These days a company’s personnel have two or more identities: There is the usual professional “company” profile (along with associated expectations and behavior), and the personal “off-duty” persona. An employee’s personal behavior is generally understood to be private – so long as the employee isn’t doing something to put their organization in a bad light.
But now many, if not the overwhelming majority of, employees have online identities. A Facebook account may be the most obvious online identity, but there are also LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Google searches on names, revealing blogs and even accumulated comments that may point to particular information, opinions and peril.
Thus, sometimes online “personal time” identities can pose peril to an organization – and have. Suppose a client stumbles on a client manager’s personal page and finds pictures of drinking, lewd photos, and perhaps even rambling ruminations on the manager’s workplace? Would the trusted relationship between client, manager, and organization survive? How would you feel if a service provider was suddenly thrown into a suspicious light, via something you discovered on the web? It happens… and relationships break and revoke.
More and more companies are running online checks on people as they apply. Applicants and employees, on the other hand, are “hiding” their identities by using nicknames and filters.
There is good reason for doing this, from their perspective: A survey commissioned by Microsoft shows that 70 percent of hiring managers and recruiters in the U.S. have passed on an applicant based on online information. Further, roughly 79 percent of U.S. hiring managers use the ‘net to gauge job applicants. Damaging information has ranged from criticism of past employers, co-workers and clients. Other reasons are inappropriate comments and photos – the inappropriateness of course is in the judgment of the potential employer.
But… what of an organization’s present employees? Surely many, if not most, have an online presence. Do any of them make comment on the organization, its practices, and its personnel? And if they do, what is the modern organization’s prudent activity in protecting its number one asset – its reputation? For that matter, as an employee yourself, what are you doing online? And if nothing inappropriate – would it bother you that HR may check your online presence from time-to-time?
Consider that many an employee has blasted something straight from the corporate e-mail account, tying a domain “tail” on correspondence that may be wholly inappropriate. But even from personal accounts or on personal space pages, any reference to your workplace is a matter of something that is being done in the name of your domain – here, the domain is dominion over your brand, your products, your services… your reputation. And what of an employee’s generalized poor behavior or judgment: if an employee shows poor personal judgment, as documented on the web, might business partners, customers, clients, etc. start to wonder about their own professional associations?
What is being done in the name of your domain?
So… what happened to XYZ Corporation’s employee appraisal process?
After implementation of the software, training, and completion of the first annual review of staff with the new appraisal system, something interesting was apparent. The appraisal process was no better than before. Appraisals that were supposed to “write themselves” turned out to be shallow, trite, and not particularly representative of the employee or their job. Many managers stated that starting with, and editing, the system-generated material was more difficult than preparing their own fresh draft. In fact, the “don’t know how to write” assessment was denied by fully articulated and expressive e-mails on the part of managers.
As far as the adherence to timeliness for submission of drafts and final appraisals: there was no improvement. It turned out that automated reminders from the appraisal system were viewed no differently than the reminders that had been sent from HR in the past – and through the same e-mail system. The recipient viewed appraisal reminders from any source no differently: They were all essentially “HR.” One is as easily ignored, or obeyed, as another. As far as tracking the appraisals HR now had a new burden they hadn’t anticipated – the generation of status reports regarding appraisal production. The reports capability was paired with the expectation they had set with their senior management; hence the new burden to produce and speak to these reports in management meetings. Actually, efficiency for all concerned the first year was diminished due to the learning curve, and in everyone’s requirement to “machinate” the process surrounding production of simple text appraisals.
Even worse, the second year’s effectiveness was no better. In fact, it seemed to be poorer. Because appraisals were annual, the organization’s managers didn’t think about the appraisal application for 10 or 11 months (excepting special appraisals such as probationary). They were “rusty” each year. Some managers needed refresher training. Everyone stumbled through the application inefficiently until reacquainting with it. Therefore, what was supposed to be a “solution” was now a contributor to a larger, layered, problem – to say nothing of having another software suite for the organization to maintain.
