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Sanity check: The 10 biggest headaches of 2007 for CIOs and IT managers

IT is largely about solving problems and keeping the business running, and the higher up you are in the IT department the bigger the problems you have to solve. This edition of Tech Sanity Check identifies the 10 biggest problems that CIOs and IT managers faced in 2007.

IT is largely about solving problems and keeping the business running, and the higher up you are in the IT department the bigger the problems you have to solve. This edition of Tech Sanity Check identifies the 10 biggest problems that CIOs and IT managers faced in 2007.

10. Keeping Windows Vista at arm's length

IT departments are always slow adopters of new operating systems, even when the new OS offers clear benefits to the organization. With Windows Vista, the benefits aren't very clear. As I wrote in Sanity check: The truth about Windows Vista adoption in 2007, some businesses are purchasing Vista licenses as part of their general licensing agreements with Microsoft. However, very few of them are actually deploying Vista. Despite some creative marketing from Microsoft, businesses are still searching for something that makes Vista worth the hassle of upgrading.

9. Centralized vs. decentralized IT

Many organizations struggle with whether to centralize or decentralize their IT departments. Centralization allows pooled resources and more specialization among your staff, while decentralization allows IT to be more closely tied to each business unit. In some organizations, the pendulum swings back and forth between being more centralized or decentralized. In 2007, decentralization was the more popular approach, but the internal debates continue to rage and some organizations are even opting for a hybrid approach.

8. Storage creep

With an increasing body of data going direct to digital and larger multimedia streams being a more frequent part of the data load, storage needs are exploding for lots of organizations. Many of them have designed their data systems for scalability, but even those are being stressed much sooner than expected in many cases. The storage crunch will not abate any time soon. Beyond just throwing more resources at the problem, there is a sore need for better storage optimization solutions to handle all of the duplicate data on most networks.

7. Power and energy concerns

A collective will has emerged in IT to get control of energy consumption for both economic and environmental reasons. In California and several other highly populated metropolitan areas around the world, there are supply and demand issues related to energy that are causing anxiety for many IT executives. Unfortunately, products and solutions are still catching up with the will to create "Green IT."

6. Alignment between IT and business goals

A good IT department is always looking for new and enhanced technologies to help improve its company's business. However, the business often changes its goals and objectives without informing IT in a timely manner and that can lead to a disconnect that results in inefficiencies and wasted resources. How do you fix that? First, it's almost impossible to over-communicate, so err on the side of too much internal communication. Second, see No. 3 on this list.

5. Dealing with compliance

From HIPAA to Sarbanes-Oxley to FERPA to PCI, compliance issues have engulfed many IT departments and have taken a big bite out of IT budgets because of the staff resources it takes to deal with those issues. Many IT departments are struggling with how to integrate compliance activities into regular operations and/or get additional funding for compliance activities.

4. No risk assessment for information security

Too many organizations look at security as a technology issue that can be solved with the right hardware or software. Not enough organizations focus their security efforts around the stuff that actually matters -- company data. A lot of them are realizing that the way to do that is with a risk assessment that looks at which data would be most costly to lose, the likelihood of its being compromised, and the cost of securing it. For more on this subject, take a look at the TechRepublic Webcast Securing Networks Without Borders.

3. Getting or keeping a seat on the executive team

One of the primary motivators for creating a CIO role is to give IT a seat in executive leadership meetings where the company's strategic plans are discussed and finalized. Because technology is such a key business enabler and is part of the picture for so many innovations, it makes sense for IT to have an executive-level representative. A decade ago, there was a lot of momentum around hiring a CIO. However, over the past five years, CIO has started to lose some of its appeal. Some IT departments are now being classified under operations and report up through the COO. Whether a company has a CIO or not, it needs to make sure that at least one IT executive gets in on high-level strategy meetings for the company.

2. The invasion of consumer tech

As I discussed in Sanity check: The six consumer technologies that are destroying traditional IT, it is easier than ever for workers to get their hands on technologies to help them do their jobs without ever consulting the IT department. The problem is that many of these technologies are outside-of-policy and can lead to security and compliance risks. The reason that workers turn to these consumer technologies is that they are faster and easier to get than working with IT, which typically rejects or drags its feet on many requests from users. The root of the problem is a disconnect between IT and users, which leads us directly to No. 1 on the list.

1. Turning IT into a service organization

IT departments have historically seen themselves as the guardians of the computer network and the protectors of the company's technology assets. In relation to users, IT has often believed that it needs to protect them from themselves. This approach has been called "playing god on the network," and while it may have served a purpose in the past, in 2007 a lot of organizations began to realize that they need to fundamentally change their approach. The best IT leaders are turning their departments into service organizations that are focused on using technology as a business enabler, super-serving and partnering with end users, and educating users about IT policies and the risks involved in circumventing them.

How well does this list reflect your top challenges from 2007? What do you think was the No. 1 issue? Were there any important issues you faced that weren't on this list? Join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

74 comments
nichola.dinnoo
nichola.dinnoo

A lot of this is true inclusive of the entry on consumer tech. One company employed the use of blade servers to counteract this, but this made users feel like if IT was playing God on the network. A lot of this may be solved by proper training on the IT responsibilities of the end users and this should be done by an independent group as end users are apt to be resentful and suspicious of an "oppressive" and "biased" IT department. Humans suck. Give me a computer anytime

Jaqui
Jaqui

Since I'm starting my own webhosting service, I've actually been thinking about job descriptions for the IT needed for it. So below is what I have come up with for this specific type of operation. Since a webhosting service is 90% IT, the IT department are also the Client Relationship Department. [ Customer support ] They are the ones responsible for making sure that the Client gets the service they are paying for, so they are the ones who should be answring the phones / email / live chat requests as customer service reps. the duties naturally would be: 1) getting and keeping the systems running. 2) handling client requests 3) testing new software for implementation 4) verify that the daily backups of data are good [ usable ] 5) testing ups systems regularly 6) hardware upgrades as needed 7) watch/escort co-location clients in data center if needed. [ future, not at first. ] The balance of the staff, sales department and accounting. ;)

No User
No User

What is the ball park startup cost and how long do you project it will take to make the pay off? How many folks will be involved at the start up?

