Monday, January 26, 2009

IT Should Pay Less Attention To The Technology

A lot of IT folks consider themselves to be a far cry from the marketing and sales departments. I have news for them: Get over it.

Within the IT department the toughest problems, the ones that can really have an impact on the organization, are not about technology. Successful IT leader's recognize this and figure out how to connect the IT group with real business needs of the organization. I hit on this a little over a year ago in "Can Technology Geeks Be (Good) Managers?".

But it's not as simple as it may sound.

This is about marketing and sales, even if the IT group's customers are in-house end-users. The essence of marketing, which includes finding out what is really needed/desired by a constituency and then figuring how to give it to 'em, is the essence of the IT department's mission too.

But a lot of marketers fail. And even enlightened IT groups fail... and it's for much the same reason. Why? Because they forget about the "What's in it for me?" principle. Where "me" is your customer/end-user not you... if you're the marketer...or the IT group.

Jay Rollins, recently writing at, hit at this from a different angle that deserves to be pondered (below replace 'customers' with 'in-house end-users'):

The technology was the easy part. Pulling together a solution that the customers actually wanted was the tough part.

As with all technology implementations, the tough part is not necessarily the initial technology. The services and business processes that are typically not part of IT’s purview or area of expertise are usually what makes or breaks a successful technology implementation. Challenging long-held assumptions and having the intestinal fortitude to carry the ball across the goal line regardless of how tough it actually is separates the outstanding IT leader from the rest.
How are you making sure too much emphasis isn't being placed on the technology and the IT department itself?

A quick and dirty test:
  • How often do you question _IT_ best practices? (many don't make sense in a particular organization or at a particular time; similarly many so-called best practices are really conventional wisdom... and questionable tidbits at that)
  • How much do you argue over technical elegance versus pragmatic business aligned solutions?
  • How much do other groups grumble behind the IT groups back?
  • How cynical is the IT group about other groups?
  • Has the IT group done anything other than ask to be included in early strategic and tactical planning that has a technology component?
  • Have you explained your position not from the perspective of the burden it places on IT but from the perspective of the burden it places on the business? In marketing, those marketers who talk about themselves don't do as well. Those who talk about things from the perspective of the prospect, enjoy far more success. What is in it for your "customers" (end-users) not just you?
Each organization is different and IT can't work in a silo... nor can IT blame everyone else for its problems unless its willing to view the world with eyes wide open.


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