As a computer-software-web oriented Technology Leader, I’ve heard this basic phrase innumerable times over the years. I’m sure you have too. It’s often like letting someone know you ride motorcycles: Oh, they’re so dangerous, and I have a friend of a friend of a…who…
Like motorcycling, ‘IT’ has a stigma around it. If you touch a computer, software, or develop things for the web, for a living, you frequently get tucked into a pigeon hole somewhere never to be let out.
This was so typified by a good friend of mine in a recent discussion. Smart guy, great guy, doesn’t get it. It is as though ‘IT’ is simply a necessary evil, going from want, to need, in response only to government regulation or when security and personal information is involved.
Actually, I prefer to emphasize ‘technology’ as opposed to ‘IT’. IT to many people, immediately translates to ‘network administrator’ or database admin, neither of which are helpful to me. Of course, IT is often the glue holding things together, even making possible, AP, AR, Payroll, Sales, CRM, and so on. (Just to name a few business process activities, let alone the other 99% of things in the world we use it for.)
IT should be viewed as a category of enabling components, making possible the nervous system of a business environment. Forget what “IT” might ‘be’ and more of what it -does- for you.
My friend made the point, “…to be perfectly honest, I think much of it is a big waste of time and money because it is written, managed, supported by morons who have no clue what they are doing.”
And, that’s why people like me exist. We’re the guys and gals who can talk with the CEO about his needs, convey it to the technology group, and work to deliver on his needs. More than once, I’ve told a sales exec or a VP, “you stay focused on the business needs, I’ll let you know if the technology can support you or not.”
The crux of the problem is that Information Technology systems and resources are not treated as the corporate assets they are. As a result it is nearly impossible in many organizations to define their value, squelching folks like my friend, by showing the ROI (return on investment) they generate.
How many senior IT execs complain their organizations are under-appreciated, they’re simply seen as cost centers, or feel like second class citizens? The key to addressing these problems lay in measurement. Sit down with your IT staff. Discuss and determine the key activities you’re required to support, or, areas you feel need investing in. Figure out what key points of data are needed to make your case.
Over the years, I have had to make a number of significant capital asset requests, or, major software development efforts undertaken. In almost every case, if I had cold hard facts well-prepared, alongside my defined business need, I got approval. A business case, whether its hiring someone, buying something, or funding an activity, always stands a better chance if you can say Why you need it, What the justification is, and What you’ll get for it.
That new CRM system someone wants? It should be evaluated in the same vein as the new machine tool for the shop floor. Yes, some things in IT may be hard to quantify, intangible, but to let that reality devalue any effort at justification serves only to support the claim, “IT’s a waste of $, time, and energy.”