49421Tension between end users and the IT department is not a new phenomenon and, thanks to growing consumerisation of technology coupled with increased pressure for IT staff to do more with less, it’s not one that shows signs of lessening any time soon.

Angry man

CIOs should avoid pushing technology on end users or they may well find the end users push backPhoto: Shutterstock

As the head of the IT department, the CIO can find a lot of staff negativity directed at them. However, the situation is not irreparable. silicon.com has rounded up the top reasons why end users get fed up with the CIO – along with what to do about it.

1. Everyone thinks they’re an expert

Consumerisation of technology means most staff think they know what they’re talking about when it comes to IT – leaving the CIO facing greater expectations and potentially greater resistance from end users if they don’t agree with decisions made about IT infrastructure.

“People do understand technology more and they will have opinions, but a good CIO will welcome that and will have forums to allow people to share their thoughts and their perspectives,” said Vicky Maxwell Davies, co-head of the CIO practice and partner at executive headhunters Boyden.

CIOs should avoid pushing out technology without taking end users’ views into consideration – otherwise they risk seeing workers push back.

“If the users feel they are not being heard, it will absolutely cause tension,” Maxwell Davies told silicon.com.

2. Everyone wants to be like Apple

Thanks to the likes of Apple and Google, technology seems easy. Brinley Platts, chairman of executive coaching organisation CIO Development, told silicon.com that because people can download apps direct to their phone in a matter of seconds, they don’t understand why enterprise IT appears so slow.

“They say, ‘I want this quick little fix here. You’re saying no you can’t do that, you have to wait six months, it’s got to have this and that and be a bit more robust but I just want something quickly’, and enterprise IT has traditionally not been able to respond to these types of requests,” he said.

End users have no idea what is required to make the Apple ecosystem work so smoothly, and this leads to unrealistic expectations, according to Platts.

“In order to download an app in 59 seconds and pay 59p for it, and have it work straight away every time, an enormous amount of really solid, buttoned-down engineering is supporting that, which is completely invisible to the iPhone user,” he said.

CIOs either need to get better at…


…explaining to the end user why enterprise IT cannot perform to the level of consumer IT, or facilitate a policy of bring-your-own IT for workers and support departments buying their own technology.

Piggy bank

CIOs who are perceived as running an IT department that does nothing but break the bank will not be popular with the rest of the organisationPhoto: Shutterstock

3. IT perceived as a drain on budget

The most common reason given by organisations as to why they sacked their CIO is they do not believe the head of IT is adding value to the business, according to Boyden’s Maxwell Davies, who said IT is often considered just another cost.

To combat this, CIOs need to get better at explaining why certain costs are necessary on the one hand, and develop better commercial skills on the other.

“The really world-class CIOs have got that real business acumen, commercial appreciation and an understanding that you’ve got to add value to the business and in order to do that you’ve got to understand what they are trying to achieve,” she said.

4. Delivering IT projects behind schedule

Overrunning IT projects are a sore spot for everyone involved, but unfortunately for the CIO, they are likely to be the one bearing the brunt of dissatisfaction.

Delayed IT projects could be avoided if CIOs get better at saying no.

“It’s no good if CIOs listen to the clients and say yes to every single thing they want, and as a result the project is three years over the time they wanted it to be delivered in and way overbudget and overcomplicated because [the CIOs] were just order-takers,” said Maxwell Davies.

CIOs should be clear about what is possible and what can be delivered in the required time frame, and not be afraid to say that some things cannot be done. While the client may be dissatisfied, it’s better to manage expectations from the beginning of a project.

5. The easy scapegoat

While some CIOs may think they can avoid the office politics by keeping out of business discussions, such a stance can make them an easy target if projects where IT has been involved subsequently run into problems.

“It is very easy for the CIO to be scapegoated. If something goes wrong it’s very easy to blame it on one individual and say, ‘It’s because the system is not working’, particularly if the individual has not built strong relationships and has not been politically clever and astute,” Maxwell Davies said.

To avoid becoming the fall guy, CIOs need to…


…build strong relationships outside of the IT department. Not only will this give them a better knowledge of the real-world needs of the organisation, it will also equip them with a better understanding of how things might have gone wrong in other parts of the business – and what IT can do to help.

6. Enterprise technology seems slow and ugly

With economic pressures forcing companies to delay their refresh cycles, many staff will be faced with the prospect of using clunky, slow, ugly laptops issued by their organisation.

Of course, let employees bring in their own devices and such a move can lead to a whole host of data security issues and hidden costs.

CIOs who do not want to go down that route must work to educate end users as to why it isn’t possible and examine potential compromises – investigating whether a switch to subscription-based software can free up budget for hardware purchases, or whether longstanding contracts can be negotiated down in price, for example.


Most end users think security measures are unnecessary and restrictivePhoto: Shutterstock

7. Security measures seem unnecessary and restrictive

The proliferation of mobile working and social media use has brought with it new challenges to privacy and security, opening up new vectors for information to leak outside of an enterprise’s borders.

“People are breaking the law every day of the week and if it’s just me, nobody knows and nobody cares, but if it is an enterprise it could be a big problem,” said CIO Development’s Platts.

For many organisations, the solution to this risk is to simply shut down such activities – prompting ire from users who rely on them – or to introduce security measures which seem unnecessary and restrictive to the end user.

Again, to solve this tension, CIOs need to better explain to end users why organisational security restrictions need to be put in place and work to strike a balance between the users’ needs and those of the enterprise.

8. Overcomplicated technology

End users can get frustrated with the IT department for providing them with technology considered too difficult to use and which complicates, rather than simplifies, working procedures.

CIOs should bear in mind that workers who are not technologically minded don’t want the most advanced hardware or software, they want the simplest and most streamlined tech to help them do their job. When buying in new kit, sometimes the most advanced tech isn’t required.

“Say you’ve got a blue collar workforce, such as delivery guys. Providing them with very sophisticated handheld devices which are complicated and difficult to use is not going to be a great solution, it’s not going to work well,” Boyden’s Maxwell Davies said.

“In order for it to work well for them and make their lives easier rather than more complicated it needs to be pretty simple, straightforward and easy to use.”