Jaqui
Jaqui

startup can be as low as 1 grand. [ Reselling an established services facilities and accounts rebranded as your own, with their tech support doing all the support work. ] or the full on costs of setting up the data center and getting multiple high capacity connections and hiring a minimum of 20 people for tech positions alone. which starts at the 100 grand level. advertising costs not included. There are good arguments for both methods, as well as against them both.

Jaqui
Jaqui

seems to be pretty much limited to webspace. I haven't seen any other services being done like that. Though, open source operating system distributions are essentially reselling. ;)

No User
No User

I wonder how many other types of IT businesses you can startup by selling a re branded product. I really haven't given that much thought. That would make a good article. I would love to see the posts on that one.

dnealey
dnealey

I am not sure if No. 10 is a headache,challenge or opportunity for IT. I do agree that IT departments are slow adopters of new OSes. I worked for a 2,000+ person company for a couple years, joining it in 2003 and leaving in 2005. When I joined they were using Windows 2000 and when I left they were using Windows 2000. A year later they were acquired by a much smaller company that I hope had the vision to upgrade the technology and hire a CIO who would fight to keep IT up to date. Deployment of Vista is just like the deployment of XP, it requires new equipment and training. What's new about that? When I started my career I needed a BS, to advance in my career I needed a MS, and when I wanted to reach further I needed a PhD. I have never stopped learning and if I do bury me. Microsoft is not about to take Vista off the market, no matter how many new PCs Dell and other manufacturers sell with XP installed on them or how many times IT departments wipe Vista off new PCs and install XP. IT can deploy Vista now or later, but it will happen or your organization will lose ground where it hurts the most, in revenues. If IT departments refuse to keep up with technology they will go the way of the dinosaurs. Both the CFO and users will be on their backs. My 2 cents.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

With Windows XP, there were actually some compelling reasons to upgrade. Primarily, it enabled businesses to consolidate their hardware and software from Win95 and WinNT/2000 into one code base on WinXP. With Windows Vista, there are really no compelling reasons for IT to undergo the pain of upgrading. And with as much trouble as UAC is causing users along with the application incompatibility issues, there are some big reasons NOT to upgrade to Vista for businesses. Vista does have some compelling stuff for home users (for example, the parental controls are good), but that won't help it with businesses.

No User
No User

That the XP desktop and server share when you say "it enabled businesses to consolidate their hardware and software from Win95 and WinNT/2000 into one code base on WinXP." ?

No User
No User

The common Kernel shared by server and desktop which starting with XP forward is to enable software to run seamlessly on both the desktop and server versions of windows with out the need to have two separate code bases one for the desktop and one for the server. It was to make it easier for developers they only need to make one product and also for Microsoft in so far as patches service packs and new releases go. You only need to write for one kernel instead of two which is the way it has been since they came out with NT and had both server and desktop windows. If I recall correctly. Outside of that I don't understand what XP has that provided the ability to consolidate on one platform. With 2000 you have a true or pure 32 bit multi tasking multi treaded OS. I think most applications of NT workstation were used as a server so the desktop would generally be 95, 98 and perhaps ME and they were not. At least that is my understanding.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

There was previously a split between the Windows 9x and Windows NT OS lines and they had separate drivers and they were even some software incompatibilities across the two platforms (especially with custom software). Many businesses had a legacy of clients from both OS lines. Windows XP offered the opportunity to consolidate on one platform.

No User
No User

We have windows 2000 and I have neither a need nor a desire to upgrade until 2010 the next planned upgrade. You can bet it won't be Vista. In fact MS has scheduled Visa's replacement to ship in 2010. So if I did get Vista then it would be a downgrade. Exactly what are you looking for in an OS? What can you do with Vista that you can't do with 2000? Now I know that some new Applications wont work on 2000 such as adobe's new apps and Office 2007 but once again exactly what do they provide that the previous version doesn't? IMO the biggest reason folks are slow to upgrade is that there is simply no compelling reason to do so. If there is a need it can be done on a case by case basis. Why waste money, time and deal with the headaches of a new OS just because it's new? If Vista won't support your application how does your PHD reason with the decision to upgrade?

Tig2
Tig2

Someone who gets it! A local Fortune 50 asked me for a recommendation regarding an upgrade. I had an opportunity to point out that we would need to extensively test before movement should occur. Bottom line is that they have determined through testing that migration cannot happen for at least two years. In 2010, I expect that Vista migration- assuming it happens- will be in the list of Technology Headaches.

Richard.Miranda
Richard.Miranda

I'm having a case of deja vu here. Remember the 80's? IT back under the COO/General Manager/CFO. The consumer tech revolution - last time it was the PC and networks against the Big Blue mainframe. And we fought long and hard to turn IT into a service organization instead of the gurus in the "Ivory Tower". Is this a twenty or thirty year cycle? It makes sense. Microsoft is the new IBM. Servers are the new mainframes. They're thin clients instead of terminals. The scaling seems cyclic. To paraphrase Arthur Schlesinger perhaps this is the "natural tension" of a growing technology.