How could this have happened? The organization was confused. What happened to their investment? Where was their return? Indeed, there was no positive return – there was a negative return. They were now saddled with expensive software, along with the upgrade schedule required by all business software, with the attendant support burden – HelpDesk, backoffice, and annual user refresher training. Where did XYZ Corporation go wrong?
Next, we’ll examine…
Today I’d like to make an observation about wasted effort in any work environment. Nothing is perfect of course and so there is always room for improvement. Sometimes we can observe effort that has no lack of good intentions yet was misdirected and wasteful. There are “feel good” initiatives, and we often see common mistakes organizations and individuals make in trying to satisfy poorly conceived or off-target objectives that simply don’t satisfy the larger goal. A lot of this waste and error goes into something we’ll call the “False Solution.” It may look great on the surface (but just as often doesn’t); has sanction and support from the top; and the political sway is going its way. But it’s essentially an empty vessel that does not deliver the intended business or technical benefit as painfully evidenced over time.
Here, we’ll look at a very simple, yet illuminating, example of a false solution. By examining a relatively contained organizational risk we’ll be in a position to consider a much more universal scale of risk posed by the false solution as this blog moves forward. But at any scale, we need to examine the dangers in mounting false solutions, and how to expose and avoid false solutions before they’re mounted. For, false solutions not only fail to deliver, they consume resources and time such that they hold real solutions in abeyance.
We’re going to use a Human Resources department in this example. We’re not picking on HR – this is just one HR department that serves very well in highlighting the pitfalls of the false solution. Also, the general product software type in our example serves many organizations very well when properly matched to needs and expectations. It just wasn’t the appropriate solution in this case. Think about what happened in the “solution” below and apply these considerations to your own initiatives.
A mid-sized organization of several hundred people, XYZ Corporation, dreaded their annual employee appraisal and review process. They used a fairly comprehensive word processing template – a form – with an instruction set from HR on how to use the form. There were also clear expectations for the content that was required for an appropriate appraisal. And, HR made use of reminders through e-mail and staff meetings to bump the process along. Naturally there were the usual organization’s handbooks available too.
However, the HR department had a difficult time getting managers to start the process on time. This meant that draft appraisals weren’t submitted when due. Of course, submission of completed appraisals often was not made on time, and there was a further problem in that submissions failed to meet organizational standards for completeness and quality. HR’s take on the situation was that many managers “don’t know how to write,” and stated this many times. Also, HR felt that there was a lack of overall “control” surrounding the whole process.
Automation is Good – Right?
HR made a sale to the senior management team; that an “automated” software application for the management and production of employee appraisals was necessary. The software had templates for appraisals that proposed language, based on keyword input. Entire sentences and paragraphs were generated – hence HR’s “solution” for managers who “don’t know how to write.” The appraisal software generated automatic reminders that went out (through the same e-mail system as before) as ticklers for start of the process, submission of drafts to supervisors, and submission of final appraisals to HR. (The advantage of this auto-reminder capability was largely offset by a pre-existing ability to set up a schedule of reminders: This capacity existed in the organization’s native e-mail application; a suggestion to do this did not fit the “sale” and was left unexplored).
The software also had report capability to track and show status of appraisal drafts, versions, finals, and where in the production process things stood. Reports could be generated by individual, by department, by dates, etc. Hence, HR felt that they had a solution for tardy start and submission of appraisals – a means of “control.” Of course the vendor was a major player in this sales dynamic, and found that they had an audience already biased in terms of need, expectations, solution, and delivery. The vendor described a wonderful appraisal cycle whereby managers would enter a few relevant keywords, resulting in whole paragraphs and tracts spilling out, tightly matched to job specifications and individual performance. “Ticklers” would be automatically generated by the system to bump along each draft for approval as the process moved along. Ultimately, a comprehensive batch of final-form appraisals would be submitted to HR on or before the due dates, for rollup and delivery, of all completed, quality-assured appraisals to senior management.
