Innovation

How to tell when you work for a rogue IT organization

As IT managers and project managers we work for, oddly enough, groups dedicated to information technology. As such we see things from the perspective of our technology - preserving data, protecting the company assets, and enforcing governance or standards which will somehow better the organization as a whole. We all have stories about "rogue users" who buck the system and the horrible things we do to keep them under control.

At some point, those horrible things do come back to haunt us. Not so much in our daily lives but rather in what we have become. Every time we enforce what "IT needs" rather than answering the business questions of our users, we create a situation where we no longer serve but rather interfere with those who must act. In other words, we are the rogues and those poor people trying to do business out there against our better judgment are, well, right.

So, what are some of the signs that our own organizations no longer serve? Well...

1) Respecting technique over intent

Human beings love to grasp at formalism and ritual, especially when they do not understand unfolding events. This is true in religion, it's true in motorcycle maintenance, and it's true in IT shops. For the most part this formalism serves us as we try to communicate with one another about the unimaginably complex systems we routinely create. However, when we have entire departments dedicated to the form rather than the function of our job, it's probably a sign the IT department gone rogue.

2) Shutting down initiatives rather than supporting them

Let's all just admit something here. When a business decision maker wants something, odds are good he will get it. He controls the flow of cash, and in business money is the only reality. If he wants a project, it will happen. If he wants a catastrophic change to our carefully designed security infrastructure, we might as well start planning for the exceptions.

We need to look at our knee-jerk negative reactions to requests by the business for legitimate assistance. Sure, everyone has to deal with the "we want to change this font" kinds of requests - but how often does our organization reject out-of-hand activities designed to meet business need? If it's more often than not, we work for a rogue IT organization.

As an extra fun exercise, count how many times our immediate rejection comes back to haunt us.

3) Meeting with one another rather than the business

There's no excuse for not meeting with the business. We exist to serve them. We work for them. Our departments, with a very few exceptions, draw all of our capital from them. We certainly need to coordinate our efforts among ourselves, but in the end we have to answer to the business when we imperil their ability to function.

Note the false dichotomy assumed above. The business and IT are not really separate functions - IT is one way in which business actors resolve questions about how they will deliver the goods or services for which the company receives payment.

This is all pretty chaotic and theoretical. I'll write something a little less ethereal next week.

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