Leadership

Get drastic: 15 IT best practices to kill

Gartner analyst Ken McGee has a radical assessment of IT and what CIOs need to do about. Read his principles of the "new CIO manifesto."

The traditional IT department has entered a period of massive transformation and CIOs are having to completely rethink the way they lead, strategize, and manage their careers. That was the message from Gartner analyst Ken McGee at arguably the boldest and most honest session at Gartner Symposium 2011.

McGee told the convocation of CIOs that it's time for drastic action and they need to stop doing a lot of the things that are traditional mainstays of IT strategy, and it needs to happen as soon as possible. He said that if you want to use IT to create value in your company as well as develop valuable experience for your career then you need to embrace "creative destruction."

The idea is that you create something new and don't worry about the fact that it will kill something old in the process. That's a natural part of transformation, in this line of thinking. McGee said CIOs should be guided by a "new CIO manifesto" in driving these changes and he gave four principles of this new manifesto, which I've listed below.

McGee then listed 16 IT best practices that IT leaders should eliminate as soon as possible. The list below has 15 items because McGee had No. 4 as a two-parter (business apps + technical infrastructure). I simply left it as a single item.

Photo credit: Jason Hiner | TechRepublic

"New CIO manifesto"

  1. Information is just as important, if not more important than information technology.
  2. More than 50% of annual CIO project spending will be directed toward measurably improving the financial conditions of an enterprise.
  3. More than 50% of all enterprise information and IT spending will directly support revenue generating rather than expense related business processes.
  4. The incentive portion of CIO compensation will be derived from the amount of money created by the efforts of CIOs and their staffs.

IT practices to eliminate

  1. Reject annual mismatch between CEO priorities and IT's most funded projects
  2. Terminate support of projects that will not improve the income statement
  3. Abandon CIO priorities that do not directly support CEO priorities
  4. Stop recommending IT mega projects
  5. Abolish environment of little or no IT spending accountability
  6. Terminate existing applications that do not yield measurable business value
  7. End the practice of placing enterprise IT spending within the CIO's budget
  8. Eliminate IT-caused business model disruption "surprises"
  9. Eradicate "cloud-a-phobia"
  10. Abandon level 1, 2, and 3 tech support
  11. Cancel most IT chargeback systems
  12. Cease issuing most competitive bids
  13. Stop holding on to unfunded projects
  14. End discrimination against behavioral skills and social sciences
  15. Abandon IT's unbalanced support between front and back office

Sanity check

You've got to like Ken McGee's boldness here, because it is absolutely warranted. IT is facing rising responsibilities with stagnant budgets and it simply can't go on doing things the way it has in the past. It's completely unsustainable. IT has to stop thinking of itself as a business utility and start seeing itself as a business catalyst. In order to do that, it's going to have to think in business terms and economic impact for everything it does, from asking for a replacement router in a branch office to recommending a new cloud app to run customer service. That's ultimately what McGee is getting at, and while the idea has received lip service for years, it's time to use that principle to make some painful decisions that will reshape IT.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's the co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks...

125 comments
atoribio
atoribio

I'm not sure I understand why abandoning level 1, 2, & 3 support would help in this case. Please explain?

WilmarHK
WilmarHK

Always easy to spot those who like to talk about the management of technology with little real understanding of what enterprise wide technology entails.

cartman380
cartman380

I want to align the exit strategy with the cloud pradigm shift and the synergy of organic growth. Now if I could just figure out how to put this sentence into bullet points and make $150k+ a year doing it I would be all set.

chris.osment
chris.osment

Jason, Thank you for sharing the manifesto and the 15 points of transformation with us, who were not able to attend the Gartner conference. I want to say that there are people who've worked in very large enterprises with plenty of complex budget and approval silos that have lived by points 2 through 6 for a long time. The guiding principle has been summed up by myself and others in a simple guideline: "Is it going to increase 'profitable' revenue, decrease costs, or change business process to enable more product and service delivery? If not, don't do it." Doing what is smart for BUSINESS has been a mantra for quite a few information systems leaders for many years. Chris Atlanta, GA

tech
tech

A link I followed to this article showed an expansion on just the list, with at least a paragraph of explanation about each point - where is it? Hard to justify without context.

