Leadership

Talking business: Three reasons why your opinion is being ignored

IT leaders and their staff must act assertively, if their words are to have any weight, and establish themselves as the authority in all decision-making involving IT. Here are three ways to do it.

Here is a typical issue that IT professionals, managers, and even executives experience: They often feel they are not listened to by their business counterparts and decision makers.

A typical scenario goes like this: A meeting is called to discuss acquisition of a new mission critical application. The business side of the organization favors a solution that seems to offer the widest range of functionality. The IT representative (this could be a CIO or an application developer or anyone in between) is aware of serious limitations of the underlying technology and lets the business know of his concerns. Kindly thanked for his contribution, he finds out later that the decision was made against his advice.

Some time later, the organization finds that the technical limitations they were warned about are a great hindrance. It may be that integration with other systems is painfully difficult or the application data cannot be accessed easily or the application fails sporadically or any one of a million other things that could go wrong. The business feels hamstrung by the inefficient technology, while IT support costs skyrocket and IT staff is unable to work on anything else. The business wants a replacement, IT is blamed for being unable to support business needs and the cycle starts again.

Does this sound familiar?

Because this problem is so pervasive, a significant part of my consulting work is devoted to enabling IT management and professionals to communicate with the business effectively. In my experience, among the reasons for the voice of IT to be ignored, there are three that transpire in most if not all cases:

  • Lack of business knowledge
  • Using the wrong language
  • Lack of assertiveness

Let me explain what's behind these points.

Business knowledge

Imagine that having developed the sniffles, you decide to see a doctor. At the clinic, a physician greets you and without saying a word, proceeds to writes a prescription. What? Without asking about your symptoms and looking at your health history? Without checking some key "metrics," such as whether your lungs are clear and the heartbeat is normal? Absurd!

Yet time after time I come across projects that are proposed (and, often, initiated and executed) by IT departments without much consideration for the current economic climate, the state of their organization's industry, and the needs and priorities of the company. I believe that this is the key reason why in so many organizations the CIO plays a second fiddle to the rest of the C-level ensemble.

If this is how things play out in your organization, know that this condition is curable. Whether you're a network administrator, a project manager, or a CIO, for your words to be taken seriously, you need to be able to converse on business topics, demonstrate your knowledge and appreciation of current business challenges, and be able to introduce ideas that are relevant, exciting, and profitable. By doing so, you will establish your credibility and people will start listening to what you say (and may even hang on every word, if you are seriously good).

Language

You have every right to be concerned over the lack of transactional integrity in the vendor's application or the fact that the vendor suggests rebuilding all indices a couple of times a month. Let me assure you that these words usually mean nothing to your business counterparts. Voice your concerns using these terms and people's eyes will glaze over. They will nod politely and may even appear mildly concerned, rarely asking for clarification for the fear of appearing incompetent. The problem, however, is this language fails to relay your message with the sense of importance and urgency it deserves.

The key to making your words impactful is translating them from IT argot into business language. The best way to explain what I mean is by the way of an example. How should you relay your concerns about the lack of transactional integrity? I think something like this should work:

"The application design does not prevent complete transactions. Our customers may receive goods for which they have not paid. We may fail to ship equipment that has been paid for, jeopardizing our service levels and opening the door to contract penalties. And we will never know for sure how much inventory we have on hand."

Now, all of a sudden, your message can be understood because such nightmare is easy to visualize from a business point of view and most shareholders will want to avoid it at all costs.

Here are some more before and after examples, just to re-enforce the point.

Before: "This call center application is buggy."

After: "While on the phone with customers, agents will experience delays in processing orders and at times will be unable to complete a sale. Our revenues will go down, our cost of sales will skyrocket, and our image will suffer. We will lose sales and customers."

Before: "The application will not scale."

After: "It's an adequate solution if we believe that the volume of business will remain the same or decrease. If we hope to develop this line of business, we must look for an alternative"

Before: "This DRP solution does not provide sufficient client data redundancy."

After: "There is a distinct possibility that we will lose all of our sales data without a chance of recovery. We won't know what we sold and to whom and what is owed to us and how much we owe to our suppliers. If you think that year-end is stressful today, it will be a picnic compared to what it may become if this scenario comes true."

Before: "Customer address is manually entered into a free-text field, which is not a good way to do it."

After: "You won't be able to base your marketing decisions on objective information about clients and their location. I'm sure we want to spend scarce advertisement dollars in the areas where sufficient ROI is assured."

Before: "For this advertised functionality to become useful to us, we need to do a lot of development."

After: "We need to budget another $300K if we want to use this feature."

Before: "We won't be able to use QoS on this network segment."

After: "We won't be able to utilize this connection effectively and accommodate the evolving needs of the business."

Get the idea? Give it a try today and see how much difference this approach makes.

