A recent wrangle with marketing over control of a web service has reinforced an important lesson about conflict for the Naked CIO.

Often in IT we find ourselves stuck in a position where our creative and protective tendencies come into direct conflict.

On the one side, we are prognosticators and innovators, always wanting to promote rapid and effective change. On the other hand, we are steadfast and process-driven to ensure stability and availability of systems.

In that respect, we differ from our corporate colleagues, who almost always stand firmly in one camp or the other. Accounting, for example, defers to stability and availability, ensuring safeguards are always taken to preserve operations and reduce risk.

Hands at a meeting

The challenge is to promote change and gain the essential trust of colleagues through empathy with their business needs
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Marketing, meanwhile, lives in a fluid world where ideas are pursued with an almost careless regard for risk to ensure business growth no matter the consequences – consequences that almost always land squarely at the feet of a non-marketing team.

The position of IT, straddling the proverbial fence, raises some interesting and difficult situations. I try to preach responsiveness and focus on efficient service delivery on all projects. To be seen as an obstacle in any circumstance is a pet peeve. My goal has always been to prove that IT can be an enabler in the face of the more commonly held belief that it is anything but.

Due to a recent issue with the rollout of a new web feature, a mistake was made in the deployment of a production release, which prompted me to demand greater oversight of the processes involved.

Property disputed by IT and marketing

As we all know, web content and functionality is becoming the disputed property of IT and marketing in an intensifying turf war over who is best suited to manage and oversee this now-critical service.

No one disputed the change and, in fact, everyone understood the reason why better and more defined structure for web content releases should be adopted. However, by virtue of…

…installing these processes, there were extra steps and admittedly – I find it hard to admit – delays in being able to deploy web changes that happen hourly in my organisation.

My team were anchored in their view that allowing the access was a very bad idea and, for a variety of reasons, I should stand my ground in the name of best practice, due process, stability and oversight.

I do not often go against my team, and for that matter I often seek out their advice on such matters. But in this case I made a decision to relax the controls to allow for quick changes to be made without IT being an obstacle.

Why? That’s a valid question. After all, I had just made a key decision that could affect the stability and availability of systems and services, and now I could be responsible by virtue of allowing uncontrolled deployment and access to a production website database.

Decision for strategists

The answer is simple – as a CIO, or any leader of IT, you have to fight many battles. As for any strategist, it is not about winning each and every battle that defines you but rather whether you can win the main struggle.

No one likes to retreat but there are times when picking the right battles to fight are more important than winning them all. In this case, we couldn’t win. If we stuck to our guns, we became an obstacle, and if we didn’t, we compromised one of our sacred tenants – system stability and control.

I don’t know what you would have done but in this case I think my choice to live to fight another day was the right one. It was consistent with my vision to promote change and gain the essential trust of my colleagues through empathy with their business needs.

What would you do?