Harvard Business Review

When Your IT Group Doesn't Deliver


Posted on Harvard Business Review: July 7, 2010 10:38 AM

There are two major reasons an IT organization is "bad," and what you do about it differs depending on the root cause.

    Mismatch between your expectations and the role. If your current IT capability reflects the grinder (the commodity view of IT), but you need a team player, don't blame IT. As an analogy, you don't hire an auditor to do financial planning and then pick on her when she doesn't do a good job. If expectations are mismatched, you can make the best of what you have (e.g., live with a sub-par financial plan) or serve yourself (e.g., develop your own financial plan or hire someone qualified to get it done). If you decide to serve yourself, understand that you won't get accolades for your extra work, because the powers that be don't know what they're missing (in other words, they don't know why a financial plan is necessary.)

    Inability to fully deliver on the role. If the role matches your needs but IT isn't delivering, then determine whether the poor performance is a result of organizational maturity or leadership. If you have a strong CIO and IT leadership team in place and they are working hard to retool the organization to fulfill expectations, then give them a break and a helping hand. If you have an IT group that is clueless about its lack of delivery, you have no choice but to do without or serve yourself.

    If you decide to serve yourself, make sure that you follow these steps:

      Hire a really good IT person to work on your team but reside within IT (so that you don't get accused of creating a shadow IT organization).

      Incorporate IT-smarts into the hiring criteria and development plans of your team members.

      Collaborate so well that IT trusts you to act independently, confident that you will keep it informed, follow the rules, and share the credit.

      Develop partnerships with external IT service providers to help you do whatever your internal IT group cannot (make strategy, innovate, deliver, operate). There's a whole world of virtual IT resources waiting to take care of you. Just make sure you invite IT to go along for the ride.

      Of course, there is one other option. If you're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, why don't you raise your hand and offer to move into IT and fix things?

      Copyright © 2012 Harvard Business School Publishing. All rights reserved. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School.

      Susan Cramm is the founder and president of Valuedance and a recognized industry expert on information technology leadership and coaching. She is the former CFO and executive vice president at Chevy's Mexican Restaurants. Prior to Chevy's, Cramm worked with the Taco Bell Corporation and held the positions of CIO and vice president of the Information Technology Group and Senior Director for Financial and Strategic Planning.

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