What’s IT matter? Communication stymies profession

Organizations around the globe are at odds with their information technology departments.

Employees pull their hair out trying to get useful, relevant performance from the IT staff. If this world is so technologically advanced, what is the problem and what can be done? Two key problems rise to the top.

Problem No. 1. IT does not understand the business.

The overwhelming majority of IT workers do not understand business and are not interested in learning much about it. They think of business as a way for them to exercise their tech skills.

Their big sin is to assume their value to the organization, and they want the employer to assume the same and leave them alone to program and build information components in isolation.

Some training programs claim to teach a business mindset to their tech students, but they usually can’t actually pull it off. They just don’t know how. Real business people can shore up this gap by making periodic appearances in class. If that doesn’t happen, and it usually doesn’t, the student needs to dig hard into real-life business articles, videos and personal conversations in which non-IT people explain their needs and how business works.

IT workers need the same kind of insights into the company that eventually hires them. They need to continually learn about it. This is accomplished through frequent, inquisitive, interactive conversation with the users, the people who make the organization tick.

In all the articles I write for the business intelligence community, I write from a user’s viewpoint, and my assignment is to address “the history of terrible communication between IT and the users.” Terrible means there’s an awful lot of frustration for users and IT alike. Terrible means a lot of money is falling through the cracks. Terrible means upper management does a lot of pretending that things are going better than they are.

Problem No. 2. Management doesn’t understand IT.

I think I said something similar for the first problem. So this is a two-way street.

Frustrated users – upper management included – who can’t get what they want out of the IT department will find ways to work around it. The past five years have seen a dramatic surge in the number of outside companies hired to do work that the organization’s own IT staff should have either done or coordinated.

IT needs to understand that its purpose is to serve the business, not to make regulations everybody has to obey. Seeing that this is incomprehensible to most technologists, users feel forced to work around the obstacle they call IT in order to keep the business moving.

Workarounds come with a price. Sometimes security is breached, but definitely not usually. Sometimes a company wastes a lot of money on solutions that are not thought out well enough and are only temporary. And many times the cost is in the lost opportunities for users to make IT sit down, shut up and just listen to what users think they need. Then the IT professionals can help them figure out what a lasting solution might look like, then develop it phase by phase under the users’ guidance, build the architecture under IT’s guidance, testing at every phase until the project is delivered in a valuable rendition – for the time being.

IT staffs face a lot of frustration even when they properly apply their amazing skills, because the fast-changing world, competition, and the preferences and good ideas of smart users will not let IT rest.

Many more challenges lurk in the details, but these two problems are fundamental to the “history of terrible communication between IT and users.” They are opportunities for users and IT to come together and excel.