Archive for March, 2014


What one word would you use to describe your IT department?

Obviously one might receive a different response if this question was asked of someone within IT versus an individual receiving IT services.  There are various other factors that might affect the response as well – things like the respondent’s frequency of interaction with IT or relationship with members of the IT staff.  Perhaps their level of knowledge about everything IT does would be a factor.  They could be influenced by the speed of their PC or the size of their monitor.  The respondent’s level of authority often seems to be a factor in their opinion of IT.Transform 2

Some IT staff members might describe their department using words like strategic, visionary, leaders, hard-working, and service-oriented.  More often you hear words like overwhelmed, understaffed, handcuffed, stressed, unappreciated, order-takers, and helpless-desk.

When asking those in departments outside IT, you could hear words like focused, hard-working, appreciated, needed, and understaffed.  But in far too many cases, the description is more akin to words like slow, costly, controlling, reactive, roadblock, resistant, poor-service, techies, inflexible, internally-focused, and even necessary-evil.

“How many of you know someone who is not really happy with their IT department?”

We have to admit that the descriptions of IT departments throughout the world tend heavily toward the negative side.  I once asked a room of senior executives from various disciplines, companies, and industries, “How many of you know someone who is not really happy with their IT department?”  The room erupted in laughter.  There seemed to be almost unanimous agreement with the one executive who exclaimed, “No one is happy with their IT shop!”

So what if we changed the question just a bit.  What if we asked, “What one word do you wish described your IT department?” 

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In 1986 BusinessWeek Magazine ran a story entitled “Management’s Newest Star:  Meet the Chief Information Officer”.  Corporate IT had arrived!  No longer would we be locked in dark basements doing our work in relative obscurity.  The business community recognized the importance of IT and the need to use technology as a strategic resource to drive the company to new heights.  From the basement to the penthouse!

There are few companies today that do not run on a technology foundation.  In fact, Gartner declares “Every budget is an IT budget.  Every company is an IT What happenedcompany.”  Technology is empowering customers and driving companies toward new processes, products, services, and even business models.  It is disrupting entire industries and causing changes in societal behavior.  It seems obvious that the pace and impact of technological change are accelerating.  In fact, 86% of CEOs say that technological advances will transform their business by 2019.

Back in 1986, the future looked very bright for the CIO and the corporate IT department.  Today we seem to be at the beginning of a virtual technological tsunami driving momentous change.  This should be a glorious age for the CIO and corporate IT! 

Yet the calls for IT transformation are growing stronger and more frequent.  We see predictions that the CMO will soon be spending more on technology than the CIO.  We witness an increase in shadow IT and technology spending outside the IT budget.  We see new C-suite roles emerging – such as the Chief Digital Officer, the Chief Data Officer, and the Chief Innovation Officer.  And these new roles are taking on duties that previously had been considered the domain of the Chief Information Officer!  There is a growing recognition that the traditional role played by the CIO and corporate IT is insufficient for the brave new world ahead.

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