No User
No User

Lets talk Citrix and more to the point Citrix terminals. How about VMware combining servers into a mainframe like behemoth. It is going full circle and I think most things perpetually do over time. Certainly there is a big movement to get away from PC's most are big clunky and take up to much space and time to work on them. The OS gets trashed and there goes a day reloading. With a terminal it's plug and play and the defective one goes for repair or to the trash. Yes it does all that and reduces the options a person has to hose things up. My eyes are looking hard to both Citrix and VMware for the next upgrade. It will be much easier the manage and support. Good by PC workstations and welcome back terminals. You save space, time, money, power, and you even get the Green label how about that!!!

Professor8
Professor8

"From HIPAA to Sarbanes-Oxley to FERPA to PCI, compliance issues have engulfed many IT departments and have taken a big bite out of IT budgets because of the staff resources it takes deal with compliance." HIPAA only affects health-care and health-care insurance. FERPA only affects educational institutions. The Privacy Act of 1974 has had most of it's teeth pulled but should affect all government functionaries. And if they need more "staff resources" why are they not hiring? Even considering the huge shift to body shopping, IT employment has been stagnant since the beginning of the Clinton-Bush economic depression.

No User
No User

First off, by far the largest problem users have is their staunch entrenched resistance to both accept that they MUST learn the rudimentary fundamental basics of IT user requirements and the responsibility that goes with it. That is reflected not only by general staff but also with the managers of that staff. Another way of saying that is their largest problem is themselves or they have seen the enemy and it is themselves. I would also say that the mentality of their management greatly aids their own delusions or in a softer way incorrect assessment. They simply think that they have neither a responsibility to learn how to use the equipment nor are they bound to adhere to policy. More importantly that someone else must be in ready set go mode to aid them. The bottom line is they feel that the sole purpose of IT is to serve them and that they should not need to learn anything about "those @#$%&* computers" to do their job. Even although 90% plus of everything they do is done in conjunction with a computer. The younger the users the more arrogant they are with their stance and blind they are to the fact that IT or perhaps I should say High Tech is in nearly everything they do in life. Which would include Cell phones, DVDs and Vehicles. Once again I'm more convinced then ever that there is a culture of brain dead folks that just insists that IT folks should be used and abused like serfs. For that I give you both numbers 3 and 6. We are not here to serve we are here for IT. Now that said yes in the lowest levels of IT (the best of us started out there ;) ) where in some cases it is not even necessary to be an IT professional user support is provided and quite frankly it is necessary. Users definitely need both ongoing support and training for Computers, other Office Equipment and Policy. That is not the direct responsibility of the Core IT group. Although they can certainly play a role in advising and supporting those for whom it is. In fact most User needs can be handled with in their department since the vast majority of support needs are centered around common repetitive mistakes (How To's). A reasonable but not all encumbering example is number 9. Centralized vs. decentralized IT. Take it out of two and put it in one then take it out of one and put it in two. It's time for non IT folks and perhaps even more so imitation IT folks to be completely and permanently removed from the decision making process where IT is concerned. OK, I'll loosen up a little and let them deal with help desk, user training and user policy enforcement. Warning!!! don't make Sys Admins, Network Engineers, and god forbid Programmers and all other high end IT folks perform Help Desk, on site support and user training. Most especially, if you think either we are your servants or simply here to serve then you need removed from the decision making process. In fact I also give you 4 and 5 as examples that the "business" culture doesn't take IT seriously. They view compliance as a big to do about nothing that IT better get done so the Big important bean counters can sign off on it. As well as, confidentiality is what the Execs think they should have with their decisions and perks not the Risk of company and personal/consumer data and other information. Once again it's IT making a big to do about nothing. This often results in meeting compliance goals being part of the existing IT budget and not an extra or special budget. I must note that it's not just IT that contains confidential information and is subject to compliance. Yet it's typically viewed as an IT only issue which leaves the company vulnerable. As for 5. I would add 5a. which would be the attack of the bean counters. Yes for what ever reason bean counters are used to audit IT. An audit is simply an evaluation to ascertain the validity and reliability of information and an assessment of internal controls of which bean counters are prohibitively unqualified to conduct for IT. They are often referred to as regulators or examiners. I have noticed that the author's job title and background is not a pure IT role and more of a semi IT person (IT convert) whom the powers that be put over IT and he just doesn't have it with in him to remove the serfdom mentality of IT from IT. We are not here to be manipulated, dominated and controlled. Think of us as a new kind of Executive who's place is at the big table not cleaning it after the big dogs leave. Sorry Jason you otherwise typically do excellent but you consistently slide a zinger in there which needs confronted. You have otherwise presented an excellent article. If you could have that part of you which looks upon IT folks as lap dogs and not highly trained skilled professionals in a profession that has come of age and is so intertwined with business that it is now synonymous with business it's self surgically removed then you could become a giant in your field or at least TR. I'm just astounded that so many folks feel that users are to be given a free pass and IT folks most especially both the high end folks and the one person or micro IT departments are here to serve the users. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the IT let alone deal with a persistent arrogance and stubbornness which flies in the face of IT and dogs IT in performance of the essential duties of IT. This often results in Operations taking a hit. It's the mentality of a three day old retarded rock which simply must go by any means.