the1madhatter
the1madhatter

Reality is we cannot just trust all snakes. No snakes we are over run with rodents, but, we don???t want rattle snakes living in our bedroom. Having a healthy respect for what the cloud can do or cannot do is important, some phobia can be healthy.

amcculltony
amcculltony

The definition of cloud is non-existent. I believe this is a reference to data being kept somewhere in the cloud or off-site at one or more locations. I think there are good reasons to fear the cloud. Perhaps keep an open to cloud solutions but don't dismiss the obvious problems and concerns. The reliability and availability of the cloud is only as good as your link to the cloud. If you lose your link, how do you continue to work? How is business continuity addressed? How much more will it cost to double your telecommunication costs?

aarononsori
aarononsori

Proposing to eliminate, reject or terminate dysfunctional practices can realistically be considered if it would have accompanied options, alternatives and substitutes. Oswald Cobblepot

markjstanley
markjstanley

The end of the mega-IT project will come with the end of the mega-IT ego :-) Am surprised there isn't anything about how in-house IT depts work with "partner" organisations. I believe in healthy skepticism and think the in-house IT guys need to protect the more naive business user from the fantasy land some suppliers offer. However I know too many IT depts who treat *all* partners as hostile job-stealing monsters who are automatically "the enemy" regardless of the value they bring to the business.

RobertFL
RobertFL

I???ve been in IT for a very long time. Maybe not on the scale that many of you are as I???ve stayed away from the very large IT departments. Since I am currently self employed, I prefer a company size that can???t afford an IT department and take care of everything myself. For a fee of course, but at a substantial savings over hiring someone full time. That said many of the phrases and terms in this article don???t make sense to me, but I do feel the need to perk up and put in my two-cents even though I don???t generally post a lot, but do a lot of reading. As it has been pointed out several times by the readers??? comments IT can???t be measured in the true form it really is which is income producing. Since it can???t be measured that way it???s commonly referred to as overhead. This does make me sad, but I would love for any company of any size that thinks IT is an overhead to run their business for one day without technology and remove the computers and servers from the equation. They would quickly learn that IT is in fact income producing (and substantially), but we are still faced with how can this be measured. If we take the main items from any company such as the robotics that build cars for a manufacturing plant, or the machines that process our food from food processing plants, or even the refrigerator from the sub shop down the road and remove these key items from the establishment they will seize to function. All of these have maintenance systems in place that keep this equipment operational. IT people are the maintenance personal that keeps these networks operational and without them we are back to measuring income and back to pen and paper. IT is a requirement and there is nothing that can be done about that. We keep the systems operational that allow us as companies to get away from the old way of doing things with pen and paper which does make us all very much more productive. Without these computers and networks many companies could not exists and the computers and networks are required. As fast as technology changes where once a system is in place or many times before it???s in place it???s already outdated, companies must stop blaming IT for the required spending. We are not creating the new hardware we are only supporting it. We do create the software as that is generally under IT, but the software created was done so to make something more efficient. We as IT support people do what we can to keep things operational, but again as someone else pointed out when purchases are declined due to cost and then the system goes down, we as IT people take the blame. Technology is our friend as it has made so many aspects of life and business so much easier, better and more productive, but as long as companies want to be this efficient they will have to invest in IT. The only way IT is going away is if we give up technology and I simply don???t see that happening anytime soon, but rather see technology continuing its run faster than we can generally keep up. I can???t agree that any best practice is good to kill, but I can agree that specific things in certain organizations may not apply. If a best practice is working then leave it alone. If it can be improved on and made better, then do that. Companies seem to think that to help the bottom line they just need to stop spending so much on IT, but really miss the target by failing to see just how much money IT is making them. Sure, keep cutting this and that, and when it breaks blame the IT department for not keeping it running. I think another user already made this point and it was a point well made. Based on my target audience I have to have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things as being a small IT shop and taking care of everything from other small businesses makes me have to know a little about a lot of things and more importantly being able to resolve issues I may know nothing about very quickly. It???s part of the job and lucky for me I am good at what I do and the challenge is nice to have from time to time. I suppose the article was written so that IT shops could streamline more, but honestly I think we in general are already streamlined. IT is income producing perceived as overhead, but you???re not going to let the maintenance people go that keeps the processing equipment running as if that stops the entire plants production stops. No different for IT people as you let that network go down and while everyone can get by for a bit without a computer by simply cleaning up your workspace, but for the most part there is no income producing going on without a computer and network. I think we may be looking to cut corners in the wrong direction, but agree we can always make things better with technology changing as quickly as it does. I think business needs to stop seeing IT as overhead, and understand that IT is your friend not enemy. Rob ??? Always looking for extra work and again reasonable.

