Friday, June 18, 2021

Creating the Ideal IT Department

A long-time IT expert and former CIO has written a book that takes a look at the changing

role of the CIO and how to build the ideal IT department.

Pretty daunting topics — but Dean Lane, senior director of information technology at

Symantec Corp., says it’s time they’re tackled. And that’s what he does as a first-time

author in the book, CIO Wisdom — Best Practices from Silicon Valley’s Leading IT

Experts.

Lane, who formerly was the CIO at Allied Signal, Plantronics and the Masters Institute, says

CIOs need to get ready for some big changes in their jobs. In this one-on-one interview with

eSecurityPlanet, he also talks about the Tao of Leadership and how to create an IT

shop that will serve the business and eliminate the age-old ‘us versus them’ mentality

between the suits and the nerds.

Q: Why write this book?
This was driven by the sense that the IT community at large has done a poor job of educating

its business counterparts. We hear many things, like, ‘We have a project and we can never

show the ROI.’ There are all these statistics about 70 percent of all projects failing. Part

of the reason those things are occurring is because the business people don’t understand how

the IT organization works. The book has been written as a reference book.

Q: Is there any onus on the business side, or is it up to IT to educate business?
The onus on the business side is to dig down a level. Somebody from the business side is

riding on an airplane. They chat with the person next to them who says he saved $2 million

for his organization by outsourcing. This guy goes back and calls the CIO and tells him to

outsource everything. They’re chasing a carrot without understanding the implications… The

onus on the IT side is to be proactive. If you’re that CIO, you would educate your CFO and

CEO about outsourcing. Sit down with them and come up with a plan about what should and

shouldn’t be outsourced. You’ve got to have a plan.

Q: Is there more weight on the IT side to form this partnership?
No. It’s a partnership between business and the IT community. But I don’t think the IT

community has done a good job of presenting those things clearly.

Q: How is the role of the CIO changing?
If you look across the landscape of companies, IT typically reports to the CFO or the VP of

operations. It’s rare to find the CIO at the top level. The information may be muddled

because it’s going through layers instead of going directly to the CIO… CIOs will

definitely have to get used to dealing with the top. It’s not unusual in smaller companies

to have the CIO do a presentation to the board. It is almost never the case where the CIO is

a member of the board, even though it’s not unusual to find an engineer or the CFO as a

member of the board. The position of CIO in the next five to 10 years will be elevated.

Q: Once that happens, how will the job change? What new skills will they have to

master?
They are going to have to understand the business and they will have to be more involved in

the strategic planning from the business side… They will have to be ready to be included

in the strategic planning of where the business has to go. It will occur as an evolution.

Q: In your book, you talk about the Tao of Leadership. What is that?
What we’re trying to say is that you can’t just come up with a strategic plan and then

expect to lead it. There’s more to it than that. In IT, you have to partner with your

internal colleagues. You don’t have external customers, like they do in marketing or sales.

You’re a service organization for the rest of the business. The Tao Perspective talks about

how you’re successful in that position. What is the strategic value of your IT organization?

How do you enable the business to be successful? It’s not something you can do alone.

Q: Is this related to the ‘us versus them’ mentality between IT and corporate

users?
I’m suggesting that we together have to define needs. We have to work together. We’re all

here for a common goal, which is to make the business as successful as it can possibly be.

If we have an ‘us verses them’ mentality, then we better tackle that problem first. We have

to do that, if we’re going to be effective… That mentality is really a silly place to go

because everybody is on the same team. It’s like sitting in the row boat, pulling out a gun

and shooting a hole in the other side and laughing and saying, ‘Look! Sharon is taking on

water’.

Q: What is the ideal IT organization that you talk about in your book?
The ideal IT organization would be one that is not an obstacle. First of all, everything is

running the way it’s supposed to be running. Secondly, once you get there you have the

ability to ad strategic value, competitiveness and efficiencies. It depends on where an IT

organization is in its maturity. Are they focusing on keeping a server from crashing or are

they partnering with business help solve a business problem. The ideal would be to be

partnered with business.

Q: How do you go about getting there?
You may need to take small steps and build a relationship with business. And you build that

relationship by doing things together. If you do one positive project, someone will sit back

and say, ‘Oooh, that’s good. That worked’. Then you’ll be willing to do the next one and the

next one.

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