IT does a lot of different kinds of work. Managing it all can be a challenge. Whether your organization is large or small, having a good handle on the types of work IT does is important.
All IT work falls into four large buckets. Let’s look at what these are and how an IT leader should think about them.
All organizations use business processes to get work done. Most business processes in larger organizations rely on computers and software. IT’s role is to make sure the business process, as implemented in technology, changes as the organization changes.
This requires that IT understands the business processes well enough to do our job correctly.
Imagine two scenarios.
First, we are at a restaurant. Scanning the menu, we see lots of great options. It’s hard to decide. But finally, we do. We put our order in and sit back, mouth watering in anticipation. Finally, it arrives. And it’s wrong. We wanted french fries and got Brussels sprouts. Or vice versa. Either way, it disappoints us. When we point it out, the restaurant is very apologetic, brings out new food and takes something off the bill.
Organizations have IT departments, but they don’t always understand how the IT department can best help. Yes, we keep the computers running. But there can be more than that. Much more.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just telling the rest of the organization how to think about IT. The responsibility is not with the rest of the company to believe IT understands the business. The responsibility is on us to show that we understand it. Frequently.
A great system, implemented badly, will probably fail. A mediocre system, implemented beautifully, will probably succeed.
In the IT world, there are often projects that require selecting a product. The team determines requirements, creates a long list, reduces it to a short list, and makes a selection. This is usually done with large systems, like ERP.
It is important that we get the selection process right. The wrong technology can hamper our organization for years.
However, implementation is at least as important, if not more important, than selection.
Sitting at a computer or in meetings doesn’t really sound like a risky job, does it? However, the job of an IT Leader is full of things that might go wrong: decisions that may backfire, projects that don’t work, or vendors that cause problems. Technology can fail, security can fail, backups can fail.
We don’t have infinite time or money to mitigate all these risks. We have to accept some.
How should IT leaders think about risk?
It is with great satisfaction that I look back at myself five years ago and think about how much wiser and better I am. This feeling of satisfaction is tempered by the fact that five years from now I will say the same thing.Andy Rooney (probably paraphrased)
This quote has stuck with me over the years. I want to keep growing as a person. One of the consequences of this quote is that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will look back at today and feel good about growing, getting wiser, getting better. Of course, the last line of the quote reminds me that this will happen continually so don’t get too full of myself.
I think a major part of this is the ability to change my mind about things.Read More
The processes in our companies are the activities that must take place to satisfy the Customer.
Regular processes are those that provide value to the products and services our company provides. We need to be good at these.
Exception processes are those that deal with problems when they come up. These are the processes that, if properly harnessed, can be used to improve our company.
What makes a good exception process?
As the leader of the IT department, we lead a team with lots of connections with the rest of the business. We lead a team that supports the technology and process needs of the entire business. We will make priority decisions and resource allocation decisions that impact the rest of the business. How can we do these things if we don’t understand the business?
The point of the IT department is to help the organization succeed. To do this, we need to understand that organization and the world it operates in. In addition, we must understand technology products, services, and trends enough to know how to apply them to our organization. We must understand the overlap between business and technology. That is where the IT department lives.
While this concept applies to any staff group in an organization, including HR, Finance, etc., let’s look at what this means for IT.