Assertiveness

Today, most people know a little bit about computers and have ideas on what IT people actually do all day long. In the corporate setting, few business executives would admit that IT is something that they just might not understand to the degree necessary for decisions involving technology considerations.

In my observation, IT professionals and management seem to forget at times who the IT authority within the organization is. If it is inconceivable for a CIO to tell the marketing head how to run advertisement campaigns, why is it a widespread occurrence that IT departments have become order takers, being told what solution to implement and which vendor to select? What an unfortunate position to be in--not a trusted advisor and valuable asset but merely an implementer, an expense item on the income statement.

IT leaders and their staff must act assertively, if their words are to have any weight, and establish themselves as the authority in all decision-making involving IT. They must work to address business problems and opportunities, looking at the business content and applying innovative solutions. They must educate their business counterparts on the new developments in the IT and explore their application together.

Do not allow solutions to be foisted on you. It attenuates your department's value and status within the organization and, above all, leads to misguided projects and missed business opportunities.

The three key factors discussed today can be effectively addressed in most settings, generating positive energy, revitalizing IT departments and delivering great value to the organization and its shareholders. Start changing today - and let me know how it goes.

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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.

67 comments
othman
othman

1. Be the business. If you can talk business & understand the business i.e. if you are that good why do you or your company need these business people who ignore you? You should change your career to be on the business side. I've known of very successful IT (they are now business) people who have done so. Also, I have colleagues who have formal business qualifications (& no formal IT degree except certifications) who are in IT 2. Being the business, you as a former IT person can do and undertand IT speak. As an IT person myself, I fully appreciate having people like you in our team. Although I have come across a former IT now business person who were cocky but because they understand the language and therefore concerns, they still work better with IT in the end. 3. Be assertive - it you are ignored and/or not respected, change section/department, change job, change company and like point 1, change career or combinations of these, to where there are people who know how to respect others. In a job should interview your prospective employer as much as they interview you for this criteria. Life is simply too short to suffer in frustration. Finally be humble and act with humility but with high esteem for yourself. You can do it and you have!

jpdecesare
jpdecesare

That's the jist of the article... delete tech talk, and just speak money. Jason is RIGHT, and that's a shame in a sense, but afterall, companies aren't created to lose money (most of the time).

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

is managerial incompetence. I work in Education. As often as not, all one need do to garner a position for which one is unfit is to befriend (polite for brown-nose) a Dean. I've worked for a managerial incompetent. Didn't matter how one phrased things, she didn't listen. Assertiveness was grounds for dismissal. Knowledge of the environment was not a plus, either. Incompetent managers, who know they are incompetent, are not covered by these particular clues.

psstarkey
psstarkey

How many of the companies who have these issues, these divides between IT and the business, have CIOs who do NOT sit at the CEO's table? It seems many times the CIO reports to the CFO or COO instead of the CEO directly. Would it help narrow the gap if this were not the case?

ibogorad
ibogorad

The number of comments suggests that many people are passionate about the issue. Have you discussed it with your colleagues, managers, reports or peers on the business side? Show some thought leadership and initiate a conversation internally. Let me explain where this stuff comes from and what can and cannot be achieved if you heed my advice. I do this stuff for the living, making IT departments better aligned with the business. I go to interview the business and they tell me - IT does not get it, so we've just given up asking them. I speak to the CIO and she says - oh, we are here to support business, but then you dig into her understanding of the strategy, she goes blank. I sit to talk to mid-level IT staff and there is no end to stories about how they wished they had been asked. And of course I see tons of misguided projects, people not really sure what it is they are killing their weekends for and just a lot of waste - time, money, etc. There are excellent teams, excellent CIOs, fantastic collaboration between the IT and the business, but they are not as plentiful as we would like them to be. The three points I discuss in the article almost always show up. Get them sorted and you will be better off. I coached a very able IT professional recently who was working on a business case. He needed help in creating a solid convincing message to advocate his point of view. In a space of a week his vocabularly changed and his message became so much more powerful - it is not that difficult. If you are not the IT head and your CIO (or the VP/Director of your area, if you are a part of a bigger shop) does not know that there is a better way or does not want to bother, you can certainly improve but the dramatic shift can be achieved only if people among the IT executive team support the idea. I cannot guarantee success if your business counterparts are irrational, psychotic, on drugs, deliberately hurtful, lacking basic intelligence or deceitful. But I also cannot guarantee that they won't be biting chickens' heads off in the office tomorrow. What I can guarantee is that if these points are not addressed, there will be no change. Ilya Bogorad Principal Bizvortex Consulting Group Inc www.bizvortex.com ibogorad@bizvortex.com (905) 278 4753

