The Human Element of IT

IT leadership matters–that’s widely accepted wisdom.

But is it possible for a few key roles in the IT-business relationship to determine the level of effective IT adoption?

Can the motivations and behaviors of a few key IT players be the butterfly in the IT value tsunami?

Our recent study of the human elements of IT management finds that this is the case. We polled hundreds of IT executives, managers and other functionaries inside the IT shop and found that the vast majority of IT management challenges and associated IT benefits are largely set by the motivations of the dominant personality profiles within the IT organization.

While it sounds counterintuitive, we suggest that the human element is far more important than process or technology itself. Both IT processes and enterprise software being developed are driven most notably by the motivations of people.

If this finding is true, then IT leaders should not spend another dollar without taking a good look in the mirror. Before venturing into such an initiative, CIOs and their deputies should ask: What are the motivational needs driving my team?

For nine years, we have been working with IT organizations to improve their effectiveness and value contribution. Specifically, we have worked on the organizational dynamics within IT–and between IT and its customers–that improve effective adoption of enterprise software.

These dynamics ultimately determine the level of business value any given organization can achieve through IT. At the national level, these dynamics have stalled: IT-driven productivity peaked in 2001 and dropped off by 39 percent in the next six years, according to a 2007 study by the Federal Reserve Board. Most companies are experiencing an adoption gap worth more than 5 percent of revenues from underutilized software.

To close this gap, we learned early on that “people issues” usually trump technology and process–especially when it comes to significant organizational change. For sustainable companies, that’s what technology is all about: transforming the business through new operations, markets, business models and products.

As the business environment has become more complex, transformation is increasingly more difficult. To achieve real success, we have increasingly relied on deeper people-centric interventions. More specifically, we have increasingly used a behavioral diagnostic tool called the Print system to break through dysfunctional relationships, develop leadership teams and shape stakeholder engagement efforts.

As we gained more experience working with behaviors, we began to suspect there were common patterns across our clients that could ultimately explain an IT organization’s overall position and influence.

To prove our hypothesis, Neochange and The Paul Hertz Group pooled resources to dig deeper into the personality-driven behavior phenomenon. We’ve collected the personality profiles of more than 500 IT executives, managers and their work force using the Print system.

The findings have major implications for IT.

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