Five things I hate about corporate IT

Patrick Gray shares some unsavory aspects of corporate IT that he's come to detest.

Having started my career in the trenches of corporate IT slinging code in a dark corner of a cubicle village, to gradually working my way through ERP implementations and project management, to my current consulting role, I have seen all levels and all shapes and sizes of corporate IT departments. From the trenches to the C-suite, there are some unsavory aspects of corporate IT that I have come to detest. Here are the highlights:

1. Using defensive jargon

At all levels of IT, technical jargon is often deployed as a defense mechanism. Box an IT person into a corner, whether it's the CIO or the most junior programmer, and rather than admit they were wrong or have no idea what you're talking about, they'll start spouting off impressive-sounding technical terms, abbreviations, and jargon-laced pontifications. The most respected people in IT I have worked with have an ability to articulate a complex technical, process, or business problem in simple, understandable terms, not the other way around.

2. Not developing leaders

Corporate IT tends to promote people with technical skills, bulk up their teams, and then act surprised when they fail, a methodology akin to finding someone who plays decent basketball at the local street court and plopping them into an NBA game without any additional coaching. Yes, I've heard all the excuses about how times are tight and there are no staff-development budgets, but you really cannot afford not to develop leaders and effective managers, and the best are coached and groomed, they're not just born that way.

3. Focusing on the wrong "customer"

We've all heard the cute little term "the customer" bandied about in our IT shops. When one goes looking for this "customer," they're pointed toward someone over in accounting or marketing, not an actual consumer of the company's products. Guess what, even IT is part of the core business of the company and has just as much claim on delighting the real, cash-in-hand consumer rather than being delegated to the role of an internal order taker. Sure, you're going to need to a deep knowledge of your company, its products and its markets, and an ability to speak in technical and business terms to play in this space, but if you don't want to be an internal order taker, stop talking and acting like one!

4. Living like a cactus

I'm not talking about the low-maintenance plant on the admin's desk. I'm talking about the prickly, ornery guy or gal a few cubicles over, who always has more work than anyone else, a surfeit of snide remarks about those "idiots" in management, and a long tale of woe and persecution that would make Jesus, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela's combined struggles sound like a stubbed toe. For some reason these people never seem to be let go, and like a cactus they survive round after round of economic drought. I have yet to determine if they have lurid photos of the CEO or their one redeeming quality is an innate ability for self-preservation, but I usually don't spend enough time around them to find out!

5. Celebrating disorganization This is not unique to IT, and we have all interacted with someone who never responds to e-mail or voicemail, then proudly proclaims that "I have over 6.8 million unread e-mails in my inbox!" This same person tends to show up for meetings 15 minutes late and pontificate endlessly rather than attempt to resolve a problem or share critical information, then assign responsibilities and actions related to the outcome. Everyone gets too much e-mail and has too many meetings, and if you don't have a methodology to deal with your various inboxes, it is just as bad as not knowing how to dress appropriately for a day at the office. Request training, read the excellent book Getting Things Done, or ask your peers for help, but no organization should let people celebrate their inability to perform basic organizational tasks that are the foundation of working in a modern IT department.

Tune in next time for the next five things I hate about corporate IT, and please share your own pet peeves.


Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent ...

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