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How IT Can Shed Its 'Department of No' Image

June 30th, 2020

“Hate” might be too strong a word, yet that’s how CIO magazine chose to describe the relationship between the IT department and the rest of the business.

Headlining a lead article “4 tips for getting the business to stop hating IT,” CIO magazine said, “Long seen as back-office problem solvers and the department of ‘no,’ IT still has an image problem with business executives and users alike.”

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Why that is so goes back to how IT departments and projects were organized. When technology improvements and upgrades were needed, in-house teams might take months or even years. That prompted business units to go around IT, bringing in vendors then expecting the in-house team to support the technology.

Historically, IT was positioned as a service with the rest of the company as its customer. That problem-solving approach didn’t encourage a holistic view of the organization.

“IT has been in the business of fixing problems, and when you’re only in the problem-solving business you can easily get a bad rap,” Ciena CIO Craig Williams says. “But there’s an opportunity to have a different culture.”

The IT culture and "waterfall" approach to projects is changing, if slowly. The road though, is long, says the article. To hasten the process, CIO magazine consulted IT leaders asking them what they do that’s been successful, coming up with four general tips.

  1. Think of users as colleagues, not “customers” -- IT departments need to move to a product-centric model, which means taking a holistic view of the business and how the product helps the user and adds value. Says Gartner VP Suzanne Adnams, IT leaders need to “demonstrate the value they deliver, rather than the service they offer, and that’s a big difference.”
  2. Go all out to build up trust -- Explains Adnams, “There has to be trust from the executive suite. They have to be able to trust the CIO to tell them what they need to hear and give them real information.” It’s important to be “curious about the business”… and it takes a willingness to listen,” the article says.
  3. Look beyond the executive suite – As important as it is to build relationships with the C-suite, it is equally essential to build trust with end-users. You do that, says CIO, by making sure the tools and information they have is what they need, and learning what it is they desire. One of the most powerful ways of building trust is when rolling out new technology. As a survey showed, the majority of IT leaders think their innovation efforts are successful. Only 41% of employees agree.
  4. Do as many types of outreach as you can – Brown bag lunches. Webinars. Internal trade shows. Lunch and learn events where IT does the learning. Do all these and more, say the experts. “The important thing is finding ways to interact and communicate that aren’t project-based and that get people from different parts of the organization together and speaking,” advises Andrew Wertkin, chief strategy officer at BlueCat Networks. “Bring that mentality to everything.”

Image by Gino Crescoli

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