Between Analysts, Bloggers and Software Vendors – I think a lot have been done to demoralize IT professionals already. A lot of fantastic IT people that I know have started to feel insecure and unwanted. This includes many of my friends and mentees. In the last few months – I have had innumerable conversations about this with my friends who work at customer companies, SI companies, HW companies etc. I think it is a huge mistake to downplay IT like it is done now – and just wanted to post a few thoughts here.
First – IT absolutely needs to evolve, just like every other part of the enterprise. And I think that is already happening. I don’t see any IT experts I know who live under a rock. If there are any – then yes, they should feel insecure and unwanted and all that.
But lets look at other parts of the enterprise to see how IT compares. Take HR for example – how many companies can boast of a lean super efficient HR system where talent management, career progression, complaint redressal, succession etc are all efficiently done? Many companies I know struggle with most of these functions, just like they struggled when I started my career. The big improvement has been in payroll processing – like outsourced payroll etc, which happened not only because of business model changes – but also due to great IT innovations. Or lets take sales – several large enterprises still do most of their sales like they did 20 years ago, with good sales people knocking on doors (literally and figuratively). Many of them have complicated and manual approval processeses that I did not understand in the 90s, and I still don’t get them. The parts that improved – like cloud based sales force automation, pricing optimization, etc all happened because of IT innovations. Look at engineering – machine design got a huge uplift in large part because CAD got sophisticated over years, and computers can now handle heavy duty collaborative design seamlessly.
If none of that sounds impressive – imagine the business impact if the IT systems that handle sales orders or payroll goes down ( please don’t say “that is why we should move to cloud” as your response – cloud goes down too ). Yet – the “business” side of the house doesn’t get anywhere near the criticism that IT gets. And IT gets very little credit for jobs well done.
For sure, there is some significant complacency in IT – many IT people feel entitled. Several have not kept pace with the latest and greatest. But on a relative scale – are developers and DBAs worse off in this matter compared to colleagues in HR and sales? My answer is an emphatic NO.
Software vendors and SIs do make a claim that they are all about business solutions. This is of course the right message – IT’s job is to solve business problems . However, this message is now interpreted as “We are all about business, and we don’t care about IT”. That is not how it works in real companies – even in departmental purchases (like it often happens in BI for example) , at some point – integration, security etc will come into play. Not involving IT upfront almost always results in grief and extra cost down the line. I have seen many CXOs repent that they did not involve IT upfront in their procurement decisions.
Some IT folks have morphed into procurement experts – and I am not sure of this is good or bad. Procurement skills are important – since a good part of the job involves dealing with Vendors. However, the way this has translated in many companies is that the sole focus is on price reduction. If IT and the actual procurement department both focus strictly on price – the vendor gets very little opportunity to explain the value of the solution. And this usually is behind the reason why IT vendors like to establish relationships with business side of their customers so that they can also present the value side of the equation, and not just cost. The mature IT organizations act as orchestrators – pulling in business, procurement and all other stake holders – and enabling and advising and coaching all the parties including the vendors. That is where IT adds value in “buy” decisions. I have learned a lot from such IT experts – and I am grateful for that learning.
Then there is the whole cloud argument – that cloud makes IT obsolete. Nothing could be farther from truth. Cloud definitely is the future – but it will be a very long time till everything moves to the cloud. And since the predominant pattern in cloud is for customers to buy best of breed solutions – someone needs to integrate all the disparate solutions between themselves, and also to the on-premises systems. Same holds true for security. And who will advise the business colleagues on HA/DR etc for cloud purchases? Even in the case where most of the landscape is shifted to cloud, IT jobs won’t go away. The cloud companies – hosting companies, data centers, application companies et al need the same skills that customer companies used to need.
So, my friends in IT – don’t feel that you are any less important than your colleagues in other parts of the organization. You are every bit as important – and an equal partner in making sure your company meets its goals. Stop thinking of “business and IT” as two things. “business” is not your customer – they are your partner. You both have only one customer – you know, the people who sign checks etc 🙂
But please don’t sit back and be happy with status quo – complacency is the only thing that can make you obsolete. Learn more about usability, design , organiational behavior and most importantly – learn how the business of your company really works . Adapt and evolve – ALL THE TIME !