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Information: to server or to be served?

By Dr. Al Olaimi ·
I am currently involved in what started to be a simple IT needs assessment project for a company that have 30,000+ active workers.

What I found out was a classical case that I experienced around this size companies' management! The bigger the corporation is the more the IT management feels that they are the ones to be served and they are truly mashing all codes of "real support" ethics!

Ironically this is very true with all the projects that I was involved in the past 10 years in such business.

Taking the advantage of being "high tech" gurus (which is not always true but rather are more "ingorus"!)

Indeed, they keep all other departments to their knees with stalled projects and reshuffling other departments priorities based on their own "limited" capacity - as if they are saying "if we can't do it, no one else can!" --

Leeching the corporate budget right away and squishing other departments? budgets under the claim of having to improve their standards, and never finish any project on time (in-house mostly promised!). However, CEO's are mostly convinced that those OUTSTANDING brilliants of the new age MUST be right all the time!

My argument is:
- Why would IT Departments feel like they are the ones to be Servedrather than the whole business with its divisions and subs?

- Isn't there any way to convince the executive management of any company, that the industry is the drive of business not IT? Where IT function is to be a business support not the business driver?

- What would happen if there is an inter-departmental fight over data/knowledge ownership? (Who owns what?)

I would appreciate hearing others' opinions in such matter.

Dr. Al Olaimi

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by Deadly Ernest In reply to Information: to server or ...

Answers in order.

1. Egotism, having power over others makes them feel important, this problem is usually noticable in people who have no personal charisma and feel that they are not important anyway. The IT depts usually respond like this because that is how the IT head/s have taught them to respond because of the IT head/s personal inadequacies.

2. The CEO will be convinced when this waste of resources is the obvious cause of very bad performance, usually just before the company folds.Only other options is to get the CEO and top people to read some industry mags and web sites, like this forum.

3. Legally the board of directors (on behalf of the owners) own the data. The IT dept is just a service provider to the other sections.

Actually, it is this very problem of IT heads and people wanting to control everything that has resulted in many medium to large organisations to become more efficient and waste less by paying more for their IT services via outsourcing them. With an internal IT organisation that is NOT responsive to the organsiations overall business needs, you have little to pressure them with. With an external IT service provider you can terminate services and go elsewhere if they do not perform as required. This return of control is one reason why some organisations go for outsourcing and do away with non responsive internal IT depts.

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More complex than egotism

by Oldefar In reply to Egotism

People deal in the currencies of money, time, security, knowledge, and prestige. It isn't simply an ego thing. Most departmental managers of all departments reached their position based on their perceived knowledge, and to openly accept input fromothers threatens their security and prestige. It is not just an IT issue - you can see the same in every department of every industry.

Our system for hiring, compensating, and recognizing people is a positive loop back to this problem. We hire and promote based on degrees and certifications. In IT, adding certifications is an easy metric for justifying raises as well. No advanced degree becomes an artificial cap on how high an individual can advance as an employee in an organization regardless of proven capability.

I think one way to change this condition for IT without a total social revolution is to utilize an architectural approach to IS/ICT related initiatives and a results based reward system.

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Architectural Approach

by Oldefar In reply to More complex than egotism

There are plenty of builders, but few architects. A builder provides what you ask for, what they know, or what they have ready. An architect provides what you need and want.

In IS/ICT, this involves three crucial initial steps.

1) Define thebusiness objectives. This is the end result everything else is supporting.
2) Define the business requirements. These are the non-technical parameters that must be met.

These first two steps have to come from the leaders of the other business units. They are the customers of IS/ICT. The business objective is a corporate item, while the business requirements originate within the business units or departments. There has to be an identified link from objective to requirement, or the requirement is invalid.

3) Technical objective. This is where IS/ICT support to the business requirements occurs. The technical objectives must map to the business requirements or they are not valid objectives.

From here the work of design and development occurs. The technical objectives drive specific technical requirements to be met. Again, there has to be a clear link. The initiative becomes a fully aligned project - business objective down to component selection.

Regular review and concurrance with the linkage is required between every adjoining level to keep everyone in sync.

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Results based Rewards

by Oldefar In reply to More complex than egotism

This goes back to the currencies of money, time, security, knowledge, and prestige.

A good starting point is an overall compensation structure that has a fair ratio between bottom and top. I favor one similar to the US military pay scale where the four star general is paid only 15 times what the new recruit is, but a fair and published ratio is the key.

Next is the additional compensation for success. The regular pay is what can be counted on. Using the same ratios, bonus compensation comes in based on meeting the business objectives. Link the available bonus money to a set percentage of profits. This makes it easy for both employees and shareholders to understand the value of their effort and risk. Nail a percentage of the employee share to routine work, and allow a peer ranking structure to set distribution of this.

