Realizing the position of an IT department within the company

The Landscape
Imagine the structure of a somewhat reasonably sized company. You’ve got the purchasing, sales, accountancy, production,… the IT department. All departments depend on each other to get the global job done. It’s the job of IT, to make sure that the other departments can do their job efficiently, according to the information technology/resources available.

Strangely enough, not all IT departments realize that they are actually working FOR their company. They are aware that they work within a company. It’s not merely about maintaining the infrastructure, and doing end-user support. It’s about providing the service of increasing efficiency for every department!

The “end-user”
Everyone’s read them, the jokes about the everlasting moron end-users who don’t have a clue what the hell they are doing. I have to admit, I like to read those as well. But if you look past the fun-factor of them, and to the company impact of the situation, what do you see? You should see a part of the company engine, that’s malfunctioning! So why is this person malfunctioning? Did we provide the means for this person to do his/her job without any hassle?

Is there an education program within the company? Either by a HR policy that states which knowledge people should obtain, or by a ‘simple’ (electronic) tutorial that points out how everything works. I refuse to accept that the people are “stupid”, I see them as “wrongly trained”. Do you send out an accountant to a customer for a sales presentation? No, why should you… It isn’t his/her job, and (s)he wasn’t trained to do so. So if we let an end-user work with equipment without the means to know how it works, then we shouldn’t complain if they have questions/issues.

Statement I : IT should provide the (awareness of the need for) training.

A simple example of this can be found in the security area: People are the weakest link. If you don’t train users to be aware of the security risks, then you leave your network (read: Corporate/Confidential Information) open!

What the user sees:

  • The 101 different set of programs, each with its own specific (but again slightly different) menu structure.
  • Causing the user to remember 31 different user names, and 6 different passwords.
  • All accessed from different locations, at different speeds.

Can you blame the user to be confused? Hell, I’m an IT guy, and it isn’t all clear to me on occasions. Think SSO (Single Sign On) and a house style within custom applications. I’ve seen it too many times, but yet I cannot get accustomed to it. And think again, I shouldn’t get accustomed to it?!? We all know the KISS principle. It is a methology that we tech guys use to make sure the system isn’t too complex. The tech part is the engine of the application, but it’s often forgotten to apply the principle to the the steering (read: gui/interface/…) too.

Statement II : IT should provide a uniform environment for the end-users which is simple to use.

Religion often expresses the following statement; “Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you.” If you like simple systems yourself, don’t impose complex matters upon others.

Business Process SLA
A business has a certain flow. The most basic one:

  • Purchasing buys materials
  • Accountancy pays for the materials
  • Production transforms those materials into a product
  • Sales sales this product to customers
  • Accountancy bills those customers

So far, so good? Okay. IT is the oil that makes sure all those departments have the means to work together in an orderly and efficient matter. The IT crowd consist mostly of tech profiles. They focus on technology, and sometimes forget that the technology is there for aiding the business.

Supplying the business with (internal) SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) about the network, fileservers, mailservers, internet, etc is kinda idiotic if you think of it? Why should a CEO care (let alone understand) that there is a 99,99999% SLA on server X. What the CEO wants is that the business processes aren’t interrupted. It would be like making sure that person Y is available 24/7. Whilst person X, who provides the input for person Y, only works halftime.

Statement III : IT should provide SLA’s on business processes.

The idea is to put SLA’s on the flow of your business processes. If a sales guy should be able to log a sale into the system within 30 seconds at all times of the day… Then make sure your system does that. Think about what your customers want, not about what you currently provide. They do not care about your servers, just in the same manner you don’t care about their prospects.

Face off
To conclude today’s article…

Statement IV : IT should provide innovations for the business.

Every time a CIO has a high level corporate meeting (S)he should provide at least three ideas that have a positive impact on the business. Ideas that provide an increase in efficiency or a significant advantage over the competitors.
If the business isn’t capable of keeping up with the market, how healthy do you think the company will remain…

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