albayaaabc
albayaaabc

I agree the way that Mr. Jason Hiner put to increase tension for more promise Careers and helful,so be newly.

TechRepublic
TechRepublic

I get the value in the statement 'Eradicate Cloud-a-phobia', but this is a little self evident. Cloud services/storage/horsepower is a tool in the toolkit, and you wouldn't want to be afraid to use the right tool for the job. This is like saying 'Eradicate Wrench-a-phobia'. If it's the right tool for the job, use it. Worse though is 'Cloud-phoria' where IT shop leadership want to use the cloud because it is the latest buzzword that the CEO is asking about and seems cutting edge without asking "Is this the right tool for the job". If your work is requires a high level of privacy compliance, requires a level of local control, or any number of factors, this might not be the right tool for the job. I can foresee a number of TechRepublic stories in the future talking about unwinding bleeding-edge cloud projects because what looked good at the beginning turned out not to provide the cost savings and robustness promised.

Slartibartfast
Slartibartfast

Ok, when you go to the ER with a cardiac arrest, do you want your cardiologist to be working on someone's sprained ankle while you die in a corridor, or do you want a nurse to strap up the sprained ankle while the cardiologist works on you? Extreme, blunt and overstated example, but why are you all listening to someone's opinion who's never even done this job? Seriously ....

catfish182
catfish182

Why are you focusing on only the negative of a few points? has anyone implemented anything listed? Who says that all points have to be followed? who says you can not modify these points to fit your business or requirements? so i guess i am curious why people are so literal with this.

Ron_007
Ron_007

We've seen the PowerPoint slide with it's 15 points. Now how about the rest of the presentation. Give us at least a clue on how you think we can do them . Just because someone handed down the 15 commandments from Mt Siani, doesn't mean the we mere mortals have a clue what they really mean. Trying to comment on them intelligently is a wasted excercise in tea leaf reading.

bigtalktheory
bigtalktheory

IT departments do most if not all of the ever more complex business processing in a modern firm. This increased complexity brings increased risk. Risk is why projects fail. Risk is why outsourcing is not a silver bullet. Risk is the hot potato no one wants to be stuck with. Risk is what executives are ultimately accountable for. It is very easy for a CEO on the bridge to charge into dangerous waters. The CIO in the engine room will be the first to fail when things get too hot. The analogy ends here. Companies are not battleships. Business is not war - contrary to popular mongering. You can't merge the bridge with the engine-room on a battleship (without a torpedo), but you can in a modern company. Merging CEO and CIO into one position would solve most if not all of the 15 points above. Bad news for both the traditional CEO and CIO types.

Slartibartfast
Slartibartfast

Just checked, yes, he's never run a company, never been a CIO, never been a CEO, and has been perched on the Gartner ivory tower (presumably to gain a better glimpse of the clouds) for 21 years. Dude, do the job. Be successful. Then tell us how to do it. Otherwise, keep your thoughts to yourself.

Slartibartfast
Slartibartfast

I don't know anything about the author, but I'm not sure why being a Gartner analyst makes one instantly credible and authoritative. A lot of these bullet points are really the same thing (hey, maybe IT should support business profitability objectives...) which is afaik something we all know anyway... others are just plain dumb, like the cloud-o-phobic one, because cloud is just a marketing label, and we all know what happens when you go down that path (which isn't to say 'cloud' labeled tech isn't any good, it's just that the simple act of labeling it cloud doesn't *make* it good). The Level1/2/3 comment just beggars belief. Still, regardless, I'm sure a lot of CEO's will be emailing this to their CIO's believing this to be the work of a genius. Oh, and yes, I'm a CIO. And yes, I actually know something about this subject.