Your Mom 2.0
Your Mom 2.0

Hey, there is no shame in working in a Helpdesk capacity, and I don't care for your implication that somehow IT people that perform Helpdesk are somehow inferior to you. Yeah, a big part of my job is "Helpdesk", but when done correctly it leads to better communications between IT and users, and that leads to users that are more receptive to change and learning the "right way" to do things. "Give a man a fish..." etc. BTW, my role is that of a "generalist" at my company. I do what needs to be done, whether that is lowly helpdesk duties, managing Active Directory, rebuilding servers, or implementing 3rd-party software that saves time and money for everyone. And when the required task is something that I have no training for or experience with, I outsource it to a "specialist" such as yourself. Think about it: who do you think has a better chance at a seat at the "big table"?

rudy.berongoy
rudy.berongoy

I agree with you there. I have worked on the Helpdesk/Support Desk for several years now and I must say that this is a specialist/Technial role. We are a jack of all trade, which for some reason are not really appreciated by so all other higher IT roles! Big mistake as we provide the first line of support and filter all other work accordingly. I do hate it when people be little our role, have they actually sat on the help/support desk? A lot of helpdesk/support desk people I know come from all walks of life with different levels of technical skill, just because we don't have the letters after our names, or the qualifications etc does not mean that we are unable to perform or do the work of the so called higher IT roles. In this age of multitasking and cross skilling the lines are becomming more and more blurred these days. One thing we have that other higher IT roles don't have is the ability to communicate with none Tech's. We are the people that keep the IT department going.

No User
No User

WOW!!!! The only thing that seems fitting to do is to ask you these questions. 1. Did you read the entire post? 2. Did you devote your complete and undivided attention to the reading of the post? 3. Did you comprehend the post? 4. Did you read the other posts I made to this article? 5. Is this a joke are you putting me on? It's kind of scary to see posts like yours. Once again WOW!!! I'm just astounded to see how many posts here at TR are in the same vein as yours. Pull that string hanging out your left ear and flush your head then read my post again. In fact read all of the posts in this article. It's a good experience.

No User
No User

However you may not be bright enough to understand why. ;) You just got to love someone who insults others while complaining about their people skills. DOH!!! Both my Technical and people skills brought me to where I am, an IT manager. Now if you would like some help getting your feet out of your mouth just let me know otherwise I now invoke my favorite Murphy's law, never argue with a fool if for no other reason a mere passerby would be unable to distinguish the difference. :) Your bringing a knife to a gun fight me hardy or a make that Mom!

Your Mom 2.0
Your Mom 2.0

It just seems odd that if you're right that you have so many other people disagreeing with you. Doesn't it seem logical that maybe, just maybe, you should re-examine your stance on this issue? Who knows, maybe we just don't "get you" because you're so much more brilliant than the rest of us. But you're dripping lots of venom and come across as really bitter and angry. No one is going to listen to you, even if you are right when you attack everyone with a different opinion. Hope you're good at whatever it is that you do, because with your lousy people-skills you'll be stuck doing it for the rest of your life.

belling
belling

I worked for technology-driven startups throughout the 90's, where there were few barriers between IT and "the Business." In fact, I never heard that term used seriously until I joined my current employer, a large traditional retail company with a successful e-commerce presence. I still cringe when a support person says "the business" as though what they do is completely unrelated to making a profit. At this company, my job falls just on the business side of this artificial divide, and it's been a struggle to get the level of IT support that we need. While IT was spending energy protecting me from myself, I've been trying to explain why our online-only competitors are closing the gap between us and them so quickly, and why it takes a year to do what would have been three months' work at my previous employers. The belief of IT departments that they know better than their users may mitigate technical risk, but it puts companies at enormous competitive risks. If you aren't willing to completely decentralize your IT department, so you can have support stuff who actually understand the daily realities of what they support, then at least find the people in the business side who know what they are doing, empower them, and support them. If you don't, you'll all be looking for work together when the nimble competition that gets it eats your employer for lunch.

No User
No User

In most cases it is not IT that makes the decisions for IT's role and functions it is the non IT folks who do that at the peril of both the Business and Operations. You really need to have some specifics and not a generalization. Such as the IT department was given both the budget and independent authority to literally do anything they desired and as a result they became obsessed with all the whizzbangs and completely neglected everything else (give a list 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.9) and so on. Otherwise you set yourself up as one of the folks whom I have suggested need to be removed from the decision making process.

No User
No User

As the saying goes.... We all use our different means to work together towards the same goal. We are all in this together. Now if I could only get 161 million dollar severance package for causing the company to lose over 11 billion dollars like the Citigroup CEO I could not only take the above statement to heart but I could raise it to a whole new level!!!! You have just got to love it.... :) It is the correct path though!

brucedog2
brucedog2

If I misconstrued your earlier comments concerning users, I?m sorry. But no matter what level you work at users are an integral component? most of what is designed is done so with users in mind. We are designing systems to make their life easier to make them more productive to further the company bottom line. I didn?t mean to imply users are number one, what I meant was we are all on equal footing providing different services to the whole? there should be no number one. We have leaders and followers but everyone should be contributing to the same team? the success of the company. I?m actually very detail and specifics oriented but in this discussion they?re being tossed about like statistics? I can prove whatever point you like with them. The basis of Jason?s list is about IT issues and I agree with his observation that IT should be considering its role as providing a service? much as accounting and human resources and all other departments. I feel that when all departments understand they are on the same team, you increase your potential for success.

chaneys
chaneys

Is like competing in the Special Olympics...even if you win, you're still retarded. Just because somebody's experience isn't the same as yours doesn't make them right or wrong. How many ways are there to do a thing? I don't know...how many companies are out there?

dstephens
dstephens

The word "service" does indeed carry some unfortunate baggage. There will always be some people who see the service provided by IT as a sort of entitlement to abuse the IT workers. These people are usually so convinced of their own importance, and by extension, everyone else's unimportance, that they are a pain to deal with. Unfortunately, these people can exist at any level within a company and too often, and for various reasons, are tolerated by management. (I heard an interesting statistic recently - psychopath's are three times as prevalent in corporations than in the general population). Such people can really test the IT Manager's diplomacy skills! The goal though, is that everyone, from the CEO on down, should be willing to take on a "service mentality". (If you find a better word, let me know). I don't see how you can have a truly successful enterprise without that attitude.

