Rock and a Hard Place

IT people have developed a reputation as naysayers and roadblocks to progress. Their preoccupation with protecting the environment and resources and maintaining the purity of the architecture frustrate the very business people IT exists to serve. The graphic below came from a sarcastic Forbes slide on how to be a good CIO. There are plenty of cartoons and, frankly, real examples of IT standing in the way of what their business customers want.

Paul Glen over at ComputerWorld is finishing up a really good series on differences between IT and the rest of the organization. He has provided some insightful commentary on personalities and DNA. For instance, he submits that details reveal the truth for techies, but cloud the truth for business people. And techies thrive on giving and receiving facts on which to draw conclusions, whereas business people look for insights and anecdotes which contain conclusions. Business people talk about visions which IT people try to interpret in the context of a problem-solving process to the frustration of their counterparts.

The Manager Tools guys recently published a two-part cast on “Internal Support Roles And Responsibilities” which was a thinly veiled attack on the IT culture of NO. They address IT’s propensity to put a wall between itself and its customers and focus solely on protecting the resources rather than adding value.

I do not deny the negative stereotyping and criticisms are valid. We do indeed have a tendency to be conservatively myopic and throw up requirements documents, vetting processes, huge implementation costs, and see the boogeyman around every corner. And CEOs and COOs are indeed bypassing IT for cloud services and outsourcers who say YES. Unfortunately, such thinking goes to far into the other extreme. While detractors concede there is a point where IT must stand up and refuse to play, it is usually only in the most extreme, unlikely and absurd scenarios.

The dilemma for the IT manager is whether to acquiesce as current management wisdom suggests and save their place at the table for the short term and then be seen as incompetent in the long term when the house of cards comes falling down … or hold tight now and risk damaging relationships and being replaced in the short term by a YesMan. If you are a consultant who will be at another client next year, the decision is easy. If you are the department manager who knows they will have to [attempt to] clean-up the mess after they add yet one more database server to the replication topology, cram one more VM onto an oversubscribed farm, give one more vendor root access into the application server, poke one more hole into the firewall, or take on one more development project when the staff is at critical mass, then you are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place.