So, what happened in the matter of employee appraisals at XYZ Corporation? Stay tuned…
Today’s business is changing faster than ever. Enablement for efficiency comes in the form of technology’s support to several areas. Consider ready communication – group efforts comprising necessary expertise can be assembled for chats or videoconferencing and ready collaboration, with necessary swaps and share of data, or physical prototypes in the case of rapid shipments – all enabled by technology. New products are debuted constantly, and their speed-to-market is enhanced by technology; this technology aids development, production and delivery. In fact, it also speeds advertising, and thus spurs demand. It’s virtually logarithmic, or exponential. It’s difficult to exaggerate the effects of the Business-Technology Weave.
There is a quickening business-technology environment. Every aspect of business, technology, and the Weave seems to accelerate, by decade and even by year. In fact, change is a continuum. For the organization, something is continuously changing that affects it. In fact, change is challenging: change is happening within, and it is happening in the surrounding environment. All change must be weighed and assessed for impact, and there must be a ready posture for doing this. Too many organizations think of change as something mounted in a burst; “now we can rest.” This is why so many organizations seem to take action at the back edge of the envelope, if you will: change for them is constituted as an addressal of problems under pressure-filled and even desperate circumstances. When change is mounted under pressure, there is usually a failure to fully survey where you are, therefore the route to destination is a broken one – reaching the destination is painful, inefficient, and sometimes not even achieved. Projects can be torn apart or even thrown out and remounted.
The smart organization doesn’t disengage from change – nothing around them stands still if they do. Therefore, the management of change isn’t just some reaction to what is happening internally, or some engagement that is “forced” by outside change. You must present a position of readiness, so that you have the “muscle” in place to exercise change. You must also be casting about in terms of vision – looking for breaking developments and even imagining new developments that can aid the organization. You must be able to forecast, develop, and schedule. This requirement for readiness presents itself to the individual, to groups, and to the organization in equal measure, as we’ll see.
Further, we need to realize and acknowledge that even change changes. How does change change? Consider: While we’re busy implementing a documented, sanctioned change, some of our assumptions, support products, regulatory requirements, business practices, etc., haven’t done us the courtesy of standing still. Further, various projects and their change can compete for common resources; they can shift in schedule and crash into one another; they can have interlocking dependencies and impacts that must be carefully coordinated. Any time you make a course correction, an accommodation, an expansion in scope, etc., you are making a change to change. Circumstances such as these, and the quality of planning in your organization, either yields a house of cards or a solid structure of mutually reinforcing initiatives and projects.
Because things are shifting and evolving around us all the time, we need plans that have enough structure to guide us effectively, but that are not so rigid as to “straightjacket” us. We don’t want to be implementing so-so or broken solutions today that looked great yesterday. We don’t want the organization to be thrashing as it attempts to mount major changes without regard to prudent sequence, or that are even in direct competition with each other.
Consider what the “quickening business-technology environment” means to you. Consider what it means to your organization. Debut the concept in an appropriate meeting within your organization and gauge the reaction:
See if others have a true grasp on managing the future in view of new change dynamics and velocities.
An interesting thing came to my attention last week when I was using a thumb drive to transport files back and forth between secure environments. The thumb corrupted. Fortunately, I only use thumbs for transport (not for storage), and I had the files available elsewhere for retrieval. (For that matter, I was able to repair the thumb and its contents with a freeware utility – I had nothing to lose by trying).
But in relaying my experience to a Fortune 500 IT colleague and good friend, he mentioned something that concerned me – and I believe the concern may apply to a very wide audience. When he travels for business, he relies on a site called Dropbox.com. Basic Dropbox services are free: That is, you can store up to 2 Gb of data for retrieval and swap. However, a quick review of terms reveals this:
You acknowledge and agree that you should not rely on the Site, Content, Files and Services for any reason. You further acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for maintaining and protecting all data and information that is stored, retrieved or otherwise processed by the Site, Content, Files or Services. Without limiting the foregoing, you will be responsible for all costs and expenses that you or others may incur with respect to backing up, and restoring and/or recreating any data and information that is lost or corrupted as a result of your use of the Site, Content, Files and/or Services.