Tig2
Tig2

But won't get any traction. So I use partnership... regardless of how often I would really like a divorce! Giving doesn't work- it really isn't a gift. Don't know about anyone else, but I would rather get paid. I get your points. You are sick and tired of being the janitor- called in to clean up messes and KNOWING that those messes could have been avoided if anyone had thought to ask for help- or had taken the help that was offered. Maybe we could just call it that. And understand that we are all janitors from the CEO down. We all get different kinds of messes, but we are ALL expected to clean them up. On the bright side, every time I am able to bring a team together to do that, I have an opportunity to maybe introduce a new cleaning tool that will benefit us all. And feed cookies to my team. Yes, I feed my teams cookies. I even bake them myself. Sometimes I think that the treats are the only reason that people work for me...

No User
No User

Right on!!!! In that respect lets go all the way. The CEO provides a service so does the board of directors and the company it's self provides a service to the customers and customers are providing a service to the company by conducting their business with the company. It goes full circle and loses it's meaning. Personally though the word service often gets misconstrued and is used to both belittle someone else and cause someone to fill that somebody else owes them something as well as to feel cheated if they think they didn't get what they were owed. How about we remove the word service from the dictionary and get a more reasonable and flexible name that doesn't cause veins to pop in folks eyes (notably mine) while getting the job done. There you go this is the age of PC2, Politically Correct and Personal Computer so let us rise above this and find a name that is non offensive.

No User
No User

You don't care about specifics... How many times have I heard that? In other words you don't get into the detail to distinguish right from wrong in order to deal with reality. You just shoot from the hip and whether you hit the target or an innocent bystander is of no concern to you big guy!!! As I have said in another post in this article it's time to look beyond users. You seem to be hung up on users. That is on you. It's the old school professions that have created the mess. User problems are an after the fact or by product and not the beginning or the entire problem. I stand firm that IT is not a lap dog. For the record LOSE the mentality that if you didn't have users you would not have a job. That nonsense is so old that it doesn't warrant further comment. Once again for you folks who either don't read the entire post or simply can't comprehend it. I don't do users I stand at least one level above those who do which means in some areas more then one level above them so your point is NULL and VOID. I didn't beat anyone down but folks who think users are number one in their life took offense and certainly took aim at me. I'll add you to that list. I deal with the folks who deal with the users and that is bad enough. Just like nearly everyone I started at the bottom and worked my way up so I don't need your mistaken advice on how to get where I am. I neither know the numerical count nor the percentage however an enormous amount of IT jobs and IT folks have extremely little or no user contact at all. Mine happens to be one of them. That said I have in the past worked with users and I can still see the nonsense that goes on today. If you are help desk or at the PC support then users may very well mean the world to you and you take offense to the contrary because it IS Your job.

dstephens
dstephens

Many of the comments in this thread seem to be confusing the idea of IT as a service and IT's role in supporting the user. I have always held the opinion that every employee of a business should see themselves as providing a service. The janitors provide a service to the employees by providing a clean work environment. Management provides a service when they create a work environment that allows people to earn a living. Everybody that works for a company should see themselves as providing a service to those that are impacted by what they do. For an IT Manager, this involves making sure that IT resources are available and appropriate for the work that is being done. In addition, the IT Manager plays a role in educating both the end-user and management. I could go on and on, but when it gets right down to it, I think that IT, as well as every other department in a company, must be seen as a service if it is really going to benefit that company. And, when you allow management to make very stupid decisions, you do everyone in the company a disservice. I've had to go toe-to-toe with management more than once in my career and guess what? It's always worked out for the best when I've done so.

brucedog2
brucedog2

Nouser? I hate to join the fray since you are determined to beat everyone down with a long winded explanation why users are the problem, but? if we didn?t have users, you wouldn?t have a job. Rather than vilify users, find a way to work as a team? and if they are being ignorant, don?t lower yourself to their level but rather find a way to open lines of communications. If they aren?t listening, maybe it?s your cavalier attitude that is making them that way. I?m not interested in specifics? I can find a specific to support either side of the argument (yes, there are users you?ll never win over? it?s part of life!) but it?s more productive to find a way to work as a team. In a previous life, I spent many years as a service advisor in a multi-line automotive dealership in a role that fell between the users (customers) and technical staff (automotive technicians). By bridging the gap between them with honest communications and sincerity, I not only had less stress but my team was the most successful financially and had the highest customer satisfaction index. Find creative and non-confrontational ways to deal with your co-workers (they aren?t just users?) and use your vast experience to influence, not antagonize.

No User
No User

As I have stated many times IT is part of the business. The failure to understand that is the beginning of the problem. Treating IT like the unwanted Red headed step child or as I prefer servant or serf is the furthering of the problem. Yes communicate but all together as a sum of the whole. Simply put, both accept and deal with reality. I agree about his comments on RISK. The one I quoted is excellent.