Tie a bonus figure and distribution to projects. Within each department, again allow team member ranking to determine the bonus distribution.

This approach address money, security, and prestige.

Knowledge should be part of the corporate culture. Employees should be enabled to learn more about their own areas and other areas of the business.

Time is trickier, but for the employee working theextra hours there needs to be a trade of either money for those hours or an opportunity to get those hours back as paid time off. This needs to be handled at a minimum on an annual basis but ideally on a shorter period - quarterly, monthly, or weekly. Local laws impact what can legally be done, fairness dictates that some approach needs to be established.

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Making others dance = egotism

by Deadly Ernest In reply to More complex than egotism

I have worked in a number of organisations and industries. I started my career as a banker, then an accountant, then stock control, then human resources, then general resource management, and now IT (turning a long time hobby into work), in every case where one section made verybody else dance to their tune it was simply due to egotism. I do it because I can.

Due to most non-IT people not understanding IT many IT managers have the whip hand and use to boost their egos.

I have worked in IT areas that operated like this and I have worked in IT areas that saw themselves as a service provider responsible for giving the internal clients what they want when they want it. This second type of IT area is rare but a great joy to work in as you usually have more freedom and are allowed to talk to the non IT people.

In most work ares like the first described above you are restricted from telling anyone outside your area anything, including the time of day.

BTW this same problem also occurs with other areas that have some sort of special expertise, try getting a fast tracked recruitment through some HR areas.

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A different approach

by LordInfidel In reply to Information: to server or ...

I have a saying....

I am not here to be liked, I am here to enforce policy. And policy enforcers are never liked.

What end users see as me being unmoving and non-cooperative is me just enforcing policies and guidlines that protect the business and it's data.

There is a reason why the upper management allows us to act this way. They understand that without us their data will not be protected from themselves, much less the outside.

You can't have your cake and eat it to.

And in alot of companies these days, multiple divisions turn to us to solve their problems. Not all problems can be solved in 5 minutes or even overnight. And when you have several divisions vying for your time, you have to set priorities.

And the "if we can't do it, no one else can!" --
statement, I am assuming that you mean that IT depts don't want things out-sourced or allow the end user to do a task that they should not be allowed to do.

As far as out-sourcing - who the **** want's their job out-sourced? Plus it means that I/We (IT Heads) have to now open out networks up to 3rd parties.

So while you make the argument that IT is a bunch of arrogant bastards (which I am), I make the case that end users have no idea what they are doing and don't appreciate the job that we do, nor can they comprehend the reasons why we do it.

So it boils down to the fact that we have higher reasoning and understanding of security and systems that automatically makes us seem power hungry and arrogant.

I for one am not going to apologize for my behaviour. Not when it serves the protection of the company.

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I agree

by TomSal In reply to A different approach

I swear when LordInfidel posts like he just did above, he has half my brain his views are so like mine....its scary..

People get too worked up these days anyway...everything has to "be sensitive to one's image, must be politically correct or mustconsider the emotional response someone may have"....

Yeah, if all IT managers worried so much about that stuff -- catering to sensibilities and "emotional responses" of others, then everyone would complain why we aren't keeping tighter control on our networks and the security thereof!

With the hackers, the virus attacks today, the increasing data theft crimes, etc.. IT managers have to be the soldier on the wall guarding the palace, the watchdog at the gate -- who else is gonna do it?

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Only half?

by LordInfidel In reply to I agree

I'm not sure how I feel about that.


(Ever notice that there is usually a small group on every board like this, acts like the voice of reason?)

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by Dr. Al Olaimi In reply to A different approach

I would agree no more on whatever you stated of a factual concepts. I presume that you indeed know exactly your role and act upon it! However, the argument goes further once we take who are "ignurus" into account!

THe ultimate task of a real IT function is in "in-force" standards and procedures, including a "self-learning" scheme for the IT staff in general. Certification (as previous reply was referring to) has never been the benchmark for my evaluations to be frank, yet its accountable for the leverage of technology implementation! This is the least to say in that respect.

its not a matter of beingh "cute" for them to like you! Actually in many cases you must act very firmly to be able to truly meet their requirements, I really agree for the fact in many occasions their vision would stop at their feet limits and unfortunately keep blaming your (as IT function) of not being flexible!

yet an argument remains: as we are a very smart IT function doers, would the organizational behaviour and psychology accept us knowing all the ins and outs of work-knowledge easily? be it business processes, functional business orientation-ing, value added cycles, procedural/processes overlaps, costing process, and many many other business "fine-tuning" management skills that would force to executive management to see us as a threat to their "job securities!".

Unfortunately, I have seen real sharp IT individuals slip in the pit fall "organizational development" fixation simple out of the their superb analytical skills and an outrageously valid problem solving.

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