I have the pleasure of interacting with business and IT leaders on a regular basis. At times I am asked to evaluate a company’s IT organization and provide feedback. When failures are observed they often go back to what I refer to as the three Cs: Commitment, Communication, Capability.
Too many IT organizations have adversarial relationships with the rest of the business. Sometimes you will find these IT teams secretly investing in projects “behind the back” of the business, running with their own priorities instead of the ones that the rest of the organization has. The excuse for the behavior is generally that the business does not understand the importance of the “secret” project and that IT will be thanked later….
Unfortunately, the truth is that leadership, or the lack there of, is the core problem. Business and IT leaders must come together as leaders of the overall company, not leaders of their individual organizations, and agree to invest their finite resources in the same direction. This is critical for success. If you find these secret projects underway it generally comes down to one these problems:
- The CIO cannot effectively articulate the importance of these technology projects in relationship to the other business projects.
- The CIO has effectively communicated the importance of the technology investments. However, in relation to the other business priorities they still fall short.
- The CIO is an effective communicator but the other executives simply do not value IT projects. This is actually fairly rare.
In all of the examples above the right thing to do is to invest in the agreed upon priorities, not to invest in these “secret” projects. Organizations can only be successful if they are able to openly communicate and focus on agreed projects and goals. No matter how much you disagree with the direction, you are only adding to the likelihood of corporate failure if you go your own way.
This will often go hand in hand with commitment, or the lack thereof. The typical reasons for poor communications are often:
- Lack of commitment to the overall goals (see above). I see too many organizations that stop communicating about key projects. In one case I literally had e-mails and phone calls ignored because I was asking about the status of a priority project (in another company) and the IT people did not feel it was their priority, so they ignored my questions. In the end the problem was resolved but it was painful.
- Lack of knowledge. This goes hand in hand with capability (see below). When you do not understand what is going on you tend to avoid talking about it. Too often this is a reality when people are promoted beyond their capabilities.
Capabilities, the know-how to solve problems, is sometimes the cause for failure as well. In my personal experience this is less of an issue than the leadership challenges discussed above but it will sometimes be a part of the problem. When you think you have issues in regards to capability, find out:
- Are there training issues? If you’re dealing with people failing to follow processes it is often a training issue.
- Are their morale/performance issues. Are people actually capable but lack motivation? We all know how to deal with these cases, seek improvement but know when the situation cannot be resolved.
- Are you resource challenged? In other words, do you need more people? Sometimes the people in the organization are capable, you simply need to hire more people to fill in gaps.
What issues have you seen in your organization or in others? What would you add?