Turning It Around
So what is the remedy and how do you make your organization deserving of excellent IT? Bearing Point's Shipham believes the one change that can have the most impact is to get the people within the business and technology groups to be engaged in an appropriate way. This is not a question of engaging any particular organizational model or structure - Shipham says he has seen all manner of structures deployed - but of looking at the way the two groups engage and communicate and work together.
"I think that is number one: The IT department needs to do measurement and long-term planning, it needs to have a good sense of where the business is heading, and therefore what type of systems and platforms may be needed," he says. "Forward planning is probably number two. Number three is the need to do a realistic assessment of what they [the IT department] are doing. The fact that they can do one implementation of technology very well doesn't mean that they can do another.
"You continually see organizations take on things which in essence have as much an element of research and R&D as they have a project implementation. They are learning as they go. It's very hard to gain measures around time, cost and quality if you're still learning what the project is all about."
CIOs must also recognize that a person who is able to build a 10-storey commercial building is not the right person to build a 100-storey building or a tunnel or a bridge. The CIO needs to do realistic assessments and have the best possible management processes in play. "And the tools to some extent are not the issue here," Shipham says. "It's about having a realistic assessment of what your capabilities are and what the risks are around the project, so that you can work out where you might need to do things differently.
"What is it that the CEO and top management team expects? What are their expectations? If they don't think IS can do too much at all well, the CIO is not going to be able to get strategic initiatives off the ground. He or she needs to educate them and manage their expectations.
"On the other hand, if the senior executives in top management think IS can revolutionize everything that the organization is doing, then it is the CIO's role to inform and educate the top management team about the true capabilities of IS within the organization. You both manage them upwards and bring them back down to a realistic viewpoint on what IS can legitimately do for that organization," he says. Then the CEO and top management team will be much more deserving of excellent, purpose-built IT, and it will simultaneously become much easier to provide.
And that's a situation you'd think any savvy CEO would appreciate, especially if you believe that an organization indeed gets the IT they deserve.
* For nit-pickers: Yes, I know that the expression is actually "just deserts", but you try finding a picture of a desert. However, in the interest of fair play I did leave the correct version in the story itself. - Ed
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