Secret IT Code Words Revealed.
It's amazing how many cultures and subcultures come up with their own language. It allows those on the 'inside' to feel they are part of the club.
Teenagers are masters of this. Example:
Teen 1: Hang?
Teen 2: Here. Rents R out
Teen 1: Sick!
I actually saw this conversation on a teen's phone.
Loosely translated it means "Want to get together?", "Let's do it at my place. My parents aren't home." "Wonderful, I'll be right over!"
Sometimes phrases are assigned new meaning and can appear innocuous to the outsider but have key meanings to those on the inside. These euphemisms are equivalent to code words.
In IT, there are two of these phrases left over from the old days that I still hear when groups of CIOs get together.
The first is 'THE Business'.
If you see IT and 'THE Business' as two distinct and separate organizations, perhaps not at war, but not quite at peace, then you are making a fundamental error.
Believing such is almost sure to sabotage any effort of the CIO to gain a seat at the senior leadership table, and will relegate him/her to a maintenance job (i.e. keeping the IT lights on at the lowest possible cost). Unless you have an unlimited supply of antacid tablets, I would suggest you modify your belief.
The primary role of IT (as I see it) is to use technology to enable people in your organization do things better, and do things they never could do before. IT is a catalyst to differentiate your organization by allowing it to be better, faster, and way more efficient than its competition. Undergirding this success is IT. You are part of the business and its potential for success, not a sub-organization separated by a chasm of distrust.
I have been successful in my role to eliminate the 'Strategic IT Plan'. Instead, each strategic initiative has technology components defined, just as there are human resource, finance and risk elements. If you are still pulling your plan together after the organizational strategic plan has been approved by the board, you need to redefine IT in your organization. (But that's a topic for another post).
The second phrase is 'Shadow IT'.
To talk to some CIOs these days, you would assume their biggest problem in the world is Shadow IT... Those degenerate, nefarious groups of renegade 'users' who bypass the IT department and implement systems on their own with a complete disregard for security, compliance, compatibility, sustainability and all the other things the IT department has worked so hard to control. Worse yet, when things go south with the system, IT is expected to come in and clean up the mess.
And the Cloud has made it worse. Marketing, HR, Finance, Engineering can all go out and buy the tools they need (SaaS), without involving the IT department at all. IT's budget is being eroded and IT can't do a thing about it.
Or can they?
Let me share what I have found to be the most effective way to clean up the mess of Shadow IT.
If you want to get rid of ‘Shadow IT’, look in the mirror.
The problem isn't with them. It's with you.
Or more accurately, look at your service catalog.
While people in the other organizations may be renegade, they most likely are doing so because they can't get the products and services they need from your IT department.
Think of it this way.
I am now on a diet (actually my wife is on a diet so that includes me in a supporting role) and the restaurants we frequent did not have a great selection of items that don't have bad carbs (which is practically everything that actually tastes good, but I digress).
Rather than paying full price for a plate with all the carbs removed, we ask our restaurant if they could add some choices for people with our needs. If the restaurant is unable (or unwilling) to change the menu, we will find a restaurant that meets our needs. Our need to have an enjoyable carb free dinner (well, at least something that doesn't taste entirely like salad) trumps our loyalty.
In your organization, each department has explicit needs and goals. In today's dynamic environment, many of them are fluid. Sales forces have always been out in the field, but today they can be more effective if they have customer information at their fingertips, on their mobile device.
Administration needs new tools to manage electronic records, boards are going paperless to track flow. Users want to bring their own devices.
As I stated before, your role in IT is to help the organization. Your team has the expertise to ensure the organization remains in compliance, and to ensure that data is available and not at risk. But you don't do it by becoming a gatekeeper.
You should have IT people out meeting with the departments. Ask for an invitation to their strategy sessions. Let them define their need and challenges and come alongside as consultant. Introduce practical project management tools to ensure the technology tools are properly vetted, acquired and implemented. The departments you support are responsible for their targets and objectives. Do all you can to help them achieve them, even if it means doing something different than you have always done.
You will find that 'Shadow IT' goes away, since you will have your team engaged in supporting all department by invitation, since you have worked hard to gain each department's trust.
Welcome to the new world of leading IT.
About the Author:
Kevin Pashuk is Chief Information Officer for Appleby College, in Oakville, Ontario Canada, where his team is transforming the delivery of education through innovative application of technology.
Kevin is convinced that IT leadership needs to dramatically change how IT is delivered rather than being relegated to a costly overhead department.
In addition to transforming IT in his role as CIO, he looks for every opportunity to talk about this... writing, speaking and now blogging on LinkedIn (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/kpashuk), ITWorld Canada, or at TurningTechInvisible.com.