wesknox
wesknox

As I read the original article and ensuing comments, I couldn't help but have a pet phrase recurring in my thoughts..."marketing makes it happen". So many of our successes and failures hinge upon the ability to articulate our position in a manner that either wins the day, or at least conveys the issues/risks appropriately. Now some specifics...I'm hoping that no IT application purchase gets anywhere near the front door on the basis of a "meeting". If the organization didn't do a thorough evaluation of products pursuant to a documented business problem/business case, there's a bigger problem here than a shoddy IT app. IT should have had their chance to identify risks, issues, direct/indirect cost impacts as well as some track record of other customers' implementation of this application. Find out who some other customers are of this product and do some digging to see if they've encountered problems with it...discuss your concerns with another IT-savvy person and get their perspective (even if only to determine they did a poor job of evaluating it). If evidence supports your concerns, say so, this can be pretty convincing evidence (and bolster your credibility). Another thing your organization (certainly CEO) need to understand if they don't already, is just what a failed IT implementation can look like. The cost of time, money, lost opportunities, lost market image, "______" (fill in blank). No shortage of good case studies out there I suspect!

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

That's just what I needed and it's so true. Early in my career I had this inferiority complex like I had to spout technobabble and IT jargon to let everyone know I knew what the hell I was talking about. I used to think that if I sounded too much like everyone else in the boardroom, then people would say to themselves, "He's not a real IT guy because he doesn't sound like the IT guy in the IBM commercials." Now a more mature professional, I'm more results oriented. I focus more on getting people to act the way I think they should act or have the same sense of urgency I have. Early on my bosses rejected my proactive approach to our issues because I wasn't speaking the right language. Because of that I spent Christmas restoring an Exchange server. Instead of saying, "Our Exchange server is 7 years old and so we need to upgrade really soon!" I should have said, "Our e-mail system is running on its last legs and that puts us in a situation where we might lose all of our critical e-mails. In order to avoid a data-recovery problem that would cost us tens of thousands of dollars, we should be proactive and spend a few thousand dollars on a new e-mail system." I learned to speak "business-ese" the hard way.

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

THIS is the reason why they dont Listen... I've seen organizations go from Bad to Good and almost great.. others stuck in the perpetual state of Utter Stupidity to Complete drooling Moronitis. You can't necessarily lay a template for the reasons most companies don't listen to IT and ignore the ramifications. However - Ill give you the reason why we have such a problem when you read it you'll understand. When computers hit the market in the mid 80's and from then on anyone could buy anything for just about any computer. Memory, Hard drives, Motherboards what have you. We put some of the most complex technology mostly in the hands of MORONS. A lot of us cut our teeth in those days. We've now got a culture of people who THINK they KNOW what computers and software are all about. Hey, they've cracked a case and stuck in a memory chip.. (probably backwards at first but they did it... Now they are SUPER TECH. God forbid someone actually loaded an Operating System with Dell/Compaq/HP/Gateway on the phone and now thinks they are equal to a Microsoft Certified Engineer but don't ask them what a Domain is or how to spell CPU. People such as this are now in high positions within organizations making decisions. Sometimes you luck out and get somebody who actually says "I don't know this stuff, I need IT to help me understand it". A big HOOYAH! for them, they ARE smart ones.... I worked as a Network Analyst II for a huge hospital (Server Team). I was there just short of 5 years. The first two were tough as hell because IT couldn't get a handle on people in the organization. I kid you not, Tower Servers (for a rack mounted Data Center) were showing up on our doorstep with Department Directors shortly thereafter asking when we would be getting their NEW hardware/software working. I cant tell you how many times my poor Manager drank gallons of Maalox for the ulcers they were giving him. PS... I think you did great Greg W ! Finally our CIO (smart guy) started grabbing other Department Directors by the B**** and told them "If you buy it without our (IT) direction, then its yours and its NOT going in MY data center". The CEO got behind him and authorized a Project Management Manager position. From then on, NOTHING was allowed to be purchased by any Department if it had anything whatsoever to do with IT. Then a change management process was put into place to stop system admins from just rebooting servers whenever they wanted. This use to send the Server Techs Pagers going off like crazy all the time. We would hit the data center door on a run to see some pimply, squirrely Sys Admin at a console grinning that he had rebooted the system. It didn't take long after a few write ups to stop that nonsense once the change management process was put into place. When I left, the only thing that was still giving the IT Department problems was individual departments purchasing those crappy inkjet printers to set on people's desk instead of using Network Print services. They continued to call for support on them - as we found them we confiscated them. That strategy started to work once they realized we were serious as a heart attack about it. Accounting helped by watching purchases for inkjet cartridges. I said all that to show that it's possible for an organization to change direction and for IT to take a positive role in directing things. I saw meetings where Department directors TRIED to over argue IT for a system we KNEW was bad...and it didn't fly. I will tell you without a shadow of doubt - if you do NOT have your CEO/Presidents backing, you are NOT going to get IT the control that it needs to have. Someone MUST stand there with a big stick ready to shove up someone's .. ok.. never mind - you get the picture. Anything Less will only mean an exponentially lesser impact that the IT Dept will have....to the organizations chagrin. People MUST learn THEY are NOT the experts - IT are the experts. Ok, give this one to me - we are SUPPOSE to be the experts. Until this is acknowledged, everything else will go along in their dysfunctional way. Sorry - this is just the way it is. No amount of assertiveness will overcome it ~ It'll just get you fired.