Tig2
Tig2

And what I find is that you make a very good point but may be missing something close to the heart of the issue. For whatever reason, business doesn't trust technology much. We went from a time where business gave us a pretty blank check and told us to "fix" Y2K, to business feeling like we spent the money poorly and misrepresented the whole Y2K issue. I'v heard the arguments on both sides- IT says that it was a non-event because of the work that we put into making it a non-event. Business maintains that there was never a problem to begin with. Some facts remain- IT had better control of its destiny back then and lost that control shortly after, and business stopped trusting their IT departments. I agree that we should be pulled in at the decision point. But I have too often seen IT leaders who ARE at that table make bad calls because they had used an approach or technology solution in another role and that is what they pushed to implement- even when it was the wrong thing. So I guess my position is that we need to step closer to business in order to clearly understand what the real requirements are, and business needs to step closer to us in strategic planning and decision making. An additional note here- I would think that a flattening of the organizational structure would be the greatest step towards bringing the sides together. When I am in the early days of a project, I gather not only the managers of the departments I will be working with, I get their senior lead as well. Those senior leads will provide me with analysis from a purely technological standpoint, while the managers can take that input and determine how it will be presented to business for ratification. It also enables the team to discuss the impact of the proposed solution from a strategic standpoint. And I am generally better able to land on the technical requirements. It is generally my responsibility as the PM to make sure that I am presenting the information to business in a way that is understandable to them and to insure that from a technology perspective we have considered all the possible solutions. Further to my earlier comment on flattening the organization, I also think that politics play too great a role in decision making. Flatter organizations allow for better peer relationships and tend to inspire fewer politics. Accounting may hold the purse strings, but all that does is reinforce my accountability to the team to validate my ROI first. To an extent, it also reinforces my accountability to my team and my business partner to evaluate the risk as fully as I can.

No User
No User

Although you have stated that I had an extreme view and you both have some agreement and disagreement after a second read of your statement you seem to have near complete agreement with me. Perhaps it's the translation. Good for you and your experience however, as far as RISK goes I flat out stated that it was not all IT and in fact went so far as to say that the lack of the rest of the professions at the BUSINESS to take RISK seriously and equally important understand that RISK is not just an IT thing it's the entire business is the problem. That failure leaves the BUSINESS vulnerable. Now, you make a point about dialog and that once again is at the heart of what I said. IT Simply MUST be at the big table where IT rightfully belongs. That is where the dialog begins. Where I see that we disagree is that you seem to take the position that IT resides outside of Business in your title you state that IT is a service and I flat out state that business and IT are inseparable. IT is no more a service then every other profession and position in the business. I can look at it like everyone employed by the business performs a service for the business but not that IT alone is a service. Whether anyone likes or not we are part of the business and we are here to stay. In fact in many posts that I have in other articles explains this in great detail. RISK is a company concern. Oddly enough the ancient business mentality is that once again IT is on the outside of the room with the big table and ancient business types decide the fate of the company. That is THE problem or perhaps just the biggest and not an acceptable way to do business. IT is part of the business and we decide together as a sum of the whole. In no way do I want IT to be in charge of all Security. In fact being a Traffic Cop is one of the duties I wish to be expunged from IT and be placed where it belongs on the shoulders of the managers. Everybody needs to be involved if not then you are at RISK. Example about audits, I picked on bean counters. IT can "help" with both their RISK assessment and implementation just like they can "help" IT. IT is by no means better qualified to "tell" Accounting what to do then Accounting is to "tell" IT what to do. Unfortunately it is the latter that "IS THE WAY IT IS". I think your following statement is excellent!!! "(When IT acts like a security-monger, it is because they are cognizant of the risks but don't think you are. So make sure you are both on the same page about the risks and then agree to take responsibility for assuming the risk. IT has every amount of CYA that standard business-people have. So you work around it by making sure that those making the decisions about the risk are the ones taking responsibility. Once you acknowledge responsibility for the risk, I don't think you'll find a problem in asking your IT department to facilitate you - as long as you aren't asking them to compromise morals or their continued employment.)" Perhaps I should explain what I mean by ancient business mentality. In another post which I probably wont quote in verbatim I stated the following. IT is the new kid on the block. Business has been around for thousands of years and thus business owners, managers, sales, marketing accounting labor both skilled and unskilled and so on. Those folks have had a long time to get know each other and in fact they understand each other. They sit at the big table. Then along comes IT and they neither understand IT nor IT folks not even the IT culture. There is an innate fear of the unknown in those folks and so they fear IT. Since they fear IT they resist IT taking it's rightful place at the big table and they are determined to manipulate, dominate and control IT even to the detriment and undoing of many businesses. If you are afraid of something you don't like that fear so it's natural to try to remove that fear a typical way is to be in control. As soon as the ancient ones get it together move over and bring IT to the big table the better off we shall all be. So Jason, since you like his points on RISK I guess you agree with me as well!!!! Since I can't reply to Tigertwo I will respond to Tigertwo here. I think we pretty much see eye to eye on this. I would add a point about your comment on IT folks who have sat at the big table and failed at their job. The as I refer to them ancient ones are the folks who picked that CIO/CTO or what ever title to sit at the big table. So those IT folks fit their mold not the mold that IT folks would cast. So I think we need to tread lightly when we look at examples. It's the CEO's or CFO's or COO's etc hand picked IT person. Not an IT professional picked by the IT community to sit at the big table. Once they leave IT Operations they often are all the way out to fit the mold that has been cast by others. That IT person is over loaded with reporting and other old school business like duties and doesn't have the pulse of IT Operations and is perhaps destine to failure because of that. We are different then the other professions yet they insist on making IT fit into their mold. The TEAM consists of everyone on the TEAM. The folks on the TEAM are known as PLAYERS. The TEAM works best when everyone on the TEAM understands the ROLES of and works with all the PLAYERS. If the Manager of the TEAM neither understands some of the PLAYERS nor their ROLES then the TEAM is in big trouble. You can have either a narrow or wide view of the team concept and the above statement still applies.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Your summary of the issue of risk is exactly right. This is a very important part of understanding the problem of the disconnect between IT and business. Thanks.

