Ten Things the IT Department Should Tell Management

Some things that few are brave enough to say – but that executives need to hear.
The Wall Street Journal recently published Ten Things Your IT Department Won’t Tell You, which lists some things you might do to get around your CIO’s policies and procedures. For example, how to download forbidden software or get your email from lots of places when your corporate messaging server doesn’t want to cooperate.

I thought this was a silly article. It was like I was reading about how 12 year olds plot to confuse their parents to get more access to video games. After complaining to some friends about the whole premise of the article, one of them challenged me to turn the message around. “So, big shot, what would you tell ‘management’ about technology?”

Here’s what I’d say:

1. “First of all – ‘management’ – technology is an asset that needs to be nurtured – like a brand or a customer service reputation. If you don’t invest in the asset, its value will fall – just like any asset. Just ask Dell or Mercedes what happens when service and quality – respectively – suffers.”

2. “And while we’re talking about all this, remember that while operational technology has definitely commoditized, there are still strategic technology investments we need to be very careful about making. It’s possible to make some major mistakes in the acquisition of all kinds of technology, so let’s get some serious discipline in the technology acquisition process – and, please, don’t listen too closely about killer apps at cocktail parties. Everyone knows that alcohol and technology don’t mix.”

3. “Don’t forget that technology is still complex, even though industry standards have helped improve integration and interoperability. Listen, while there are fewer moving parts, the way we deploy them still makes the technology world tough to manage – and our vendors don’t always help us.”

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4. “Please stop making exceptions to the governance process. If you want to save money and keep us agile, then do not allow all the flowers to bloom; instead, publish the standards and then stick with them. Every time you let someone off the hook, you make our life more complicated – and expensive.”

5. “Make the company’s business strategy as transparent as possible (unless you really don’t like talking about your own strategy). The more the technocrats know about the business strategy, the more efficient they will be acquiring and deploying technology.”

6. “Please make us account for our technology investments. Please make us link them to the business strategy and the impact each investment has on operational or strategic success. In spite of what you may think, we like ROI thinking. Hold us – and everyone – to it.”

7. “Stop underestimating the impact the Web will have on business. I am really tired of our thinking that the Web is just another channel. The Web is not an evolutionary channel. It’s definitely a revolutionary one that changes dramatically every year. Please allow us to pay close attention to new Web technologies and Web-based business models. By the way, why aren’t we crowdsourcing our R&D?”

8. “Listen to my whining about the lack of a discretionary budget. I need some money to try new things. I need to fail fast and fail cheap but without a discretionary budget I can’t do either.”

9. “Please don’t acquire any companies until I’ve looked at their technology. Never assume that our technologies will ‘seamlessly integrate.’ Never assume that there are automatic technology gains that will result from a merger or acquisition. Nothing is farther from the truth.”

10. “Invest in the right people with the right skills at the right price. Reward major contributors and prune out the losers. There’s nothing else you can do to excite the troops more. They need to believe that hard work will be rewarded – and that lousy work will be punished.”

What would you say to “management” about technology?

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