sshead
sshead

I have one comment, and this might come across as somewhat harsh, especially since I'm an I.T. Director. If you cannot effectively communicate at the level necessary to do your job, one of two things come into play. 1. You are not qualified to hold that role 2. You are being overruled by an over bearing personality (or two). Case 1 is dangerous - not going to dive into that one! Case 2 - you can fight it but if the other party is heavily invested in the 'inner circle' and you are not a heavy hitter, move on. No matter how right you are, the battle will eat you and you will more than likely lose - this equates to 'choose your battle'. Having hit Case 2 and won - I know when and where to fight, but it isn't easy. Now I'm going to duck for all the 'off the cuff' messages that are going to get thrown at me.

rnoonan
rnoonan

Thanks! Ive been experiencing just these symptoms; attempting to express a business strategy with technical jargon. its just not working and i was losing my confidence. I do have a good solution, now i just need to convey it better. thanks for the tips.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

* Lack of business knowledge Maybe 10 years ago, but now IT folks have to be up to speed on both business and IT. Not only that, but the days of the backroom pony tail wearing sys admin are LONG gone. Usually, IT has a good broad business view because they are forced to deal with all the business units. * Using the wrong language Come on...Meet us halfway here. I'm not going to degrade myself to speak like a 3 year old. I'll try to reduce the jargon, but I'm not going to spend hours trying to explain HOW something won't work, because you wouldn't understand anyway. This is a two way street and there is a middle road. My current boss does a pretty good job of meeting me half way and will stop me if I get too far into the tech weeds. * Lack of assertiveness I can honestly say, "WHAT!!???" If anything IT is almost always scolded for being too assertive. We're always being told to quiet down or you might upset the CEO or don't talk about the downside of Foo, because some exec loves it too much. If anything, we are told to sit down, shut up, and deal with the poor decisions.

Steve Romero
Steve Romero

I really like this post because it gets to the heart of a recurring problem between IT and the business - reasoned and rational decision-making. The post provides some great insights and suggestions and I would like to take it to the next level - IT Governance. IT Governance provides the framework and mechanisms to ensure IT is aligned with the business, delivers value to the business, and appropriately manages risk, resources and performance. These IT Governance principles are met when the right decisions are made in regard to the IT Archetype, IT Architecture, IT Infrastructure Strategies, Business Applications and IT Investments. IT Governance ensures the accountability is appropriately assigned in the enterprise by creating a forum for collaboration between the business and IT organizations. If IT wants to participate in business decisions, then appropriate IT Governance must be in place to provide the means to make those decisions. IT Governance, properly implemented, breaks downs the barriers between IT and the business. IT Governance fosters IT awareness and advocacy of the business it supports. IT Governance fosters business awareness of IT purpose and capability. Two last comments. It was implied in the post, but I want to specifically state it - speak with facts. The business will always dismiss generalities. And lastly, raise business awareness of IT, in addition to IT's awareness of the business. Peter Weill of MIT's Center for Information Research has documented some compelling findings on the enterprise success has a result of their level of what he calls, IT Savvy. Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

theoctagon911
theoctagon911

This unfortunately is one of the leading failures I've seen over my past 25 years in IT: The failure of the CIO/IT management team to understand or comprehend what it is their purchasing, or to not allow other departments (e.g., Accounting) to dictate what needs to be done or purchased and for what reason. If every department in every company were required to present a business case for their IT needs, we would see a much slimmer network infrastructure across the board. Currently you have VP's running around buying whatever cool new applications and then insisting the IT department make it work, or even worse, VP's that can't make up their minds and just perform demo after demo and don't listen to what their being advised to do. The IT departments have long ago foregone the idioms of themselves being the mandates of policy and usage, and turned those reins over to the accountants and pencil pushers that wouldn't know a command line from a command performance!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

That was an absolute rib breaker. You do know communication is a two way process right? Why don't we get listened to? Because the decision had already been made, either implicitly or explicitly by management with no consultation whatsoever. The meeting was to warn us to recharge our wands or to make sure there were no skid marks in the underpants, for our next superman impersonation. Sheesh..

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

baby talk. If we turns off the thingy wingy , the little lights will go out on your toy and you'll very wery sad. Actually that's worth a go.....

