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How to Love (and Improve) Your IT Function

Everyone has a favorite IT complaint story. Whether it is how long it took to get your Blackberry to sync with the server to the installation of new software that took one year longer than expected, IT is the function we all love to moan about.

Everyone has a favorite IT complaint story. Whether it is how long it took to get your Blackberry to sync with the server to the installation of new software that took one year longer than expected, IT is the function we all love to moan about. So much so that my friend and colleague Susan Cramm wrote a book about it, 8 Things We Hate about I.T. Only Susan’s purpose is not to vent but to instruct.

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A consultant and executive coach by trade, Cramm knows both sides of the IT equation: as a consumer, (she’s a former CFO) and a provider (she’s a former CIO). Her purpose in writing the book was to help line executives connect more effectively with IT providers so they could get the most out of the function and in return achieve intended results.

In a recent interview, Cramm shared her thoughts. “Seventy five percent of business leaders believe that IT is critical or essential but only 25% feel smart about IT.  It’s the ‘The Case of The Enthusiastic Amateur,’” says Cramm. It’s a problem, too.  For executives, “IT used to be an elective course. It’s now a requirement” for all businesses that want to succeed.
According to Cramm, business leaders need to understand key concepts in order to improve their working relationship. The first principle revolves around value: “Make sure the project supports the enterprise strategy and delivers value. Commit to delivering tangible value in terms of performance improvement.”

 When scoping the project, be as specific as possible. “Define clear outcomes. [Then] make decisions and stick to them,” says Cramm. Keep informed with on project status. “Approach a big project as a series of small ones. Keep the project close to you – don’t delegate a hard problem three levels down in the organization.”

Very importantly make sure you have the right people in place to do the job. “Staff with a small group of experienced professionals who understand their roles” and are accountable for results. The business leader must hold him or herself accountable for results to by setting clear direction and staying engaged in the project by remaining informed about milestones, obstacles and overall progress.

One thing that Cramm advises is to take things one step at a time. “Conduct experiments to validate value and be willing to make mid-course corrections or kill an initiative that isn’t proving out. Once concepts are proven out, be willing to invest to scale capability across the enterprise.”

Reaction from the IT community has been terrific “Who would have thought that that IT leaders would encourage their business partners to read a book entitled, The 8 Things We Hate About I.T.? “ says Cramm.  It is an indication that IT providers want to help executives understand what IT can do as well as what they can offer in terms of solutions that meet realistic expectations.

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Reading Cramm’s book may not solve all your IT woes but it will provide you with ideas that you can use to help you and your IT folks connect on common ground. After all, as Cramm writes in her book, “Every company has the IT capability it deserves.” The challenge becomes what to do about, and for that Cramm concludes her book with a memorable quote from John M. Richardson, “When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened?”

A key message of Cramm’s book is if IT is to improve, the change agents, both line executives and IT providers, must collaborate to make it happen.

 

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts. John’s newest book is 12 Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert Your Authority to Lead. (Amacom 2010). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website, www.johnbaldoni.com

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