He, like many others employing sites like this, has not apprised his organization of his method for “transporting” files. He travels to a city, retrieves critical files, and then flies on. His content is on Dropbox, thus far readily accessible and ready for use in any city. But… what if the Dropbox site is down someday? What if Dropbox corrupts his files… or otherwise suffers a breach? It would be awfully embarrassing to show up with the expectation by others that you “have the goods” – and you don’t.
Does his Fortune 500 employer know about, or even have a policy to preclude the reliance on, sites such as this? Do other organizations have policies in place to define and either allow, or deny, use of these sites? You must recognize that these sites don’t adhere to your organization’s standards of data control and security – unless by sheer coincidence: And no responsible IT or business person/endeavor relies on coincidence.
Dropbox is very concerned with safeguarding your information. We employ reasonable measures designed to protect your information from unauthorized access.
“Reasonable measures.” In my mind, that is paltry and thin. This is not to belabor a specific criticism of Dropbox (and there are many similar services out there). The service they provide is a good one – but understand the limitations, the liabilities, and your own organization’s posture for relying on any outside services over which you have no real control – and by which you have no specific agreements regarding service levels, standards, and business recoveries.
If you are using services such as these, outside the direct knowledge and permission of your organization, you should stop and either get clearance – or guidance for a sanctioned solution.
If you are responsible for security postures within your organization, you must address situations like this immediately if you have not already. You must make definitions of services – and what is allowable and what is not.
Do it very soon.
It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones.
It would seem pretty obvious that change is a routine part of life. However, you wouldn’t know this by observing some people. To them, change is an outrageous imposition: a bolt of lightening out of the blue. To them, when a “rare” occurrence of major change does come down the pike, it should be something that poses no special challenge, no obstacle to be overcome, and somehow those effecting the change should make it transparent to them.
Change is challenging – there’s no getting around that. Under the best of circumstances it will involve everyone’s best game – therefore, it is important to get everyone possible on board in support of the agenda for the change. For those who are determined to drag their feet, or even undermine the agenda (and there will always be those), you must be prepared to neutralize their impact. Certainly there are ways to work on negative people to bring them aboard or to at least gain a measure of cooperation from them. But recognize that the larger the change, and the larger the organization, the more the likelihood that you’ll have a measure of people that will simply forestall change. Be certain to get sanction and support for any workarounds you employ for these people, and document any stalls to protect yourself and the project.
Change must always support business, enhance business, and keep business current and moving. Change cannot, and does not have to, impede business – either situationally, or through delivery of unanticipated harm – such as poor fit solutions, hobbled systems, etc. Remember too that outside change (change external to your organization) demands internal change. As change is coming anyway, you must get on a footing to welcome it by being ready for it – and, barring unforeseeable circumstances, by leading and directing it.
Also, we must gain an important clarity. Today’s organization should keep foremost in mind that most IT-managed change (save for hard technical projects) has true origination outside of IT. Everything germinates through the conduct of business. A department may need a new module added to the organization’s core business application to accommodate new business, practices, or regulations. You may begin or expand an e-Commerce initiative. Perhaps your organization needs a new e-mail system that supports more capacity, better security, and easier user administration. Even seemingly “technically-driven” episodes can have a “business” motivation. For example, a vendor may have a new release of software that requires immediate implementation for security purposes. In this case IT notifies Business of this upcoming implementation, and negotiates schedule and necessary support. We could view this as IT-driven change. But even here, we’re really speaking about a “business” genesis; we’re accommodating the “business” of the world’s demands to our own business security posture. In other words, we’re never really implementing software or dispensing change at some IT whim, or pure IT instigation.
A Basic View to Understanding Change
In gaining a basic understanding of change, look at simple change that has direct impact on Business, and the way business is conducted. Leave consideration aside for the moment for the pure IT initiatives, as these should be transparent to business: updates to backup routines, network infrastructure, operating systems, the changing of Internet service providers, etc. These sorts of “computer room,” or backend, things certainly enhance business in important ways. But the real trick in handling change is when changes affect large groups of users in your organization. That is, “front-end” change – stuff that hits the desktop and creates a challenge for Business. Change that influences people’s day.