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

It seems like once you have a jerk incompetent manager like that, the whole place goes down hill. To make matters worse, when domain knowledge isn't respected, it's time to go....

ibogorad
ibogorad

There was a study done by a consuting house, don't remember which one, which indicated that more and more CIOs these days report, as you described, to a COO or a CFO. In the 90s, there was an upward movement. If you are a CEO and have a strong person in the C-suite, be it any CXO, why would you want to move them down? I think this happens where IT is seen as a non-strategic entity, merely a support function, like facilities, purchasing or HR (the whole HR area is a problem in itself, bigger than life, but that's beyond our discussion) So, the gap narrows but you have to have the CIO that is fit for the C-suite, the one that understands the business, able to communicate effectively and won't be walked on.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Haven't you figured out why that doesn't work yet? It's simple! IT is a long term, business is not. To be reactive to changing business environment, we have to build flex into our systems. That takes 1) Clear direction of trend from the business 2) Money 3) Time What do we get? A short term goal, not enough, and yesterday. Even when we succeed we fail, because the next change that comes down the pipe, makes an arse of what we have just done. You are part of the problem! Oh it's an alignment issues you need to give them IT types a good whap round the head. Tell them exactly what they want to hear, It's not your fault it's those nasty IT types. That will be $5000 please. Thank you. See you next year. In IT change is a given, in business they'll do anything to defer it, no matter the long term overall cost.

Danny Graham
Danny Graham

As a newbie Development Director, I made exactly the same langauge based mistakes. As we're a software house, I just about got away with it - but life definately gets a lot easier once you learn to think and talk like your customers and translate. Being able to translate between this internal and external language is key.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Amazing the number of supposed I.T. people I've run into who've never taken a course in logic. That lack of business knowledge is one of the biggest reason why other departments are making their own decision about equipment and software purchase. The other is lack of responsiveness on the part of I.S. If I.S. doesn't understand WHY a department needs something, and WHAT it needs it for; then they aren't going to be competent to provide a solution. I'd rather piss off a department manager asking a bazzillion questions, often the same questions phrased differently, until I built an accurate picture of what they need, than to foist a solution on them just because it fits easiest into our existing infrastructure. CIOs need to be well informed of changes in the business environment long in advance. Hospitals are horrible places in that Congress, the CDC, CMS, and lots of other federal and state regulatory agencies will levy changes to processes with little or no lead time to implement that have major consequences on revenue. If you're not in the loop (or proactively collecting that data), you're going to have a solution dumped on you that you'll either have to support, or you'll have to look for another job. (Because there will always be someone who will be willing to bust their backs to implement it if paid enough.) One more thing. There is a growing number of I.T. experts who are working in non-I.T. areas. Many of them were deliberately hired because of their I.T. knowledge. And many of them were hired because of I.T.'s ivory tower attitude. They will push for solutions that, based on their expert but incomplete knowledge, they beleive will work for their departments. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to identify those individuals, and educate them to the current I.T. environment at your facility. This message may cause readers to self-destruct in 5 seconds.

timn4817
timn4817

You hit a topic that I've been talking about for years. There was an article in a trade rag I read several years ago explaining why colleges were seeing a decline in computer science major applications. Students were opting for management degrees with a focus on IT. The author of the article stated it was because kids weren't curious anymore. They didn't take things apart to see what made them tick. Instead, they ushered in the disposable society, because it was cheaper to throw away the broken device and replace it. Students didn't want to write their own compiler and learn assembler. They would rather buy a package off the shelf. The didn't want to calculate permutations and combinations; instead, they wanted a spreadsheet to do it for them. They feed stuff into the computer and magically it spits the answer back, with no regard for HOW the computer did it. If the printer broke, buy a new one instead of repairing the old one. So we now have a generation of managers that know management, and can speak the terminology, but have no clue what they're really talking about. I also think this is why we have such horribly written software. Developers don't think about efficient code. Just write it and we'll throw the hardware at it.

chris
chris

them pesky consultants are MORE expert than you (even though you've been there for years and proved yourself over and over and over again). it's true far too often. Part of the problem might be that IT just says "no" too quickly too often so business wants someone to tell them "yes"??

redux
redux

Unfortunately, most of the time it seems like the explanation is the 1st choice. In many of the organizations that I've seen, too many mid-level IT people don't really understand IT, so they try to speak to the business without the expertise or detail necessary to converse accurately. At the same time (and as many of the responses to this post have shown), many of those with the IT expertise have no clue what business is, and spout their "wisdom" without a clue as to what is really important. That, in itself, wouldn't really be a problem -- except that in those same cases, there is no lack of "assertiveness."

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

And because of that you can keep your job. Test part 2 You overbeared, overruled, defeated techies, puerile attempt to do something else. You were wrong , next move ?

chris
chris

yes, you see it all the time and I think that's what drives IT people nuts. IT people, mostly, live in logic land and can see a solution as better and go that direction (because it's better). when "their" logic is ignored for "some other reason" they get offended. I got a brother who doesn't get the perm jop probably because he just does a better job than everyone else instead of playing hockey. He loses out to emotion (friends, team building, schmoozing, etc) even though he is "better" (logic) at the job.

