When it comes to IT, it is common for organisations to follow the analogy about legislation and sausages…
‘You want the tasty outcome, but would rather not know how they’re made.’
Managers understand that IT is important, but it is invariably seen as the IT department’s job. The role of management is to tell the geeks vaguely what they want and then let them get on with it.
The IT professionals feel isolated, ignored and unable to deliver their best. The management blame the IT team for not communicating and for delivering solutions that are not aligned with the needs of the business.
What’s needed is a unifying force: someone with enough understanding of both the technical and commercial side to remove barriers to progress and ensure IT solutions deliver real commercial benefits. The penny drops when all parties see that investing that effort is much less painful in the long run.
The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is becoming increasingly important in very large companies. This position is commonly filled by someone not from a technical background so that they are more focused on the commercial needs of the business. Their objective is to look for problems where a technical solution would help, not IT solutions needing a problem. This leads to an emphasis on benefits, not just features.
SMEs can learn from this approach. Many managers complain that their IT infrastructure is not working for them, often blaming external IT suppliers. But typically the problem is not caused by the technical solutions themselves. More often it’s the relationship between IT and management – neither party moves to engage in a trusted partnership and talk in a language that the other understands.