IT People Fix Things

We can’t help it. It’s in our nature to fix things that are broken. That’s what attracted us to working with technology in the first place. More than likely we started out troubleshooting, seeing how things worked and understanding what was wrong so that we could fix it, or maybe even improve upon it. That’s how we roll.

So when I saw an article entitled When IT Tries to do Too Much, my immediate reaction was that IT is generally trying to fix things, so if the IT folks in your organization are doing too much, it’s very likely because someone else isn’t doing what they should. That idea crystallized for me today, when I saw another article, Communication is not an IT Issue. In it, Wayne Turmel explains:

But the key thing to remember is that what your IT folks are responsible for is providing and maintaining the tools. Their job is to make sure the right ones and zeros get where they are supposed to go in a fast and secure matter. Data transfer is their bailiwick. But true communication is more than data transfer, and that’s where we come in.

So, IT provides email services. How we write, file, save and ultimately use those emails is not their issue. It’s not the fault of your local geeks to make sure that nobody abuses the CC function. That’s your job as the leader.

It’s with that context that I go back to Chuck Hollis’ examples of IT doing too much:

Someone in the business calls up IT with a mid-sized request: interesting, but not earth-shaking.  If they get the runaround, I can easily predict the next phone call they’ll make. 

And IT people wonder why everyone is starting to use external services to get their work done 🙂

Bottom line: if IT attempts to ration consumption, smart people will inevitably find other ways to get the job done.  IT is an expense.  Finance is usually the people who watch the expense line. 

Sure, IT creates the capability to protect and monitor, implements established policies, and raises a notification when those policies aren’t being followed, or there’s a new risk to consider.

But I think there’s a clear line between those important roles, and IT thinking of themselves of judge, jury and executioner.


#5 — IT Thinks Its Job Is To Make IT Decisions For Business People

Errr, often it’s a business decision being made that involves IT, and not a classic “IT decision”.  IT provides services to the business, remember?

Often, these kinds of situations arise simply because someone else isn’t doing what they are supposed to. Many managers and HR people would rather not be the “bad-guy” and don’t deal with policy violations, many finance people would rather not deal with telling people no, and many leaders simply don’t make business decisions when there is technology is involved. So these things get tossed down to the IT department, who try and fix things.

Let’s take these one at a time.

  • Policy Violations: Most often, it’s IT people who are in a position to notice when someone is doing something they shouldn’t be, whether it’s accessing websites they shouldn’t, sending the company’s private data in email, storing private documents in consumer cloud services, etc. They flag it to the attention of HR, or a manager. That person doesn’t truly understand the risk and does one of two things, throws it back at the IT person to investigate and decide on the appropriate fix (typically blocking the sites in question, or adding levels of security to prevent access to company information), or they do nothing at all. Occasionally, they will simply use a “flag” from IT as proof enough, and carry out punishment without further investigation, thus making IT the judge, jury and executioner by default. I’ve been in this situation before, it did not end with an understanding that the person shouldn’t have been doing what they did and that it was a management decision to act, it ended with the entire organization having the impression that the IT staff was out to “catch” them, leaving management with no choice but to act. Yes, somehow we were forcing management’s hand.
  • Financial decisions: Again, in theory, yes the decision to spend money is a finance decision, not an IT one. However, if your IT Department has it’s own budget, and is being held responsible for sticking within that budget, then you have put them in a position to make decisions based on their budget. If all technology purchases come from that piece of the budget pie, you’ve ceded the financial decisions to IT.
  • Business Decisions:: How many business “leaders” simply assign a budgetary number to IT, and let their CIO decide where to spend it? Pay attention law firm folks, this absolutely happens in your environment, quite often. Is there a business reason to upgrade to Windows 7 this year, is there a business reason to upgrade the Exchange Server, or move to a SAN? Is there a business reason to implement cloud based storage, or internal IM tools? Is there a business person deciding whether to do those things, or is the IT department doing it, and you simply shrug when someone complains about the constant change being forced on them by IT? There are, to be truthful, plenty of business reasons to do all of these things, but if you’re doing them just because IT told you they needed to be done, again, you’ve ceded responsibility to IT when it comes to deciding how to utilize and deploy your technology resources.

IT in your organization may be doing too much. In fact, it probably is, but before you go running off to blame IT for getting in the way and not understanding that they are a business service, take a look in the mirror and recognize that you might just share the blame. When management cedes the responsibility of making their own tough choices, IT has little choice but to step into these roles. We don’t do it happily. (Well, most of us don’t.) We’d much rather talk to you about how to provide what you need, but when you stick us all down in the basement, behind a locked door, and hand us responsibility for “keeping the lights on”, without going over our budget, well, you’ll get this. Problems like this don’t exist in a vacuum. If management doesn’t step up and make decisions, they still get made. They just get made by the IT people who have to implement them, instead of the business people who are expected to get business done with the tools given to them. Truly, it would be better to make them together, but then you might have to talk to an IT person occasionally, or understand a thing or two about technology. You’re right, it’s probably better to just keep doing what you’re doing. 😉



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