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

I'm not gonna throw stuff at you Brother, I've been in those shoes too. I went into why I think we have the culture we do in IT down at the bottom. Sounds like you have been in the industry quite awhile, you may agree with me since you've seen it about as long as I have. :)

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

You ducked too soon. Good response. Question for everyone else though.... has anyone noticed yet that other "specialists" have the same problem? (Specialist being anyone who's discipline cuts across industries e.g. Marketing (not sales) is marketing is marketing, Accounting is accounting is accounting.) I don't have time to comment further but I will. Glen Ford http://www.TrainingNOW.ca

memman
memman

jmgarvin... "You missed the mark a little""but now IT folks have to be up to speed on both business and IT." I agree with the premise but... 1. I happen to be one of those pony tail wearing sys admins. 2. I just came out of a meeting just yesterday where the IT admins doing the same job as I in other locations had much to say that didn't really fit. Their lack of business knowledge negated any attempt on my part of trying to make a point relevant to the situation. As one of those Harley riding pony tail (short one) sys admins.... I DO understand business. I've had to learn though some of my constituents haven't. On the topic of "* Using the wrong language" & "Come on...Meet us halfway here." Are you kidding? You just got through telling us how much you understood business. I've been using "word on the street" language for the last 15 years at least just to make it easier for my clients to understand what it is that I'm doing. They want to know. They really WANT to understand. If you are so pompass as to ignore that aspect, you need to come down off of your high horse and look at where you would be if you weren't in this line of work... or... don't be surprised that they don't understand you. Your choice. On the subject of: "* Lack of assertiveness" & "If anything IT is almost always scolded for being too assertive." While I've just raked you over the coals for the other two topics, I want to smooth that up a bit and say... I agree nearly whole heartedly with this area of your comments. We still live in a "Good Ole Boy" world where decisions are mostly made for a personal agenda (both bosses and employees). It would seem that very few are looking at the long term results of their actions or how it will effect anyone else but themselves. We are a self indulged, self centered species. That is sad. Still it is mostly true. That being said... I'd have to ask... Why is it that this last topic had the final statement of "let me know how it goes."(article - not your comment) It would appear to me that we are the guinea pigs for this Tech Republic article. Be assertive if you like. I am when I can be. It's a fine line. With regard to yesterday's meeting... I kept my mouth shut. It was the smart thing to do. Pick your battles carefully.

psstarkey
psstarkey

Many of the applications/solutions I have developed which had the most real-world and immediate impact on actual workers in the business areas were small, point-solution in-house applications. These rarely cost over $50K from start to finish but made people much more productive and efficient at doing what they were actually hired to do. In our corporation, IT Governance first says that your IT business costs must exceed some threshhold ($100K) before even being considered as a "governed" project. That threshhold kills all the apps I just mentioned and does more to make the IT department seem unwilling to do what the business needs than anything else I have seen. Having worked in IT sitting at times in IT and at other times in the business, I can tell you that I have only really felt respected as an IT professional at the business table when I am in the business and not when I am in IT.

chris
chris

[quote]speak with facts. The business will always dismiss generalities[/quote] but too many times they dismiss the facts too. Granted, I am just in the trenches; no one asks me, but there have been a number of times where, if they had, we'd have had a better decision (not because of me, mind you, but the IT group)

F4A6Pilot
F4A6Pilot

That means they don't understand insufficient peak time band width means slow response. That means that since they don't understand it, but since they were smart enough to be put in the senior position (usually via politics) that the band width thing they were just warned about is too minor to be concerned about. And the words infrastructure limitations mean nothing to them also. Business leaders are not comfortable with learning the language of IT, nor is IT comfortable with Business needs. When someone can look at the 94% saturation rate at 1:15 P.M. daily, and at 8:30 A.M. and 8 PM-3 AM daily and say logins and backups bury the network, but we have no room for growth that doesn't change the desires or needs of the businesses.

chris
chris

yeppers, you get the cupie doll. our job, at times, is just to make work whatever they've decided.

grrltechie
grrltechie

I work in IT in a hospital and the majority of the time, we find out we are getting a new piece of medical equipment/supply system/entire new physician's office to support, integrate and put on our network roughly a week before it's supposed to go live. No B.S. We are seldom included in the planning stages and almost never involved in any decision making. And yet we are expected to work our magic and make it happen. Call in outside help and order hardware at the last minute, usually paying a premium to get it here in time. And the best part? More often than not, what we've been told is needed, either isn't at all what's needed or isn't nearly enough. But I'm not bitter about it. I'm just a lowly analyst after all, what do I know.