Englebert
Englebert

If you want to ensure no one reads your document, make it lengthy If you want to ensure no one listens to you, speak at length Same goes for the bullet points - a few would have had much more credibility than a laundry list

carola
carola

Interesting list to consider and I agree with a good bit of it even if it is sort of "pie in the sky" in some cases. However, regarding #4 on the top list - "The incentive portion of CIO compensation will be derived from the amount of money created by the efforts of CIOs and their staffs." - I think it should include incentives for the staff as well as the CIO. The CIO manages which is huge but without the staff it would never get done. And, yes, I am an IT staff member. I desire to serve my customers and my superiors as best as I can but I believe we need to be rewarded for a job well done too. :)

richardwebsterza
richardwebsterza

I can see where my previous management got some of their incredibly stupid idea's!

WorkflowGuru
WorkflowGuru

First: thank you, Jason. I agree with your assessment of Mr. McGee's intended message. (As a long-time "messenger" yourself, I'm sure you've gotten used to being "shot" so can dismiss those who respond here so inappropriately.) While we could nitpick each point from our personal POV, I believe it's important to realize that there are important exceptions to each of Ken's recommendations. A specific point not resonating in one's environment doesn't negate the value of the overarching message nor the magnitude of the opportunities envisioned. Gartner and Mr. McGee have done us the favor of challenging some core beliefs that plague the modern enterprise. Oh, that one doesn't apply to your team/dept/company? Move on to the next, rinse and repeat. You get a prize if NONE of them apply to your organization...or your previous employer...or your next. Once our knee-jerk reactions have subsided, I hope each of us can take a step back and look for ways to mature our IT organizations and the roles they play in the success of the parent enterprise.

TX Old Sarge
TX Old Sarge

Having seen CEOs who fear/misunderstand/underate technology and those who expect Star Trek technology, I would say that is very tough to have a balanced CIO game plan that coincides with the CEO's vision. Not impossible, but very difficult. I am a very simplistic person and still believe in KISS. Whatever gets it done is what needs to be done and if it is just bells and whistles it can be eliminated. Toys are great for kids but when you are an adult put the toys away. IMHO.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm going to steer away from the 'Support Desk Levels', since that one has been getting plenty of attention already. "14. End discrimination against behavioral skills and social sciences" What are we talking about here? Within a corporation, who is practicing this discrimination, and who is being discriminated against?

andrew232006
andrew232006

2. Terminate support of projects that will not improve the income statement 6. Terminate existing applications that do not yield measurable business value No preventive maintenance? 8. Eliminate IT-caused business model disruption ???surprises??? Sounds like we've just guaranteed them.

pivert
pivert

It's always interesting to see someone venting his problems and desintrest in IT. I don't know Ken McGee but I do know a lot of "Ken McGee"-like figures. Putting a lot of own frustrations in the IT basket and not realizing that most of these frustrations come out of mismanaging a whole company, allowing departments to dictate how IT should work, forgetting that IT is working for other departments too. I agree with Mr Hiner: dive in the trenches for 15 years and we'll talk again. My reaction to such consultants and managers is: IT too expensive, complex, difficult? No problem, here's pen and paper. Have a nice day.

juergen.fiedler
juergen.fiedler

I could not agree more with point 2 (Terminate support of projects that will not improve the income statement). We are paying significant amounts of money for that internal backup system, and I don't even want to think about how many man hours have gone into maintaining and improving those firewalls. Yet neither have yielded us a single cent, ever. Out of the window with them, I say!