Also, be sure to qualify change as being appropriately “sanctioned” – approved in accordance with all other requirements. Change, being the challenge that it is, is often seen as some titular mount: Rather, change is wrapped inside ongoing business. At the first sign or plan of a necessary change – be it major upgrades to core business platforms, or more mundane things such as rollout of new PCs, upgrades to peripheral shelf software, etc. – IT and Business must always review the organizational calendar for obvious times that don’t offer themselves as good periods to support a particular change. It would not be good to implement a new e-mail system during the run up to the annual conference, for example. Talk to executive schedulers and key department heads; there is a wealth of information to be considered, formal and informal, regarding general schedules and burdens to the organization. Know the organization’s general calendar.
Also explore those demands that may not yet be documented – we’re back to knowing “where you are.” Then, through the BIT team, further survey departments and discuss their internal calendars regarding their major activities. When determining where best to place change, be sure that you view requirements through the people prism. After all, the priority and goal is to serve business – not to impact business. People need, and are entitled to, a period of adjustment even regarding relatively small initiatives that affect them. They will need to adjust and size their attitude – managers will need time to inform their staff.
Sometimes certain business schedules can make allowances to accommodate implementations. As well, IT will often have to adjust because of some unforeseen cycle of business. It’s a give-and-take. Also remember that departments aren’t “silos” operating independently of all other departments (although occasionally they may try to operate that way). Elements of change will need to be negotiated between many departments, and there must be appropriate lead-time to allow for this.
For the IT leader, most change can be negotiated and driven from your participation with the BIT team. Whether change originates through a debut within the team, or needs are identified elsewhere and subsequently brought to the team, the BIT team should be where most of the sizing gets done. That is: negotiations, agreements, sponsorships, schedules, ownerships, identification of metrics, standards of delivery, etc.
Change happens with or without your control. If you don’t direct and control change – it will direct and control you.
A frequent complaint, or lament, in various versions that comes to me from both business and IT people is: My organization doesn’t handle change well; my organization doesn’t like change; my organization won’t change; my boss fears change; etc.
We can smooth the sale for any specific, necessary, change by defining and selling the benefits of effective change – paired with the risk of inertia. Just as importantly, we expose the rising risk and rising cost of ineffective change management – that is, so-called change management that becomes complacent – in an overall world environment of accelerating change.
We can say that change should be an easy “sell” because, if you think about it, you’re going to “buy” some kind of change whether you plan to or not. Change is a default setting – you can’t uncheck a box and remain static in any endeavor. You’re going to acquire change no matter what position you’re in, and you’ll either change as a reaction to other changes, or you’ll lead your necessary changes. As the world at large is going to force you to “buy” changes, you want to buy (to identify, lead, and emplace) the best changes – you don’t want any difficult (reactive) buys. You must get into a position to leverage that default change dynamic to your advantage. And so Change Management is a discipline – and that discipline is exercised on an ongoing basis, if only to stay abreast of what is upcoming, and making sure to implement necessary changes at favorable times to the organization based on such things as business cycles, travel, new products and methods, other changes, and so on.
It is important to understand the environment that carries change to its successful destination. We can have the best BIT team (business implementation team) in the world, identifying all necessary and correct change – but what happens if even prudent, appropriately sized, change is improperly managed? What if we attempt to change too fast? What if some elements of the organization aren’t ready? What if BIT misses some important ‘where we are’ factors?
We need a close interaction of Technology and Business within our Weave to ensure a basic understanding from both directions in defining, tracking and managing change. Further, this interaction goes beyond management and BIT. This involves the whole of the organization and its associations: staff; vendors and contractors; frequently clients and customers… Too often, change is planned and discussed in the crucible of some rarified group who view change as a secret, to then be announced and dropped like a bomb. The group often views change as scary to the organization, and therefore tends to be draconian in planning, communicating and rolling out change. The higher-ups in the organization sometimes figure that change is a difficult sell (believing that most people fear and do not like change), and therefore the bulk of the organization is predisposed to not buying change. This isn’t necessarily so, and change can be an easy sell.
