, combines them with unique processes and organizational strengths to create strategic value and competitive differentiation. This is the ultimate value that IT exists to deliver. This is how we can participate in revenue growth, profit expansion, improved return on equity – all of the financial metrics that matter. They are almost never realized via operational execution. It is almost always some form of innovation that propels the ultimate return for the IT function.

    I believe that these four are highly interrelated. You need all of them to succeed – and to change the tone and relationship between IT and its customers.

    • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

      Charlie,
      Bingo! I love your thought on humility. That will bring the mindset of “What can I do to best make you successful?”… a true leadership that cares about those you serve — whether they are reporting to you or are in another area.
      Your comment on seeking intimacy is similar to Ed’s comment on strengthening relationships. Both of you addressed the need to understand the business and look at things from the business point of view.
      Operational excellence should be a given, but you also addressed the courage and strength of relationship here. One thing I would add is communication. It seems that too often we fall short in keeping our clients truly aware of what is going on.
      My impression is that IT can best bring innovative ideas to the table by cultivating a culture in which IT staff looks outside to see how the competition, the industry, and even other industries are using technology to advance their business… and then bringing that information back to others in the organization to discuss and brainstorm.
      I’d love to hear what others think about this.

  • John Cole says:

    Terry, as usual, you have sounded a note of encouragement. THANKS for giving us Hope for better future outcomes !! John

  • Charlie Bess says:

    The focus on IT technical issues has always seemed to be more part of the problem than the solution. Everyone in IT needs to realize that the focus needs to be on the business goals and making decisions better, faster and cheaper. It is definitely not about technology but enabling the business to take action.

    • DifferentiatorsLLC says:

      Charlie, I agree completely! The focus absolutely MUST be on the business! After all, that is what is putting the food on the table.

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