IT Leaders are often worried (almost exclusively) about the technology—Is it reliable? Is it robust? Is secure? Is it state-of-the-art? Is it cost-effective? And more.
This is what typically keeps IT management up at night—a server outage, the network being down, an application not available, a project off track, or a security issue such as a virus or worm.
While much lip service has been paid to the statement that “people are our most important asset;” in reality, too little emphasis is generally placed here—i.e. people are not kept high on the IT leadership agenda (for long, if at all), technology is.
Hence, we have seen the negative effects of outsourcing, layoffs, cut training budgets, pay and incentive stagnation, and other morale busting actions on our workforce, along with customers who have been disappointed by magnificent IT project failure rates—with projects over cost, behind schedule, and not meeting customer spec.
Our people—employees and customers—are not being properly cared for and the result is IT projects failure all around us (the stats speak for themselves!).
In essence, we have lost the connection between the technology outcomes we desire and the people who make it happen. Because what drives successful technology solutions are people—knowledgeable, skilled, well trained, and passionate people—working collaboratively together on behalf the mission of the organization.
A book review in ComputerWorld (21 December 2009) on World Class IT by Peter A. High identifies the 5 elements of IT leadership, as follows:
1. Recruit, train, and retain world-class IT people.
2. Build and maintain a robust IT infrastructure.
3. Mange projects and portfolios effectively.
4. Ensure partnerships within the IT department and with the business.
5. Develop a collaborative relationship with external partners.
Interestingly enough, while IT leaders generally are focused on the technology, information technology is not #1 of the 5 elements of IT leadership, but rather employees are—they are identified at the top of the list—and the author states that CIO’s should tackle these issues in the order presented.
Further, of the 5 key IT leadership elements, fully 3—or 60% are all about people and relationships, not technology. #1 are employees, #4 is business-IT partnership (customers), and #5 is external collaboration or outreach.
So unfortunately for our organizations, people are the all too forgotten (or neglected) 60%.
I do want to note that I do not fully agree on the order presented by Mr. High; in particular I do not think the customer should be 4th on the list, but rather as the customer represents the mission and the requirements to carry it out, the customer should be unquestionably to me at the very top of the list of IT leadership focus—always. We are here to serve them, period.
Overall though, the key point is that IT leaders need to reorient themselves to people and not overemphasize the technology itself, because if they generally respect and take care of the people and the relationships, the technology will follow and be more successful then ever.