In order to make change an easy sell, we must have a basic understanding of change in simplest terms, and from anyone’s perspective…
Next – Change: The Basics
Always view your organization through the people (Business) prism first, and mold the technology to those needs. This may seem obvious but many an IT professional misses, or forgets, what we discuss here. True, there will be times when evolving technology will drive business practice to a degree, but you must always consider the business requirement and impact to people. This will come naturally to the Business leader, so let’s concentrate our attention on IT’s necessary people-awareness in getting the organization to where it’s going.
Developing a model for identifying needs, finding potential solutions for support of those needs, and exposing the organization to the choices requires cooperation. Subsequently, choosing the best solution, managing its implementation, turning on the solution, and ensuring its effective use requires your ability to effect the best collaboration among people. Of course, the biggest challenge in any endeavor, technical or not, involves human beings. Managing people – not just the formal management of those that report to you, but to include the informal managing of those around you, above you, and even external to your organization – can be difficult. Maybe you think it’s always difficult, only varying by degrees. It doesn’t matter – the fact is that you want to manage as effectively as possible. You have to build teams. These teams will comprise business partners and technology partners.
You want to get along with everyone, but you must get the best from everyone – not just your staff but also your boss, your board, your fellow managers in other departments, your solutions partners such as vendors and contractors, and associates in other organizations. In other words, we want everyone’s “best game.” You want to contribute to everyone’s potential to bring his and her best game to the mission each day – particularly when partnering with you. That’s a weave that’s mutually reinforcing – the better you get people to partner with you, the greater your success and standing. Much, if not most, of what you do depends on others. The larger an endeavor, and the more comprehensively it affects the organization, the more people you’ll have contributing to the success of the endeavor (and therefore to your success).
At the same time, you’ll have more people who have potential to limit your success. There will be those who will resist change of any kind. The people who resist change most effectively are the people with the power and means to do so – unfortunately. But that is the sense of it – they’ll have the weight to throw around in resisting and stalling projects. They won’t contribute unless pushed and forced to contribute. Part of your success in contributing to an organization’s evolution – its ongoing successful transition into the future – will be to know when to do the pushing yourself, and when to defer it to another – your boss, for instance, or another authority (for instance his or her boss, etc., on up the line depending on the level of the person who needs the push, and the critical nature of lags). When necessary, you’ll have to know how to present the deferment.
You’ll need to use the appropriate language, tone, reasoning, and degree of brevity or detail. Remember to “speak to your audience” – for example, keep technical details away from top management, unless solicited, and rather expose the business facet of issues. Obviously always start with your direct supervisor. Remember that for any technical arena, on any technical project, in any IT department, you are wrapped in a business environment – people determine where you’re going, people will determine your level of success, and people will always be your biggest challenge. Many a professional has delivered top flight solutions, repeatedly, yet fails to advance – and wonders why. Always assess how you’re speaking as well as what you’re speaking, and to whom and why.
Know the people (their capabilities, their prejudices, their strengths, their weaknesses, their fit to other people, etc.). Have a good look at your organization today – through the People Prism.
Knowing Where You Are, Part II: What Do I Do Now?
Yesterday we talked about two very different types of organizations: Those that “get it” in terms of today’s interwoven Business-Technology Weave and… those that don’t.
In either organization, what does the IT leader, the IT staff member, and the IT-engaged business person do? What is anyone’s obligation in truly understanding “where you are,” in order to craft the “where you’re going” – the ongoing route into the future?
