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CXO

Five ways of thinking that can fell IT leaders

IT Consultant Ilya Bogorad sees a lot of IT departments that could be greatly successful if not for the faulty beliefs of their leaders. The five beliefs he sees more often could damage the IT shop as well as the IT leader's career.

Is your thinking impeding your progress? This is a significant problem for an individual and a much more serious one if you're in charge of an IT department. As the CIO or an IT Director, you steer a ship of technology and people and one hopes that your maps are up to date, your compass is true, and you know how to get to the destination most efficiently.

I see a lot of organizations and people as a consultant. I often encounter situations where I can't help but feel that an IT department could be a runaway success within its organization if it weren't for the beliefs that their leader seems to hold. I want to share with you a small collection of such limiting beliefs. There are five in this list but I could have just as easily added another twenty. As a matter of fact, I might review a few more in the next blog.

Can you recognize any that plague your organization?

1. The business should identify its technology needs

Think about this very carefully: Who is more valuable to you, someone who knows how to tighten a bolt or someone who knows which bolt to tighten? We're a knowledge economy and knowing what to do is much more valuable than being able to follow instructions.

If you believe that the onus is on the business to identify technology needs, you're wrong. You need the business to identify business issues, opportunities, and priorities, and then you and your people have to come up with a way of addressing them from the technology perspective. (Better still, you can elevate your personal positioning by delving deeper into the business content and strategy, but that's a different story). You and your department are the experts in technology, not the CFO or the Director of Marketing. If you see your department's raison d'etre as merely implementing and maintaining the technology that business chooses, you position yourself as the guy who tightens bolts. IT departments that fall into this trap get outsourced.

2. We are a fast-paced organization

I have yet to discover an environment that doesn't claim to be fast-paced. I no longer know what that means. What's important, though, is how this assertion impacts the people within. If you're told for a while that you're incredibly busy, you tend to start believing that it must be so, and your capacity decreases. If you're told that there's no time to think, you tend to sacrifice quality of decisions for the sake of speed, even though there may be plenty of time to plan and execute. The net result is an organization with a high rate of project failures, too focused on firefighting and too "busy" to think strategically and identify work that's truly important.

You can never be too busy for the important stuff if you get your priorities right.

3. We are under-resourced

This is a universal complaint and I've met plenty of IT executives that resort to it. It happens in organizations where there are staff members who can't coherently explain what it is that they do, where there are ten project managers for every project, where every trivial thing involves days of meetings, and where out of every ten projects going at any time, eight have no business value.

You can never have enough time, staff or money if your priority system is out of order. The key is in using the resources you have in such a way that they produce the best ROI possible.

4. Show me the money! For a project to be approved, it needs to save costs or generate revenues.

I know an organization that spent five or six years in cost-cutting mode. If you wanted to buy a pencil sharpener, you had to get a nod from the CFO. After years of this drought, cash finally became available and the company started to look for growth. There was a problem, though, in that the company's management at all levels had become unable to think in terms of growth. Their ability to innovate all but died and when bold and novel market moves were appropriate, they only managed to come up with meek, low-cost low-value initiatives. Even their ability to plan prudently was affected and they continually understaffed projects despite having access to necessary funding.

If you merely concentrate on the financial side of costs and benefits and require that all projects have a positive immediate ROI to be pursued, you're killing innovation in your organization. Think about it. How innovative would you want to be if every suggestion you make is immediately evaluated in respect to financial benefit?

Here is another blog I wrote about cost and benefits beyond the dollar sign.

5. In difficult times, we must cut costs

Prudent financial management is a must at all times, good and bad. But consider this - it's impossible to become successful by pinching pennies. It just doesn't happen.

The best value generated by an IT department today does not lie in trivial and often mindless cost-cutting but in innovation, business alignment and strategic thinking. Today more than ever, your organization needs new ideas, bold thinking, full understanding of business priorities and the ability to think about the needs of tomorrow, not the adversity of today. Will you be ready for the recovery? I predict that most organizations will be slow out of the starting gate.

As the IT leader, you must invest - not cut - time, money, executive support into business critical projects, while completely abandoning projects that are no longer relevant. You must constantly challenge your people to critically examine the ways you do business and improve them. They don't call you a leader for nothing.

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Ilya Bogorad is the Principal of Bizvortex Consulting Group Inc, a management consulting company located in Toronto, Canada. Ilya specializes in building better IT organizations and can be reached at ibogorad@bizvortex.com or (905) 278 4753

About

Ilya Bogorad is the Principal of Bizvortex Consulting Group Inc, a management consulting company located in Toronto, Canada. Ilya specializes in building better IT organizations.

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