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.
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.
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.
Dear IT Director,
Help! We are running around with our hair on fire, working on too many business projects. Our IT processes need help, but we don’t have any time to improve them.
Overwhelmed in Omaha
I feel your pain. The list of changes the business needs is long and you want to get it done faster. At the same time, you and your team know how to improve your processes to become more efficient. But there is no time. How do you stop working on the business tasks to improve IT?
Dear IT Director,
People seem to think that IT has an “easy button”. That we can just make simple changes and slap it into production quickly. How can I respond to this nonsense?
Frustrated in Fresno
Dear Frustrated,Read More
Whether you are a current IT leader or hope to lead an IT organization in the future, this book will be useful to you. This book is a collection of the scars and skills that I have earned over the years.
From The Introduction:
Organizations structure themselves, in part, to manage people (HR), money (Finance), and technology (IT). These departments understand the details of their areas and how their work contributes to the success of the organization. The Information Technology (IT) department lives at the intersection of the organization and the technological world.
It is often a thankless job. The criticisms are many. IT is too slow to roll out changes. IT is too rigid with its rules and processes. IT is too expensive. IT has a huge backlog. IT is working on the wrong things.
Or so the organization believes.
As leaders of the IT department, it is our responsibility to run the department to meet the needs of the organization. Unfortunately, even with the best of efforts, the perception of the organization never matches our own. Even worse, sometimes the perception is correct.
There are a lot of books, magazines, websites, and individual postings aimed at the IT professional. But few of them address the larger problems organizations care about. There is significant information about specific technologies, but not much on how to lead an IT department.
Since I couldn’t find such a book, I wrote it.