blarman
blarman

I am an IT Director, and I have worked direct-user support for more than 10 years. I've also done hardcore DB design and implementation for a fortune 50 company. And I have to agree with BOTH of you. The point I would make is that both of you tend towards the extreme. The point where you meet is communication, and that - in my experience - has been the single largest point of failure in the business/IT value proposition. I have rarely seen an instance when IT wasn't willing to do something without a very good reason. I have seen and been part of that where IT objects because of data corruption issues and/or where management ignores advice. I have similarly been a part of things where the business users determine and convince their bosses (who have control of IT) that they know better about how to do something and that they should be put in charge of making sure IT does it regardless of how dangerous it is. I have an MBA, so I can appreciate the idea of risk. Many IT people have a VERY low risk tolerance inherently. So to get their buy-in, you have to genuinely listen to their feedback, ask them to evaluate the potential risk in a scenario, and them assure them (big item here) that the BUSINESS side is going to undertake the risk, not them. When IT acts like a security-monger, it is because they are cognizant of the risks but don't think you are. So make sure you are both on the same page about the risks and then agree to take responsibility for assuming the risk. IT has every amount of CYA that standard business-people have. So you work around it by making sure that those making the decisions about the risk are the ones taking responsibility. Once you acknowledge responsibility for the risk, I don't think you'll find a problem in asking your IT department to facilitate you - as long as you aren't asking them to compromise morals or their continued employment.

showard2007
showard2007

You are a web developer, you probably do not support users or perform case studies or even know how to bring up Active Directory. Therefor because you most likely lack the proper credentials would encourage everyone who is reading this to consider you a null and inappropriate voice. Leave the IT decision making to those who understand entire networks and not just CSS\Java.

thomas.peterson
thomas.peterson

Having managed both IT Programs, Products and Projects at Fortune 1000 level companies, I can truly appreciate the thought, tact and substance that you brought to this discussion. Don?t worry about No Luser because as he is still chaffing from having to do defrags deskside we?ll be busy planning the next mobile, portable and profit-oriented product or service and strategically catapult ourselves and our companies over the competition. Oh did I mention that the key to this is through an established and on-going positive relationship with our internal and external ?business-partners?? IT folks who chaff at end users, disregard the value proposition established by IT Auditors, and blather on about 1s & 0s in logical arguments lack the finesse and nimbleness necessary to evolve. BTW I recently got certified as a CISM, CISA & CISSP and converted to IT Audit to better promote relationships between business groups and IT. One of the foundational strategies is aligning business process with the technical and logical controls ?in support of the business tolerance for risk.? Best wishes and I hope our paths cross someday, I think it would be great to share a pint and pick your brain on the evolution of IT value, leveraging risk as an asset and managing the risks with SAAS.

No User
No User

You said that you were to busy to give substantive examples and yet you make another post that is not only lacking substance but is tantamount to a diatribe. You have no specific examples. "A did X and the result was Y" if A would have done X+1 the result would have been Z the impact of each are 1,2,3,4,5. Odd how folks like you have time to read the original article and someone's posts such as mine and make several posts yourself while persistently mentioning that you are on the job and have no time for detail. Typically those kind of folks are derogatory and take offense to comments that refute IT being user lapdogs and having no place at the big table. You have made yet a another contradiction. Hey I see a pattern!!! Are you Help Desk or Desk Top/on site support by any chance? My guess is that all the folks whom make posts which you disagree with are poorly using company time but you are some how exempt. I suppose being on vacation, after business hours, working FREE over time or simply occupying my time in between running various jobs still makes my posts a poor use of company time. Perhaps you better not answer that and get to work and refrain from posting again. I would not want to encourage you to make yet another infraction and poor use of company time ;) Since I can't make another post to this thread I will comment here to thomas.peterson. Honey, if you look at my history you will see that I don't do Users. In fact it's been many years since I have. Better yet and much faster just look at my title IT Manager. If you actually have a clue about IT then you know that I don't do Users. In fact the closest I get is supporting those who provide User support. So my advice is to quit blowing smoke about your non existent IT credentials for which you have no means to prove in this thread that they actually exist. Now as to your comments about bean counters. You certainly spanked yourself there. Most folks in any other occupation (except bean types) will vote against you tooting your horn there. DOH!!!! In fact you get spanked again for if we are to believe that you are in IT and you are doing IT auditing then IT is doing IT Auditing instead of a bean counter which is exactly one of my main points. So double DOH to you on that one. Now go get help taking both of your feet out of your mouth.

No User
No User

I said that Users need on going support. I also said that the Core IT folks should not be providing that support. I did mention Help Desk and on site support and Users do need that with out question. I Also said just don't force that on a one person IT department or a Programmer other highly skilled IT professionals and so on. Of course my main point is that from Users to the Execs they all get IT's role wrong. So Unless I missed your point then I would say we are very much in agreement.

belling
belling

I have plenty of substance. I have market share over time, business strategy, business tactics, apparent rate of consumer-facing technology adoption by our competition versus us, etc. I have experience at companies that followed a different model, grew, succeeded, and paid out for all out hard work. I can compare past experience with present experience, and tell which model was more efficient at making money and mitigating risk. As far as I can tell, what you have is the certainty that no one outside IT has a clue. A lot of people do. You put everyone in the same bucket with few idiots who infect the network with virus they picked up surfing porn. In the end, it's competitive edge that suffers. The capital of business is risk. If you accept no risk, you are putting your capital in your mattress. If you accept a little risk, you are putting your capital in a savings account. As an organization, your company needs to decide how it wants to invest its capital based on the rate of return it seeks weighed against risk. Traditional IT has taken the position that no amount of risk is acceptable, which often puts it absolutely at odds with the goals of the company it works for. Seriously now, I have to get some work done.

jpainter
jpainter

I like this list and agree with most of it. I have a really hard time with executives making IT decisions and they are not real IT people they are insurance people. I am the IT director at my company and I have to put up with there decisions. As for the service end of things you have to have someone on IT staff to do this. There should be someone who is a desktop support speacialist who knows the software in and out to support the users. That way the cio's, net admins and programmers do not have to help. Service is a part of it. I worked for a manager whom hated that end of things and now he is out of a job.

