Post #4 in the Series: Focusing on Results versus Process

Dr. George Westerman of MIT writes:

Business says: “I want it this way.”

IT says: “We can’t do it that way.”

“In too many companies, the CIO is seen as the “CI-No.”

To many on the business side, the way things should work seems simple enough. They want IT changes—new mobile devices, maybe, or new system functionality—and they don’t see why IT can’t deliver what they want. But obviously there’s more to the story.

IT leaders know it’s not that simple. They need to be sure that any changes don’t compromise the safety of the company’s IT systems and business processes. And they know the downsides of introducing nonstandard devices or unnecessary software customizations. Exceptions create complexity, and complexity is the major driver of extra cost and risk in IT.

The key in bridging the gap is for IT leaders to explain clearly the reasoning behind saying “no.” If they give the business side enough insight, future requests might even be more reasonable. IT people also need to be open to exceptions when the new approach is much better than the standard approach, or when there is another good reason for it. Meanwhile, business people should aim to say what they want to do without requiring it to be done a certain way.

For example, in a major energy company, when people request something that won’t work well, the CIO says, “Give me a couple of weeks.” Soon, he’s able to say, “Here are the costs, benefits and risks of doing it your way. And here are two other options that do what you want, but are better.”

Tom’s Take:

At the end of the day, our job is to deliver results in the most cost-effective way possible.  We’re also lucky to work with many smart clients, typically IT people themselves, who do not waste time – or their investment in our services – by explaining to us how to do our technical work (unless, of course, we need to do something in a different or specific way to stay in compliance with their standards). So while we’re usually in complete agreement with customers on the work to be done, we still look for ways to add value beyond the stated objectives.

For example, Intertech recently was working with a firm specializing in product lifecycle management and 3D modeling. Using an agile software development process, our team was able to deliver all of our core requirements and more several weeks early. In fact, most of our team was able to roll off the project earlier allowing our customer to reallocate the funds to other projects.