ccie5000
ccie5000

The basic point - that IT has to stop thinking of itself as a business utility and start seeing itself as a business catalyst - is a good one. Of course, any bullet pointed list is bound to leave out most of the complexities. > 2. Terminate support of projects that will not improve the income statement What about projects that are required by law or regulation (SOx, PCI)? Projects that enable disaster recovery and improve business continuity? Projects that improve redundancy and resiliency of critical business systems? Projects that improve information security? Projects that enable better risk management? > 7. End the practice of placing enterprise IT spending within the CIO???s budget Who should manage IT spending if not the CIO? > 8. Eliminate IT-caused business model disruption ???surprises??? Great idea. But wait - won't this require "projects that will not improve the income statement"? > 9. Eradicate ???cloud-a-phobia??? I'm sure this means something to the author, but it means nothing to me. How about we just eradicate use of the buzzword "cloud", and start talking specifics? > 10. Abandon level 1, 2, and 3 tech support When users forget their passwords, or don't know how to connect to a printer, should we ignore them? Or should we escalate their issues to senior-level engineering staff? Would allocating expensive senior-level expertise to low-level, repetitive issues be time and money well-invested? > 12. Cease issuing most competitive bids Agreed. Then again, if we can't trust the CIO to manage IT spending, and we won't use competitive bids, just how do we make IT purchases? > 13. Stop holding on to unfunded projects Champions, give up. Creative thinkers, reign yourselves in. If we can't convince management a project should be funded today, let's just give up forever. > 14. End discrimination against behavioral skills and social sciences Again, I'm sure this means something to the author, but it means nothing to me. I am wondering, though, whether the author was a Psych major in college, and has some kind of axe to grind. Thank you, Jerry J. Anderson, CCIE #5000

seanferd
seanferd

creating an annual mismatch between CEO priorities and IT???s most funded projects a best practice or a goal of any sort?

nustada
nustada

Based on gartners article, our company threw all of our computers out the windows. We are now using clay tablets to demand of our former customers, to pay us money to appease the cloud god. We don't waste any money at all on silly things like providing a service, we just demand money, or else...

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

Our chief (read: only, to all intents and purposes) electricity utility implemented all the cost-cutting recommendations in this manifesto, some 10 years ago. The then board saw how to improve the bottom line dramatically and virtually instantly: eliminate maintenance and expansion. The shareholders (the government) saw the huge positive cashflow and awarded the board huge bonuses. The country is now paying the financial price, 25% per year electricity price increases for 4 years - having already paid the economic price, frequent rolling blackouts because the economy expanded way beyond power generation capacity. We saw these answers years ago, you guys are sleeping. Get with the programme, implement your cuts now! Then by 2021, when Gartner is saying "in order to stay relevant, the IT department must implement mega-projects" you can ll nod sagely and say yes, Gartner knows what they are talking about, they talk to CEOs.

erainbolt
erainbolt

Hi Jason, I agree with the premise that IT needs to think of itself as a business catalyst and employ new innovative ideas/approaches to align with the overvall business strategy. But I disagree that Mr McGee's ideas are radical. Intel IT has been on a transformation path for the last three years, and making tremendous progress in delivering business value - whether helping increase sales with new lead-gen capabilities or saving money (and energy) with data center refresh. The other thing that concerns me, is the list of 15 items as "best practices." Some of these are so obviously not best practices...why would anyone list as such? For example, "#5.Abolish environment of little or no IT spending accountability." Of course IT wants and implements spending accountability, just like any other business unit, whether a profit or cost center. And "eradicate cloud-a-phobia"...if one looks at the amount of products, services, and sheer volume of information on deploying private and public clouds, it is clear that most IT organizations are well past fear and embracing cloud solutions. I'll finish with something you can pass to Mr. McGee - the url for Intel IT's Annual Performance Report. We are making great strides in creating business value, increasing IT efficiency, and solving customer problems. There are many examples. http://www.intel.com/Assets/PDF/general/Intel_IT_2011APR_English_standard.pdf And for the others watching this thread. We are proud of Intel IT's best practices, and believe we all win by sharing innovative ideas. Check us out at: Intel.com/IT. ElaineR, IT@Intelsme

geek49203
geek49203

Like any CEO is gonna okay their sacred data -- often subject to various legal / security requirements -- going to some server on "the cloud"? And like they're gonna let the place shut down 'cause the local Dept of Public Works hit your fiber uplink? The only times "the Cloud" makes sense is for those companies who stand to make money on it. It's a marketing slogan for Microsoft and Apple, as they seek greater ways to tie us to them in absolute iron bands.

