Friday, April 11, 2014

Go Looking For Trouble

Yes, I mean it.  If you are a leader within IT, especially a CIO, you need to go looking for trouble.

In the modern model for business, there is a structure that defines roles that people fill in order to do work.  There are many variations on the structure but in general, this is what you'll see:

  • Executive - the "flag" level officers including the CEO who set company strategy
  • Legal - handles all matters related to law
  • Accounting/Finance - balances the books, keeps money flowing, handles investments
  • Operations - in charge of making things, supply chain, quality
  • HR - takes care of the people-centric issues, manages talent, recruits
  • Sales - makes sure that customers actually buy products
  • Marketing - makes people want to buy the products
There are many other functions: Safety, Environmental, Security, Facilities, R&D.  Almost without exception, you'll see the same model in one variation or another in any organization you choose to look.

Obviously I left IT out of the list above.   Unlike all the rest, depending on where you look, IT could be under any of the other functions or as a "flag" level role reporting to the CEO.  Some might argue that Marketing should not be one of the possible homes for IT but with the emergence of the "Chief Marketing Officer", sometimes the CIO is combined with the CMO.

The point is easily made that all the line functions have very specific duties.  You would never see Supply Chain called in to fix a problem with the monthly accounting close.  Nor would you see Legal brought in to fix an issue with manufacturing on the shop floor.  It would just be ridiculous to see HR managers going out on a sales call to close a major deal with an international customer. 

HOWEVER, with all of the situations above it would not only be possible but highly likely that IT would be called to assist.  I've said it before and I will say it again.  The Information Technology function of a company is the only discipline that supports every other part of the firm.  Ask yourself this question.  "How many business processes within my company can function optimally without some type of IT product or service?"  If you're being honest (and no, cleaning the bathroom isn't a "business process"), it will be hard to name a single one.

So, if you're a CIO or a leader of IT personnel and resources, you should not only expect to participate in every part of the corporation's business processes, you must understand that this is your job.  But if you want to be "great", not just good, one of your primary goals should be to constantly be out looking for trouble.

Why should you go looking for trouble?  Shouldn't the work that is brought to you be enough to keep you and your staff busy?  The answer is that the more trouble you find, the less will show up on your doorstep.  I once heard a CIO say to me, "If my phone isn't ringing that's a sign that I'm doing a good job."  WRONG.  In the world of technology, something is always broken or in need of improvement.  Being proactive in finding issues grants the flexibility to deal with them on your terms and in your time frame.  As a side benefit, people will appreciate you that much more because you're not just proactive - you are demonstrating that you care about your colleagues and customers.

How much benefit can you get in terms of good will if you have company standard of deploying 24" monitors and you find someone suffering with a 17" dinosaur and you have it swapped out?  How much money could you save the company by going to the shop floor and discovering that three out of four bar code readers are broken and you can have that fixed in a day?

In the world of IT, if you really want to be both effective AND appreciated, go out looking for trouble.  Rest assured that it is always there and always will be.  Meeting it head-on rather than waiting for it will set you far apart from a desk jockey cycling through help desk tickets.

No comments:

Post a Comment