No User
No User

Which is exactly my point!!!

belling
belling

So I'm not going to spend a lot of time posting to this thread. However, you missed my point. The IT perspective I've been exposed to is that anything "the business" wants is a poorly-considered "whizzbang." The speed of change in the competitive landscape will eventually weed out the companies where this IT mindset still holds. I'll leave it to the others who've posted recognizing the deep failure of the anti-service approach you espouse to change your mind or not.

Canuckster
Canuckster

Still to this day I hear about a clerk picking up the phone, calling the IT department for help and getting a surly voice telling the person that IT has in fact changed the coding for records entry without the need to tell anyone, but if accounting has an issue with generating reports/checques/etc. that it is an accounting problem and not an IT issue. Service is a difficult paradigm to install in someone who is more concerned about AMD vs Intel than contributing to the corporate success. Not to pick on IT, the attitude can be present in any organization's departmentalization, but, because my work takes me that way, I have seen it in the arrogance of the tech "specialist".

James Speed
James Speed

While IT lives to support users - they are the biggest problem. Its almost always the users who infect their systems with viruses, cause issues because they install personal software on work PC's...the list goes on. For IT to continue to provide the best support and services possible we have to protect users from themselves. The problem is that many people THINK they are smarter than they REALLY are when it comes to PC's. A CIO at a hospital I worked at coined it like this "A great many users see their work PC's as extensions of their home PC's and treat them as such". The rest of problems are just part of what makes the IT world what it is - ever changing.

Deane75
Deane75

... Simple solution. BAN ALL USERS FROM THE SYSTEM! Oh yeah, then figure out again what you are getting paid for... and who is signing your check. PS - if the users are downloading porn, it is not your business - it is a management issue. You can report ALL non-business downloads to operations/management and let them decide what is/is not punishable by "immediate termination". Other SW downloaded by users is often done so to work around the snail paced IT dept. Become better at customer service and the users.... er, CUSTOMERS become better.

No User
No User

I'm just going to cut and paste the post I made to the other off worlder. WOW!!!! The only thing that seems fitting to do is to ask you these questions. 1. Did you read the entire post? 2. Did you devote your complete and undivided attention to the reading of the post? 3. Did you comprehend the post? 4. Did you read the other posts I made to this article? 5. Is this a joke are you putting me on? It's kind of scary to see posts like yours. Once again WOW!!! I'm just astounded to see how many posts here at TR are in the same vein as yours. Pull that string hanging out your left ear and flush your head then read my post again. In fact read all of the posts in this article. It's a good experience.

No User
No User

Congratulations. I looked at your history and this is the first post you made since you became a member of TR in April 2000. I noticed a lot of my detractors have only one post or just a very few and most have been a member for over a year. So I'm not a flamer I'm an inspiration. You error in that you consider it a flame when obviously it's an inspiration it certainly was for you. So in fact it's completely POSITIVE!!! How about that. ;) LOL! The bad news is ironically you flamed me while complaining about what you perceive as a flame by me and in doing so you contradicted yourself and made a useless rant. Lets let Deane75 tell us for whom it was intended. Did I try hard enough? Cheers!

ardnerus
ardnerus

Your flame even had bullet points...LOL! So tell me, do you even know who you are replying to? From my vast knowledge of reading threads, it would seem that you were trying to reply to Deane75? However, Deane75 was replying to James Speed and NOT your post. C'mon.......surely you CAN post some positive comments rather than useless rants? Try it, I'm sure you could if you really try. Cheers!

No User
No User

Yes Users are and always have been a huge problem that has tantamount to a boil on IT's back side. However we must now lift our eyes above that and look at those whom actually create that persistent pain. Short and sweet IT needs both a prominent and permanent seat at the big table. In most cases it is simply impossible to separate IT from the business they are now a sum of the whole. What use is it to breath if you have no lungs or the means to deliver the byproduct?

filetofsoul
filetofsoul

I agree with you 100%. Here are some things I learned during my career at a at major corporation, before my job got outsourced. 1, Adopt a ZERO tolerance policy on use of personal SW on your company computing assets. 2, Enforce that policy, and make users sign a disclosure that they will be terminated if they do so. 3, Install a proxy server or use monitoring software to capture websites users visit. 4, Have your MS admins set up user permissions on workstations so they can't go outside the company intranet. I've dealt with the so called "smart users" before. Downloading porn, and thinking that "they'll never catch me if I delete the history file." The ones I've loved are the ones that move a database to their desktop from the server, and accidently delete it. Fortunately I was able to retore it almost immediately, because Novell had a neat command known as salvage. The MS equivilent is nowhere as good. All these problems can be solved if your IT dept, just put their foot down, and say "enough is enough."

No User
No User

I agree with. "Your comment - All these problems can be solved if your IT dept, just put their foot down, and say "enough is enough."" Unfortunately IT is typically not given the power to do so. Those that do have the power feel that us IT serfs just need to shut up go back in our closet and do our job "if we know how" and just leave the big decisions to the brain numbed Nimrods. They of course typically side with the Users and demand they be given free reign to do as they please. Thank god regulations (YUCK) are being both imposed and enforced on business. It's a double edged sword you have meat heads in charge of both the enforcement and writing of the regulations. Which seem to have been out sourced to folks for which English is neither their first or second language and are often referred to as bean counters. I see things kind of slowly migrating towards the correct path. I credit (GAG) regulations pushing it in that direction.