Since I know you don't have the time or interest in a philosophical discussion of IT, I'm going to focus on the three really big and important things you can do to dramatically improve the performance and ROI of IT at your company.
Number 1 - Get a grip on reality. I mean it. Stop expecting your internal IT shop, with its limited resources, to design and deploy systems that have a similar look and feel to what comes out of Google and Apple. Those vendors have tens of thousands of programmers and designers working day and night on their systems. It had better look great when they are done.
What's more, not only do these companies have much greater resources than you do, they control the scope of what they deliver to the general public very tightly. By contrast, your internal IT team has to deploy systems across a complex corporate environment. This involves not only the tech work but also the highly charged political work of integrating systems with people and processes.
Another common departure from reality comes in the expectation that high-impact corporate systems can be deployed quickly. Forget about it. Nothing important and valuable happens quickly. You may want things to happen quickly, and you may use your force of personality and position to get the IT team to agree to unrealistic deliverables and time frames, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen.
Bottom line: spare yourself, and your organization, the pain of so-called failing projects. Instead, really listen to what your IT leadership says is a realistic schedule and budget.
Number 2 - Teach the business, firsthand. The IT group wants to do a good job for the business. But in order for them to be successful, they have to understand the business. The problem is, no one ever teaches them about the business. (The quarterly town hall meeting is far from sufficient.)
The IT team (and just about every other group, by the way) needs the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of the business beyond their departmental focus. They need to understand the goals, objectives, plans, organization, challenges, opportunities and more of the other departments and functions they serve. In short: they need to get inside their "customer's" mind.
To make this happen, create an on-going learning program that teaches about the company's strategy, operating model, competitive advantage, products, services, customers, distributors, competitors, logistics, manufacturing and so on. Make it a goal that no IT analyst in your company ever walk into a requirements gathering session with users and ask those painfully obvious questions like "what's your role," or "what exactly does your group do," because there was no way for them to get that information on their own.
And don't stop with classroom learning. That's just the beginning. If you want the IT group to really "get it," they need to walk in the shoes of their peers--or as close to that as possible. That means sending IT people out with sales reps and customer service agents. It requires having them work in the warehouse with the inventory managers, and getting them to crunch numbers with the finance team.
Bottom line: for the IT group to really "get the business" on a visceral level, they need to experience the business, firsthand. The CIO may be able to arrange for this on an episodic basis, but only you can make this a permanent part of your company's professional development programs.
Number 3 - Tie IT project metrics to senior business exec pay. That's right, you heard me correctly. If you want those big IT/business projects to work wonders in the business, tie the outcome metrics of the project to the pay of the senior executives the project is serving. It's amazing to watch. I know because I have seen it.
When the senior executives have a direct and personal financial stake in the on-going success metrics of the system/business process--NOT, I repeat, NOT the on-time delivery date target of the system--the entire project rolls out differently. All of a sudden there is not only interest and attention to the project, but a genuine engagement at all levels of the organization. That's because no senior executive wants to be out on his or her own. So, they quickly cascade those metrics and bonuses down their organization to ensure that everyone is working together in order to achieve a common objective.
Bottom line: If you want your business people to really care about IT project success, put their money where your mouth is.
Is that everything?
No, far from it. But it's a great place to start. Besides, I know you have a limited attention span.
If you are interested in learning more, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll tell you about two additional things you can do that will not only improve your ROI from IT but will also boost the morale of the IT team.
Thanks for listening. I've got to get back to the IT guys now.
Marc J. Schiller
About the Author
Marc J. Schiller, author of "The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders," is a speaker, strategic facilitator, and an advisor on the implementation of influential analytics. He splits his time between the front lines of client work and evangelizing to IT leaders and professionals about what it takes to achieve influence, respect and career success. Download a free excerpt of his book at http://11secretsforitleaders.com
This article was originally published on 10-11-2011