Leadership

Performance, image, and exposure important for IT success

The performance, image, exposure model is commonly used to help individuals manage their careers. The same model can also be applied to the IT organization as a whole and can prove quite useful in managing IT's role in the enterprise.

I was reminded the other day when reading a career column on mentoring about the P.I.E. model to career success. In a nutshell, the model asserts that your career success is based on your performance, your image, and your exposure. I wish I could tell you who came up with the idea (I was first exposed to it in Grad school) but my research proved inconclusive. Despite my inability to give credit where credit is due, there is a ton of information available on the topic. I do believe in the model and its assertions and it's valuable when thinking about your career.

However, during my research I found nothing that talked about the model and its relation to an organizational unit. This surprised me a bit because I think there is a natural extension of the model into management and leadership. Let's assume that you are head of your IT department and are looking at ways to put together a scorecard on how well your unit is doing as part of the organization. Here's what using the P.I.E methodology in this case what it might look like:

Performance indicators

There is no lack of research on performance metrics for IT. From service level agreements to measures of uptime, throughput, cost benefit, ROI and more, the list of how and what to measure is extensive. The important thing here is to choose those measures that are meaningful to your organization and make sure they're quantifiable. Don't choose too many but make sure the ones you choose get at the core of what your unit does and how it relates to your organization's strategic plan.

Why is this important? Clearly, if your unit doesn't perform well it won't be held in high regard in the organization. People will complain about the work performed and this will eventually make both the unit and management of the unit suffer. Years ago, organizations were forced to put up with bad IT performance. These days, it's too easy to find an alternative to service provided by IT and the organization is savvy enough to know there are alternatives. In fact, there are vendors telling your senior management daily they can do it better, cheaper, and faster than you can. Thus, it is critical to perform well.

Image indicators

It's easy to imagine a person and understand what image means, from what they wear to how they speak and their mannerisms and actions as well as a multitude of other factors.

Image for a unit takes a little more thinking about. When it comes to image for a unit I think of branding and perception. Image is about how your unit is perceived as it performs its work. Image is a reflection of staff and management. Is staff that interacts with others in the organization courteous, professional, and positive? I used to tell my staff that three minutes spent in an elevator with the CEO can enhance or destroy months of hard work if one's behavior is unprofessional.

What about ease of use? Is your IT organization easy to work with or a bureaucratic nightmare? Would people do without rather than have to deal with your unit? Is your unit perceived as an enabler or a discourager? When people think of your IT organization, do they think it is a class act or a circus? Are you viewed as a unit that is constantly improving its product or is falling behind? Keep in mind that performance has a somewhat inverse relation with performance. Poor performance can have a horrendous effect on image, yet perfect performance can have little to no effect. If you are viewed simply as a utility - you have an image problem.

Exposure indicators

Again, this is an issue more easily thought about for an individual than a unit but not impossible. Exposure for a unit equals funding, a seat at the senior management table, and that synergy with business units that IT always seems to be striving for but not always achieving. These are achieved by making the IT unit known. IT has a reputation for invisibility. They can be the life's blood of the organization but totally out of sight and out of mind unless a problem occurs. Some feel this is appropriate for IT and if that is the case then they are comfortable with being a utility or a commodity and eventually outsourced.

Exposure is about telling IT's story, getting involved with business units, and letting the organization know that IT is more than network and applications - it's about innovation and problem solving. I have written before that IT needs a communication mechanism - newsletters, an impressive intranet presence, even its own TV channel if the organization has its own in house broadcasting. These are some of the tools IT can use to get the word out on its success and to manage the effects of problems as they occur.

Getting involved is a management strategy where leadership has made a conscious decision to get people to the table and get involved in the day-to-day business of the organization. There are numerous ways to do this, from asking to sit in on staff meetings with other business units, assigning liaisons to business units, or just working the phones and visiting with other management to let them know IT is there to help. This is the one area that is most ignored by IT because they often feel overwhelmed by work and feel that any time not spent on performance is being wasted. This could not be further from the truth. It is my firm belief that if an IT organization is doing performance and image at least moderately well, exposure will allow them to get what they need to boost all areas. Not doing so will keep IT obscure and seen as an adjunct to the core business of an organization.

