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Monday, 12 September 2016 14:57

3 of the Biggest Issues IT Leaders Face Today

Take some time to reflect on these issues and analyze them.  

No one has to the ability to predict precisely what will happen in the future and the promises of vendors claiming to "solve issues" with the latest and greatest fad isn't all that magical.  You don’t have to have a crystal ball to identify the challenges which might lie ahead for IT leaders. All we have to do is apply what issues IT Leaders struggled with historically within the industry and unite it with the current trend to likely foresee the problems that lie ahead. 

Each year IT has been among the most challenging areas of the business and each year brings about a new set of triumphs and mishaps. But does it really?  The one thing that remains constant in my twenty something years in IT, are the issues and what changes is the technology.  The industry is being scrutinized by their peers each claiming they have the end all be all solutions to the perils of detriment in IT day to day operations.  This places additional pressure upon IT Leaders to be more focused and watchful than ever before.  Why is that?  Because, in IT every project, service improvement plan and decision is approached from the technical aspect.  Everything must make sense and if you can't see it, control it, deploy it then it doesn't exist. With technology advancements IT people are struggling still with the same ol-same-ol problems that existed over 20 years ago.  How can that be?  When do the leaders in IT "get it" that people are at the heart of every activity therefore the focus and the answer to "how to" solve said issues lies within the people in the organization.  

Here are three critical issues likely to confront IT Leaders that which impacts the organizations capability to service the business successfully: 

1. Chasing fads and trusting vendors "false promises"

In the market today there isn't a lack of vendor support for just about every aspect of IT.  Vendor services are vast and vendors are in demand for customers.  Something to remember when a sales pitch has you believing customers need them as they promise their solutions are the best and cheapest available on the market. Vendors marketing savvy conforms to the desperation of IT Leaders willingly leaving the burden to solve the issues they face in the vendors hands.  Big mistake! Vendor talk is smooth, exactly what you want to hear, and almost always their product/service delivers about 50-60% of what they promised it would do.  IT Leaders must step up and be accountable and expect the same from their vendors.  Choose based on need, not on want or fantasy wishes. Unicorns do exist in my world, but I realistically know they do not exist in IT.  There are no magic potions, or heros on horses saving the day and making everything right within IT.  

Some ways to spot false promises and select the best vendors for the business. 

1. Define the criteria on which IT management will select vendors on and document it.  This will provide a level of consistency on vendor selection through out the IT organization.  Any vendor interested in becoming authorized to provide services will need to apply for it.  You shouldn't engage with a vendor without knowing who they are and what they do. Use this document to evaluate vendor promises effectively through the selection process. 

Evaluate vendors on need -

  • Does the product/service have the capability to advance IT so the business can be competitive.
  • Does the product/service meet 90% or more of the functional requirements?
  • Is the product scalable and will it grow with the business?  essentially, determine up front what the timeline of usage is for the product/service. Most times this is a huge detriment when the expectations aren't met in accordance to the timeline of the business and adds extra costs that weren't planned for. 

The most common fault in vendor's promises is the ideal their services are perfect to suit your business.  Well, that may be the case in theory, but does the vendor really understand the requirements and what expectation you, the customer has.  Can a vendor fully understand the requirements and if it's a good fit like you can?  No, so there is a level of trust and instinct in addition to factual research on the vendors portfolio and reputation in the industry.  A confident vendor doesn't necessarily mean the best one to choose. Do the diligence in fact checking their claims, do a background check on the company and people delivering the products/services and ensure their levels of service match the expectations of the business exactly. 

2. Recruitment and Retention

Recruiting and retaining people resources is always a challenge. Currently and into the foreseeable future, it’s going to be even harder to keep the people you have.  Good employees will be lost due to competition, routine layoffs, off-shoring, outsourcing and skill association to technology.  The most successful IT organizations do not give in to the pressures of cycling out employees (temporary resources).  They understand the most invaluable asset to IT are the people who understand the business and apply their IT skills to enable the business to be competitive.  IT Leaders are missing the boat on this one, because they are making decisions on staffing from a ledger sheet. Giving in to demands to layoff, and hire new. Dangerous cycle and trap to wasting money, and damaging productivity.  The reality turnover is expensive regardless of who initiated the separation. 

A recent article in Harvard Business Review states "Our recent research on leadership transitions demonstrates that nearly 40% of internal job moves made by people identified by their companies as “high potentials” end in failure".  The article also states that "Even more striking, 12% of all the high potentials in the companies we studied said they were actively searching for a new job—suggesting that as the economy rebounds and the labor market warms up, organizations may see their most promising employees take flight in large numbers".

Nowadays, insourcing restrictions, understaffing, and the fear of making a mistake that will bring scrutiny and perhaps termination is difficult to overcome. It will take extra commitment to human resources to overcome the perils of retaining quality employees. 

As always, strong, competent leadership and a healthy relationship with the organization will offset negativity and maintain the spirit of the business that it rightly deserves. 

Suggested ways to recruit and retain people:

  • Hire only the best players based on character.  Technical skills can be taught, character comes from nature, you want to select most of your staff based on character. 
  • Technical roles, stay technical and ensure securing the most skilled based on performance, experience, and ability to deliver on time and within specifications.  Request a technical portfolio complete with documentation they have created, references and blueprints is applicable to the job.
  • Create a values driven culture.  Having core values clearly stated that employees can get behind will bring cohesiveness within the organization which will result in higher performance.
  • Empower your staff in decision making, and creativity.  Not all perceptions of good ideas exist only in leaders. In each of us is a purpose and a wealth of knowledge and creativity.  Every individual has a unique perception and experience within the business. Utilize it to be advantageous in the business.  

3. Too much Emphasis on ROI

The objectives to ROI are to financially quantify what the increased sales or productivity would be to the bottom line. By converting the improvement measures to money and comparing that value to the cost, the IT Leader can see the ultimate contribution of the technology, service or program.  Sometimes the objective would be to break even but an ROI objective allows leaders to monitor that.  Although ROI objectives are useful, I believe too much emphasis is a detriment to effectively reaching the goals of the business.  

ROI, Return on Investment is the financial measure that also tracks the total cost of IT and used as an assessment on where cutbacks can be made on expenses. This is a danger to the business. When the focus in all decisions are continually driven by ROI, the business creates a high risk of service failure, higher cost to bringing in new resources, and the loss of customers.  Why? because IT, as a partner to the business must maintain the technical infrastructure and attain high levels of service delivery which involves a reasonable investment that aligns to the necessary requirements to keep the business competitive.  

Most often, IT leaders focus on sustainability and on keeping the business running, when instead they should be focusing on supporting the business to be competitive, and engage in a partnership alliance with the Business Leaders. 

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