Meesha
Meesha

. . .one of the major failures at the "C" table is that they fail to use IT in a meaningful way for the business. I've always been of the opinion that senior management should view IT not as an expense to be minimized but rather as an asset to be optimized. Communication of ideas is only one part of a very complex relationship. As one poster earlier mentioned that many of our current "C" level people either totally ignore IT or see IT as overpriced overhead. Yet these are the same "C" level people that want the latest iPod or voice-recognition or what have you and ardently pursue ignoring all policies and governance they themselves approved and/or set. When data is lost or there is a corporate network breach, IT becomes the target not the "C" levels personal agenda. Even with the best of communications between disciplines there is still the matter of human disposition. "He wants what he wants, when he wants and don't bother with the details - get it done"!

psstarkey
psstarkey

I agree with your assessment of IT as a support organization and not a critical business function. When the CIO doesn't report to the CEO directly, that tells me that the CEO doesn't see IT as a competitive advantage for the business. It is hard for me to imagine, though, a business where IT couldn't be used as a huge competitive advantage if utilized properly. Maybe I'm just biased :)

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

That's not really fair Tony. (And I'm not just saying that because he's a local boy). What Mr. Bogorad is suggesting is a very basic, very old communications rule ... talk in the receivers language. We've known it for years. Unfortunately, we keep having to say it. As long as the receiver doesn't understand what is being said, then no communication has occurred. Second, IT is the nervous system of the organization. It doesn't exist alone. You can't have quality systems which don't meet the company's needs. Alignment is simply the latest restatement of those old saws. (Hey, you don't get it one way let's try it another -- and maybe make some money in the process). Having said that, yes, you are right. The root of the problem is that IT needs a (medium) long term view in order to provide technical quality. Most organizations are not capable of long term thinking (of any duration). The key is to state (and restate, and restate and ...) in terms that the business understands, that designing for unstructured, unexpected, improperly thought out change costs extra - in time, skill, direct cost and indirect cost. That as long as the organization continues to act in that way then it will never be able to get the most from IT because IT is always in a catch-up situation ... and IT just doesn't do catch-up well. IT is part of the structure of the organization ... and because of that it has some basic limitations. Violate that rule and pay the price. And because the people will change over time we need to constantly reinforce that understanding. So yes, you are right in everything you are saying. But so is Mr. Bogorad .... and the 30 years of people who said it before you. Glen Ford, PMP http://www.TrainingNOW.ca

redux
redux

Thank you, Dr. Conexxions seems to say that only IT 'experts' know what the business needs, and, unfortunately, that means IT focuses on a nice, clean department instead of what the business needs. While it is true that businesses with messy processes can drive IT nuts, the answer is not "IT efficient" processes either. Controlling server purchases may save a company from going broke, but then it also shows an out-of-touch IT department that just isn't doing the job it should be doing -- and the businesses that IT is forgetting to support may well be falling behind the competition in sales and profitability. And then, IT can kiss their organized jobs and department goodbye.

Meesha
Meesha

The "great divide" still exists between those that pave roads and those that drive on them. "Real IT" people are few and far between. They are the ones that explore the next, and the next, and the next way before regular everyday IT people even think about it. Forget business people - they're always in the NOW, the bottom line. These IT explorers must be given the opportunities to go beyond our current understanding. Let the everyday IT people learn just what needs to keep it working for the day or week or month. Regardless, IT people are the method for production while business people are the consumers. If you straddle the line between the two than you are a valuable commodity. Note, that business only understands a hierarchy so if you're not able to play and move up through both sandboxes then your opinion is always questionable and will play second fiddle to business.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

There's something to what you say, but... I don't think it's simply that students aren't curious. Sometime ago (manufacturers/society/ceos?) started making products so that if you took it apart without special tools and knowledge it wouldn't go back together again. Think about the modern auto vs one from the 60s as an example. Todays students are taught to control/stifle their curiosity. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's always been this way.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Sometimes were are VERY quick to say no. That's why a strong change management process is needed. That way if it is a no, then it went through a process and at least some explanation can be given as to why it's a no...

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

Yep - lots of specialist. Most cant tell you the difference between a tree or a bush. Too many chiefs and one poor little indian trying to do everything... if it wasnt so true it would be funny. Reminds me of the cartoons... :)

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Not all IT people understand everything, but typically, due to the nature of the beast, you have to have a clue as to how the business runs or you couldn't do a thing. The problem is that the business end always claims IT doesn't understand, but it's usually due to poor process, poor communication, or poor project specifications on the business end. Yet, it's always ITs fault. As for the pony tail, it was a use of imagery rather than reality. A lot of IT guys still fit the "stereotype," but the reality is that IT is WAAAAYYYY more front room than backroom anymore. As for the wrong language thing, I stand by what I said. We can't always talk down, especially if we are talking to a vendor (which is typical). We need to use the jargon to explain WHAT we need, HOW we need it, and WHEN it will be implemented. There is a halfway point and IT has made GREAT strides in communicating, but business types have not reciprocated. The "Good Ole Boy" world is part of why IT is broken. Some of that just needs to stop so that IT can function as a true business unit, so some red headed step child that's left to eat scraps.