Each of these areas is a white paper in and of itself, but I encourage you to explore the PIE model both personally for your career and for your IT organization. Coincidently - if you are head of your IT organization - doing well managing PIE organizationally will help with enhancing your career!

7 comments
bkfordham
bkfordham

I've worked in IT for the last 12+ years. I agree that perception is important however I also think this problem should be dealt with from the top managment and not the IT staff. Far too often I have seen people with lousy skills get far too much attention from the company because they spend more time than others socializing and generally playing politics. If this is what companies want then fine, hire people to just hold hands with everyone, and outsource the hard work to third parties. If it comes down to people being able to do without rather then go to IT, and deal with them; I wonder if IT is needed at all? I don't see any reason for a company to hire someone who's skills they can go without because of some image problem. Companies need to start hiring the right people...hire a lacky if thats all you need, not someone with good skills they won't get to use often and then feed them to the dogs. There is no other department in any company that needs to build it's image in the company. Everyone knows why they are there. I've decided to switch my career to become a professional accountant. Being in IT I've been reporting to these people so I might as well join them. I would suggest to anyone in IT who is having this image problem to attempt another career and combine IT with that; such as Marketing, accounting / finance. You won't be seen as an IT person exclusively and your image will increase. It's cool to be good with computers if not great; just be something other than IT...the problem is systematic with the profession in most places, unless you do work in a profit center and help drive profits measureably. Remember, as a non-IT person yet IT-skilled you will get opportunities to work in IT projects and take much credit for success and duck the problems (technical that nobody in the company will give you an ounce of credit for)..not too mention late nights. A real IT person is unfortunatly often in a lonely thankless job with no time to schmooze with manangment and will get walked and talked over by those that do. Think of the image you leave after crawling under someones desk countless times to plug things in...News Item...people who sit at tables in meeting don't crawl under desks or run around subserviently at every barking order someone gives you..like 'I need my printer over there, not here !'. I'll leave it there..I could go on for hours on this topic.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I like this approach. I think may of us have "image" problems that we don't know about and finding new ways to think about (and hopefully solve!) the problem is key to maximizing IT's benefit to the organization.

kpag777
kpag777

Hey Ramon, Sounds like a good book premise. You ought to flesh it out and get a publisher! Good article and good angle!

reisen55
reisen55

Any enhancement for my career and independent business is welcome indeed. But in corporate IT producing good results does not really matter anymore in most American firms. IT is often viewed, wrongly, as a profit center and not a cost of doing business. Or least a major expense that can be drastically cut back. Salary and health care benefits, expensive American workers so say the siren song of outsourcers. You can have the BEST IT group in your firm and yet management probably views it as an expense item. If your group IS INDEED GOOD, things are running well and no problems exist. Ergo: why have expensive employees anyway? Outsource = those servers can run well on their own time anyway. If your group is really BAD, then the outsource firms say that they can do a better job so those servers can run well on their own time. Catch 22. American management believes that almost any part of a company can be shipped off to India to lower expenses and improve shareholder value. A fool and his dream are soon parted. Expenses may be directly cut but productivity costs skyrocket and shareholder value is not affected one bloody bit. Meanwhile, your backoffice operations fall to pieces as management congratulates itself on a wise move. THEY probably get good support by virtue of "It's good to be the king." Everybody else deals with real world.

Ramon Padilla Jr.
Ramon Padilla Jr.

I often find that viewing an organizational unit as an individual allows you to apply methods and practices that were not originally thought of with the organization in mind. This can prove very useful in finding new ways of thinking about your organization and allows you to get outside the "box." I found this to be the case with the PIE method. What qualities under each category would you add to what I asserted in the blog post? I am interested in your best thinking!

T.Walpole
T.Walpole

reisen55 said, "IT is often viewed, wrongly, as a profit center and not a cost of doing business." Wait was this a misstatement? My experience is the exact opposite. IT is viewed as a cost center (because it doesn't directly generate revenue) and is therefore in the spotlight when an organization is trying to contain costs.

joeheerdink
joeheerdink

One of the better post I have read in a while on TechRepublic. Really gave me some good things to think about for my IT team. Have you gone into any real depth with the PIE method in your IT Department? I would interested to see more information on the actual application and process you have used for implementation.

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