Be Flexible - GumbyResistance can be good or bad.  For example, resistance-based exercises can aid in becoming more physically fit. Informed resistance  to proposed change within your organization may signal that additional considerations are needed to possibly modify the proposal to overcome potential issues or perhaps present a stronger result.  On the other hand, resistance can be problematic when it results from closed-mindedness.

What causes resistance within IT…and how can it be overcome?

Too often the corporate IT department is perceived by those they serve as being resistant…and this resistance is definitely not seen as a good thing.  But what causes it…and how can it be overcome?

The IT profession is based upon logic.  It’s all just 1’s and 0’s, right?  Definitive rules and order are required for integration and operability.  The profession attracts people that are very logical.  They are problem-solvers whose analytical minds look for patterns to help resolve errors and detect root causes.  IT professionals often have a tendency to solve problems in their heads within the context of what they know — even as you are still in the process of explaining the issue.  At times this tendency causes some to prematurely jump to an incorrect conclusion without hearing the entire scenario.

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In far too many companies today, IT staffs express a similar sentiment:   “We are just order takers.  We have a lot of good ideas, but they won’t listen to us.  Many times we see other things that would better help their department, but they don’t seem to care.  They just want what they want when they want it.”Not Controlling but Enabling

And then you can walk across the hall and hear things like:  “IT reminds us of our grade school cafeteria.  They only offer us one selection, and if we don’t want that, too bad!“  You might also hear:  “We just want to get the job done in the best way possible for our company.  We know there are better apps out there; we use them at home.  Why can’t we get them at work?  We know several other companies that are now allowing people to use their own phones and even their own apps for work.  Others are using software in the cloud and paying for that each month with their corporate credit card.  More companies are doing this every day, but our IT department won’t allow any of that.  They are so controlling and behind the times!  They are a roadblock to getting our work done.”  You also find terms like “the IT police” or “the Department of NO!” applied to the IT department.

Wow!  What a difference!  And everyone on both sides agrees that they only want what is best for the company. 

Obviously there is a great need for controls around IT systems and information.  Controls are put in place to ensure privacy of customer information and to secure corporate data from competitors.  Security and balancing controls provide separation of duties in preventing fraud and error.  Change management controls enhance the stability of corporate systems.  Audit and regulatory changes necessitated more controls.  The proliferation of end-user databases (such as Microsoft Access) often brought about more controls to reduce time wasted in trying to come to a single version of the truth across all the reports that theoretically should have been showing the same results.

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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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Too often IT professionals are almost viewed as outsiders by others in the company.  Oh sure, everyone knows that you are on the same payroll, but there’s just something…well, different.Outsiders

Perhaps it is because IT is often behind closed doors.  Or it could be that they view IT as simply a service that could be purchased rather than as a true partner motivated to help drive the business forward.  The issue could possibly be that some of the IT processes make it difficult for others to do business with us.  Perhaps they are picking up on the vibe that many see themselves as IT professionals rather than as bankers, manufacturers, retailers or distributors (see “What Business Are You In?”).

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. – Henry Ford

The silo mentality needs to be eliminated.  Business is difficult enough, and competition is fierce.  Your company needs everyone on the same team moving forward together.

But let’s face it.  Even if IT suddenly announced that they were changing jerseys so that they could play on the same team as the rest of the company, that doesn’t mean they would be readily accepted.  Others may not be used to looking at you that way.  They could have preconceived notions about what IT can and should be.  There could be years of history to overcome.  Mindsets need to change both within and outside IT.  And actions need to follow words.

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