¨ Understand and establish your authority
¨ Identify your sponsors
¨ Determine the limits to which sponsors can back you
¨ Understand the organization’s people
¨ Identify and know your resources (quality, quantity, flexibility, and so on)
· Equipment: platform, infrastructure, systems (both business and IT; inside the org, and necessary outside ones (such as public infrastructures, …)
· Vendors, contractors
· Etc. – that is, use your imagination in identifying everything that influences and defines “where you are.” Much of it will be unique and outside the purview of any specific guide or advice.
¨ Understand your sanction
· You must know where the organization wants to go
· Understand the limits of your “lead”
· Agree to levels of participation
· Agree to rates of progress
· Get “their” commitments first, when needed for “your” commitments
· Document commitments, agreements, etc.
In establishing where you are, don’t forget the status of readily observable and, relatively speaking, easily measured systems, infrastructures, and procedures – the state of those things also factor into where you are. Anything that is poorly maintained, yet easily measured, shows a problem in managing routine things. There’s a clue: Imagine the problems you’ll encounter when there are challenges in arenas that may have more subjective, and even political, considerations. So look to these empirically measured areas as an overall barometer to the organization’s effectiveness and success – its success culture as a feed to the overall eCulture.
Remember that one of our destinations is to get you into a specific successful eCulture, The Business-Technology Weave: a culture whereby business and IT engage optimally, for optimal outcomes – on an ongoing basis.
Understand “where you are” to effectively plot where you’re going.
Two Types of Organizations – Where Are You?
In today’s business environment, from the Weave perspective, there are two types of organizations. Simply put: those that understand how to manage business-technology endeavors, and those that do not. In order for the IT leader to effectively manage – to maximize that department’s support to business – the organization as a whole must be able to effectively manage IT. It’s a partnership – but a partnership that Business manages.
A frequent complaint from IT leaders (and quite a few business leaders) translates as “my organization doesn’t understand technology.” The follow-on from Business is that systems are cumbersome, don’t deliver as expected, and that IT help is frequently ineffective. A parallel IT follow-on is that senior executives, directors and managers don’t understand IT, and many simply care not to. Within these circumstances, Business and IT fail to set an example, which means that staff fails to understand, or seek how to effectively use, the technology at their disposal. The result is that many organizations don’t understand technology’s true role in the organization, and our modern responsibility within that.
On one end of the extreme is the organization that thinks of IT as a sort of glorified typewriter repair. Plans and success for optimal alignment between business and technology suffer here, but so too does the day-to-day. In other words, people at all levels of the organization first and foremost think of IT as a place to call when their PC acts up. Theirs is a rather benign, naïve view of the technology lever – and therefore they don’t grab that lever and use it to maximum effect. The organization does not reap the best return on its technical supports and investments. In this realm too are those that resent technology – they have an adversarial relationship with it and the people who support it. At best is a view that technology is a necessary evil of sorts – there is a diminished and delayed engagement on the planning and execution of solutions, as this engagement is viewed as a difficult, unrewarding, endeavor.
At the other extreme is the organization that “gets it” – IT occupies a place at the organization’s planning table – there’s not a relevant business decision made without IT’s knowledge, and it’s recommendation. People respect technology’s interwoven contribution, and they value the professionals who work within this important core endeavor. In these environments, people poke, explore, suggest and expand systems’ capabilities. They are more likely to self-motivate in expanding their knowledge, and in contributing to the forward momentum of the Business-Technology Weave.
Most organizations fall somewhere in the middle. No matter where your organization falls, there is always room for improvement – as we shall explore in the coming days and weeks… the first important key is to know where you are. You cannot get where you’re trying to go if you do not know where you’re starting from. Tell me how to get to Chicago. Tell me. You must first ask me, “From where are you departing?”
In the next day or so, we will next explore a simple checklist for determining where your organization IS, (in terms of culture, business-technology acumen, protocols for planning, etc.) in order to effectively plan the subsequent “destinations” of projects, deliveries, and various positionings for implementation of new products, new training, new security measures – all the demands a changing world makes.
Knowing where you are – where you truly are – helps you to maneuver, and helps your organization as a whole in piloting its way forward to the ultimate destination: Success.