CherryGarcia
CherryGarcia

I remember when a guy could get fired for cutting the bloat and making things more efficient.

drfdrf
drfdrf

I have to comment on #6 (Terminate existing applications that do not yield measurable business value). It usually isn't IT that wants to hang on to applications of questionable value. My company supports dozens of applications of dubious value, because someone, somewhere in the business refuses to let go of it. It's nearly impossible to shut anything down because there is always someone on the business side with enough clout to keep the system running.

mnemennth
mnemennth

Take the existing 12 commandments of IT and rephrase them, duplicate a couple, and throw it back at us as if it were "News". What pisses me off is that I could run my entire IT department on what you get paid to waste my time like this. Freaking Analysts. Anal-ist is right.

paul.watson
paul.watson

Is this from a CEO perspective who has had their fill of out-of-touch CIOs? Or, is this from a CIO perspective who wants to transfer the responsibility (and blame) to the CEO or anyone besides themselves?

bjk002
bjk002

Apply for a job at Gartner!

mwcotton
mwcotton

I am also a self employed network consultant after years of working for large consulting companies. I have one client that has the priorities right. They have current servers and recent model laptops and workstations. They replace a portion of their oldest equipment each year so that nothing being used in daily production is over four or five years old. The president wants a new computer, is he next on the list, if not request denied. Everyone gets a new computer when their turn comes around. Some one wants a new desk, request denied. They have been in business for over 25 years and still have the same office furniture they started with, yes they have added some new furniture as they grew. A fancy new leather chair for the President does not increase income. A new Laptop for a service technician means that he can make more service calls in a day, more billable hours, more income. For them IT is seen an income center. I think the reason they are growing in this economy is that they do not have a culture of corporate greed. They do what is best to keep the company profitable in the long run, and everyone employed, even if it means lower profits today. They would laugh at most of the best practices mentioned in this article. The executive staff cooperates with each other instead of fighting against each other.

bjk002
bjk002

Do everything in IT, but do nothing in IT!! Increase value and profit, but cut back your budgets and rewards!! Yawn... we're over it. Want value without investment?? Buy some paper and pens. Aside from all that, this guy has obviously never worked a day in the role, yet here he is handing out advice as if he has some sort of credibility??? Puhleeesee...

Slartibartfast
Slartibartfast

Because the author has no (zero) qualifications to make these pontificating statements, that's why.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

failure to manage the risks, and failure to balance the risks with the rewards, is why projects fail.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Yeah, that one point has obscured any value in the others. One bad apple ...

KNOWLEDGE464
KNOWLEDGE464

I didn't know protection from theft was supposed to bring in money. How about we take away your firewalls and stop backups? Let's see how long your system stays up after that and then when some hacker has crashed your network and stole all of your accounting departments data along with the countless employees information you can look at your employees faces and say well we saved money... wait you will lose money because your accounts will be cleaned out and your customer and employee data will be sold to the highest bidder... You must be kidding not to mention you could of gotten your data back but you took away the backups so its a fresh new start for your company. Honestly the dumbest Idea ever and not to mention your statement. Do you even work in IT. Have you ever restored a backup of had to setup a firewall? Do you even know what a firewall does? LOL... I would not want to work for your company it would not be safe and neither would your data, hell your next step would probably be take out fire extinguisher maintenance too that yields no income. I know lefts get rid of 5s too that never yielded a dime for any company...As a matter of fact cut the power off and to the world and lets go back to the stone age because that is where your company is headed.

seanferd
seanferd

Just as soon as "everyone" stops fearing their current buzzword.

geek49203
geek49203

Still happens if you're working for government -- which is about, what, 1/3 of total IT spending here in the USA this year?

geek49203
geek49203

Heck, how many of us have spent days and weeks trying to get a newer app to produce a printed report that has been done for years -- which is promptly put into a binder and then stored offsite? Or perhaps put on someone's desk (hand delivered) only to have them ignored until "recycled"?

geek49203
geek49203

None of that was from the prospective of anyone who actually *does* tech work, or has any face time with the end user, fer sher.

spdragoo
spdragoo

We got the sarcasm, even if the tag was missing. LOL

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