Steve Romero
Steve Romero

It is unfortunate to hear your story. The situation you describe flies in the face of precisely what IT Governance is intended to do. The setting of IT Governance criteria and the associated thresholds and weightings is critical to effective decision-making. The only advice I can offer is to do your best to articulate and quantify the problems and associated cost of this inappropriately applied governance. Bad Governance can do more damage than no governance at all. Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

lost in Texas
lost in Texas

Here in a budget-straitened metropolis in Texas, there was just enough money to build a new HQ building for one of the City Departments in a high-crime, slightly darker side of town. To show the city councilmen's support of the less fortunate races who lived around there in poverty, but not expose their personal transportation to the chances of daily car-jacking. Like all things civic, the money available wasn't near enough. The mighty-minds of the Engineering Department, in looking around for cost savings ideas, got a lamprey-like hold on the idea that making the entire building wireless would save the data and voice wiring costs. There wass just enough idiocy in the press (mainly somecrazy woman at Motorola) to lend cover to this crazy idea. Well, the CIO in deference and spinelessness got a compromise: we'll put one data and one voice jack in each room, instead of our usual two each. Elation and success, drinks for everybody. Now a year later, and the city needs to get out of as much leased space as possible, the building will be stuffed with twice as many people as planned when the Great Compromise was made. Does Engineering remember who made the stupid hue and cry to reduce wiring costs? Nope, IT screwed the pooch once again. Whips and chains all around. You are so right, IT just installs whatever we're told to while bent over and assuming the position.

ibogorad
ibogorad

...I am not saying that IT is merely a support function. I mean, you can have it that way if you want, but that's a waste of good talent and failure to leverage a significant investment. It is those IT departments that become powerhouses of ideas and innovation within organizations are the ones that are treasured, respected and invested into. Such powerhouses rarely get downsized.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

strangely attractive. :p You've been quiet on TR, was all I meant. Aside from that, you are an IT manager, would you say communications with the business, are soley down to your ability to communicate to them? If you consider yourself to be businness directed and the bridge between that outlook and the more technology directed people you manage, do you communicate with your people as well as you do your peers? Not having a dig here. I've been hearing the alignment argument for well over a decade, and I believe I'm as aligned as the business allows me to be. I could be wrong, but if so, nobody has bothered to tell me where. I figured out a long time ago that they were not interested in the detailed desription of 3NF. Slower interrogations, greater storage space, less data integrity were more of a concern. Sometimes it was impractical for them to consider those important though. That's the real disconnect between business and IT. The appreciation of the business consequences of a short term technical implementation. A nice simple case. Database server for high speed data collection, and ad-hoc reporting. It's technically impossible to optimise for both from one database. So on which side do you err. Can you affod to do it properly and have a datawarehouse. How much latency do you need. How much can you afford? Do you have the extra money for another database and the resources to drive it. If you through, say budgetary or cashflow constraints, go with one database for all. Can you afford not to make it any harder to do properly when these are relaxed? If the answer to that is no, and you've gone with one database, you are aligned with the business. Hooray IT has done best it could within the constraints set by the business. Next year, twice as much data, half as responsive. If we are lucky, it won't cost more to do now, what technically we should have done last year. Frowns all round, why? Are we rewriting history and saying we didn't communicate/align last year? Unfortunately in most cases, Yes

InfraGuru
InfraGuru

just busy. Thank you. Still causing chaos?

InfraGuru
InfraGuru

come on...you're wasting your breath...Mr T, as we all know so well, is the master of all knowledge. Bow now or fear his wrath...due to his extraordinary amount of recreational time to counter-post you to death.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Perhaps you are communicating poorly. It's not as if it's a really difficult message is it? How do you know you have failed to communicate? I know, and I accept it's always my fault. Not because I'm an IT person, but because I'm the person who needed to communicate, and failed to make sure I had. Now try to explain to me why business doesn't have to ensure successful communication with IT and can assume it? Because I honestly don't get it. Can we do this, this way Tony? Yes but if we do, that will be much harder. If we do this another way that will not be harder or possibly even easier. But which will get it out of the door quickest and or cheapest. .... Why does doing that cost so much Tony? Because your predecessor decided to sacrifice that for a short term gain of this. Appraisal 2/5 doesn't communicate well and is not aligned with business. Now you tell me why I got a poor appraisal for communication. Now tell me how I could improve it. It's not that they don't hear what I have to say, It's that it doesn't suit them to hear it. Short cuts make for long delays Until buisness deals with the fact that successful IT costs more than unsuccessful in the short term, we are all SOL. That's the message these consultants should be putting out. So in my opinion, I was more than fair.