Home > IT Management, Leadership & People > Addendum: IT Organizational Development, Recruiting and other head hurting stuff

Addendum: IT Organizational Development, Recruiting and other head hurting stuff

CIOs Uncensored: The IT Outsider Might Be Your Best Hire popped up via one of my RSS feeds and immediately caught my attention because it’s rare for someone in the IT space to advocate the idea that IT departments can and should have non-IT people. Justin Kershaw wrote such a thing and makes an important and necessary point for IT managers everywhere to seriously consider with an open mind.

I agree 100% with this view and recruit with this in mind. IT people not knowing the business cannot help the business achieve its strategic objectives. I’ve heard colleagues who’ve stated that one of the learnings they took away from after implementing a massive IT system is that they should have tied this system closer to the business need in order to achieve value to the business. WTF?!?!?!?! If you don’t understand the business need, you really have no business implementing anything and should immediately step away before you end up in a Standish Group Report somewhere. It’s just bad business and bad for our colleagues, peers and fellow professionals trying to make a positive business contribution against anti-IT biases, as reader Herm makes in his blog reply.

The question of having respect from a business peer or having an equal seat at the table seems to be a simple one – you hire business minded IT professionals or IT minded business professionals on the team. Using a sales analogy, if you want to sell a widget to me then you had better sell it in the language that I understand. Thus, if you want “the business” understand and appreciate your IT contribution, don’t talk IT, talk business. It’s hard for IT guys to do that, but I believe a simple change like this will bring instant returns. Change your vocabulary and talk about profits, revenues, net turnover, smart costing etc whatever it is that your CFO and CEO and COO are thinking and talking about. Manage your IT function like you would manage a business where the IT budget represents X investment dollars that will provide Y business benefits through say, efficient and cost effective IT services and operations at a low cost-per-user to business improvements/capabilities are achieved through projects.

Question, is an ERP implementation an IT project, a Finance project, or a business project? The answer to this might reveal some hidden assumptions and biases and be a place for self-reflection.

Kershaw makes another good point on partnering with HR and other functional heads for cross-functional engagement and learning opportunities for the IT guys. Putting IT guys into environments where they can stretch to learn and adopt non-IT skills is critical to overall IT success in the organization. (Frankly, I think IT is as part of the business as any other function but recognize that within some industries, IT is a pure service organization providing basic commodity IT services and the bar is raised higher for those IT professionals to achieve.) More importantly is the unasked question, why would you as an IT manager not partner with other functional heads to achieve the business strategy?

Overall, attracting people to IT should be focused on the sweet spot of IT and the Business. It is quite a large area that diverse individuals can get the opportunity to develop themselves and achieve something worthwhile. And if you’re an IT guy who understands these opportunities, you’ll know that there’s too many of them and not enough bodies to tackle them all.

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  1. August 7, 2008 at 11:42 AM

    Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. Lui Sieh
    August 8, 2008 at 2:58 AM

    Thanks Chris for dropping by and reading. Glad you enjoy my posts!

    Cheers,

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