The business leaders who survive and thrive are IT smart. This does not mean that a CEO must be a software or systems design engineer to lead a successful company, however, the CEO who recognizes the true potential of IT for his or her business and knows how to work with IT partners to unleash this potential will dominate his or her industry.
Susan Cramm’s 8 Things We Hate About IT is an excellent book aimed at business leaders who understand this, but have found the relationships with their IT partners frustrating.
Ms. Cramm has decades of experience in both Chief Financial Officer and Chief Information Officer positions, and so has been on both sides of the Business-IT relationship. She notes that, “business and IT professionals have very different backgrounds and experiences that make it difficult to communicate what they do and why and how they do it.” These communication difficulties are at the root of the often-frustrating relationship between business and IT. While exaggerated, the cartoons below can help us understand how both parties view each other.
As the title implies, the book outlines eight things business leaders hate about working with IT, and vice versa.
|Business people hate when IT …||I.T. people hate when the business …|
|is bureaucratic and controlling||makes half-baked requests|
|techies are condescending||treats IT people like servant-genies|
|is reactive rather than proactive||develops plans without including IT|
|wants deluxe when good enough will do||focuses on costs and not value|
|doesn’t deliver on time||changes its mind all the time|
|doesn’t understand business needs||wants it all – right now|
|doesn’t support innovation||isn’t IT smart and doesn’t use IT systems|
|inhibits business change||is never satisfied with IT|
Undoubtedly, you have felt some of these “hates” in your experience working on either side of the relationship. As a business leader you may spend days writing what you presumed were detailed requirements for a piece of software only to hear back from your developers with an additional 100 requests for “clarification”. For IT professionals, the implication that you can redesign an application or reboot a server with a snap of your fingers can leave you feeling as though your work is not valued, or worse that you are slacking off while the “important people” deal with tight deadlines.
The “hates” that Ms. Cramm describes are the result of the traditional, oppositional (or binary, to IT people) way of looking at the relationship.
- Service or Control
- Results or Respect
- Tactics or Strategy
- Expense or Investment
- Quickness or Quality
- Customization or Standardization
- Innovation or Bureaucracy
- Greatness or Goodness
In this scenario, every strategic decision is burdened by an “or” statement – we can work quickly or deliver quality, we can innovate or we can have process discipline, etc. – resulting in at best a 50-50 compromise, meaning each side is equally dissatisfied.
Ms. Cramm stresses that if the business leaders reading her book want to improve their relationship with IT, the change must begin with them. Her prescribed approach is to turn the “or” statements into “and” statements – we can work quickly and deliver quality, we can innovate and we can have process discipline, etc. – not through compromise, but through partnership. Great relationships are built when we move from a 50-50 mindset to a 100-100 approach, with both parties doing whatever they can to meet the needs of the other in a true partnership.
- Service and Control
- Results and Respect
- Tactics and Strategy
- Expense and Investment
- Quickness and Quality
- Customization and Standardization
- Innovation and Bureaucracy
- Greatness and Goodness
I strongly recommend that all business leaders read 8 Things We Hate About IT. Whether you are trying to disrupt your industry through innovation or trying to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly, understanding how to work with your IT partners is vital to your success.