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IT Can Be a Lonely Place

Simon Ratcliffe

Simon Ratcliffe
Principal Consultant, Advisory

The IT department can be a lonely place: Staff are criticised when things don’t work as expected and rarely thanked when emails send smoothly and printers don’t jam. There’s a perception problem among other departments who see IT as an esoteric group within their organisation. Add to that the fact that IT often lives in the basement or in an obscure corner of the office, and the level of isolation increases.

None of this was a problem when the primary function of IT was to keep the lights on in the data center. In many cases, the only time the CIO or head of IT encountered the board of directors was to explain a major failure or to seek investment for a large scale IT project. Now, information technology is more important to business than ever, and while that has helped elevate the IT department to a degree, there’s still a long way to go before it achieves the prominence it deserves in many organisations.

Interacting with senior leaders

Unfortunately, senior leadership in IT is often disengaged with the core business. That doesn’t mean they lack understanding of the business—in fact, they often have a strong grasp on business operations—but their knowledge is often historical and operational and not focused on the future.

The knowledge gap between IT and the business is reducing, but this is often a result of the business becoming more tech-savvy rather than IT moving closer to the business. While business is becoming more aware of technology, typically they aren’t aware of the practical implications of bringing that technology into the business. The result is an increase in shadow IT, and a wider gap between IT and the business.

As the business continues to adopt more shadow IT to meet their needs for speed and new technology, IT, constrained by having to keep the lights on, is often simply not able to react quickly enough to business demand. Business then circumvents IT, and IT has to battle with a plethora of third-party systems.

Time management

Time is one of IT’s greatest enemies. Keeping the lights on in the face of reduced budgets has resulted in many IT teams being under so much pressure that they don’t have time to connect with the business or undertake any research. Unfortunately, the business may not recognise this, and so the gap with IT widens, increasing frustration on both sides.

One solution is to consult a CIO advisor who can work with both the business and the IT function to bridge this gap and act as an arbiter between the conflicting requirements of the two parties. The CIO advisor can provide external research, engage with the business to determine priorities, and inject innovation into the IT function.

Providing an outside-in view of the IT function and engaging closely with the business allows the CIO advisor to establish close connections between the business and IT to establish a collaborative approach that meet the needs of the business and transform behaviors.

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