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Why Do Business Managers Hate IT?

It takes ITSM and a lot of communication to turn IT's image around, but it can be done, writes ITSM Watch guest columnist Patricia Bramhall of Tydak.
May 10, 2006

Patricia Bramhall

Is it because the IT department over commits? Or because of poor communications, a mismanaged expectation, unclear service agreements or is all this just perception? Even if it is, how many times have you heard the old adage “perception is reality?”

Just recently we were engaged by a technology firm to change the image of their IT department. Discussion included an IT service management program, but the CTO felt that the size of the company didn’t warrant a formal “program.”

This client presented a unique challenge to our firm. For years it has been the feeling of the owner (a technology professional) that IT is underappreciated due to a lack of understanding as to what IT does for the organization. This client is a technology company and we made the assumption that they knew better. Boy, were we surprised.

Even in a technology company it is still critical that IT explain their value to the business every single day. Every meeting, memo, and newsletter is just such an opportunity. There is nothing to be gained by making people in the company, particularly those that decide where money is to be spent, guess what services IT delivers, when and how they will be delivered, and at what cost.

The IT department is a service organization. They do not generate revenues. However, technology improvements can impact the revenues generated by others in a positive or negative way. Therefore, the burden of proof is on IT management.

Technology is something that all companies incorporate into their day-to-day business practices. So why is it that IT managers do not develop marketing plans to promote IT and the products and services they offer?

It happens in every line of business. Procurement displays their achievements for all to see; they post numbers to demonstrate their negotiating skills. We often hear the department head say, “We were able to save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars through our expertise.”

Then they provide a list of the various contracts and agreements signed for that year with the retail price in one column and the negotiated price in the other with a tally at the bottom reflective of the total annual savings for the organization.

Displaying the savings for all to see allows everyone to better understand the role of Procurement and their contribution to the organization. They save the company money by negotiating good deals with vendors and partners.

This same logic applies to the IT department. Business managers don’t know what exactly IT does and they certainly don’t know how it impacts the bottom line. What they do know is that IT spends a lot of money and every time they ask for something it’s a challenge. Right or wrong, that is how it is seen.

So what is the big difference between Procurement and IT? One department knows how to demonstrate and measure their value and the other does not. What can IT do to catch-up?

For starters, IT needs to explain in a very concise and clear manner how they contribute directly to the profitability of the organization. This can best be accomplished through well defined ITSM (IT service management) programs and strong communication plans.

As ITSM consultants, we work with clients to improve the image of the IT department. But any IT manager can do this by listening to your business managers, knowing what the perception of IT is and working to move it in the desired direction.

To truly be valued and respected by the business IT must not only follow a good marketing plan, they must also implement a strong ITSM program to include: standard ITIL foundation as well as, defined services; publish a service catalog; implement SLAs (agreed to and signed by the business managers); produce reports and metrics that reflect IT’s impact to the company; display accomplishments; show off the department by bringing in the business managers and showing them what is done; and employ a constant improvement plan that includes business managers (no one can deliver good service if you don’t know what your customer wants!).

Developing a marketing strategy and service management program does take time and effort, however, the value received from internal customers will carry IT into the next decade. The support from business for projects will soon follow.

Finally, for IT to succeed, IT managers must get out of their offices and spend time with customers. Get to know your business managers and let them know you.

Patricia Bramhall is the founder and principal of Tydak, a consulting group dedicated to improving the effectiveness of IT in business.