Archive for October, 2013

31st

Have you ever had a client who wants the universe, gift-wrapped, and delivered yesterday?

I’ve heard many IT departments claim that such excessive demands are exactly what their clients are insisting upon.expectations-danger-sign

But step back for just a moment and put on a different hat…. When you order a new PC over the web, what do you want as a customer?  Do you really believe the manufacturer should pay you $10,000 just to take that PC off his hands?  Do you think that FedEx will be ringing your doorbell with package in hand as soon as you hit SUBMIT on your purchase?

When you think about it, what do you as a customer want out of a product?  You want something that is of good quality, that is delivered on a timely basis, and that meets your needs.  But if the product you receive is excellent, will you always be totally satisfied with your buying experience?  Of course not.  Even if the product itself far exceeded your expectations but the order taker had been extremely arrogant and rude, you would see your buying experience as lacking.

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22nd

“What business are you in?”  Ask any IT practitioner this question and you will likely hear something like, “I’m in IT.”

Let’s face it.  Most IT people do not seem to see themselves as bankers, manufacturers, retailers, or distributors.  They see themselves as IT professionals.  After all, couldn’t they easily take their skills to another industry that uses similar technology?lemonade stand

It is true that an IT professional may perhaps be able to switch industries easier than those in some other professions.  But a single-minded focus on technology (rather than on the larger business environment that actually writes the paychecks) prevents your company from truly benefitting from all the talents at their disposal.

In his book Get Out of I.T. While You Can, Craig Schiefelbein proposes an interesting exercise.  Pick out any IT professional in your company.  Now imagine your CEO recruiting that individual on the spur of the moment to show some important potential customers around the company.  You could expect the customers to ask typical questions like:

  • What is your target market for each of your products?
  • Who are the major competitors for each of your products and what are your advantages as compared to your competition?  What are the selling points your competitors use against you?
  • What else differentiates you from your competition?
  • What is your company doing to ensure me that it will still be around in five or ten years?
  • What are you doing to improve the customer experience?

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17th

Have you ever noticed that many IT professionals seem to leap to a conclusion?jumping-frog

I once attended a training course on how to elicit business requirements using a facilitated discovery session to gather requirements.  By bringing all the stakeholders together to define the project, the shared information and decision-making process was to improve buy-in, reduce risk of scope creep, and increase the speed of delivery.

As the instructor briefed us on the method, she recommended that IT people not be included in the discovery sessions.  Having come up through the ranks of IT, I questioned the reasoning behind such a statement and asked the instructor at the first break.  She cited an example of a recent discovery session her company had facilitated to gather requirements for a large project at a client company.  In attendance at the discovery session were a number of stakeholders from throughout the company – including two IT developers who had been with the company for quite a while.  After the facilitator had laid out the ground rules for the discovery session, she began eliciting business requirements from the attendees.  As requirements were suggested, they were to be discussed and refined as necessary.  However, it happened that as soon as the first business requirement was mentioned, one of the developers said, “We can’t do that.” When the next requirement came up, the other developer remarked, “We’ve tried that before, and it doesn’t work.”  Read the rest of this entry »

10th

Do you have the courage required to be the IT leader your company needs?

A 2012 study by Ernst & Young (The DNA of the CIO) reports that many IT leaders find their roles hugely rewarding and enjoyable, but relatively few have broken out of their comfort Driver or Passengerzone to become true partners to the business and the executive team.  The study states that many CIOs are truly a C-level in title only and are not perceived to be at the same level as others in the C-suite.  For example, only 17% of the CIOs participating in the study were members of the executive team, and less than half were involved in strategic decision-making.  Further, there was a disconnect between the CIO and the rest of the C-suite as to the value of having the CIO involved in a strategic manner.  It appears that many of the C-suite beliefs about the CIO are rooted in a historical view of IT as solely a back office function – perhaps somewhat akin to facilities management.  IT is viewed as a cost-center.  As such, a primary focus is often to control the IT budget rather than to explore the additional value IT can bring the business. 

Changing the perception of business leaders is not an easy task.  It is a viewpoint that has developed over a number of years.  Many see IT as slow, unresponsive, reactive, costly, and resistant to change.  Further, they often seem to believe that IT is more focused on themselves than on the business.    Read the rest of this entry »

3rd

What is it about IT and control anyway?control2

Obviously there is a great need for controls around IT systems and information. We put controls in place to ensure privacy of our customers’ information and to secure our corporate data from our competitors. We use security and balancing controls to provide separation of duties in preventing fraud and error. We have change management controls to enhance the stability of our corporate systems. You could go on and on with such examples.

But does the need for such controls necessitate a complete command-and-control management approach within IT? Read the rest of this entry »

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