I am not given to swearing, so I apologise for the language, but there is no other accurate enough description for this issue.
I am sick of corporate IT’s bullshit.
There are a few recent incidents that have sparked this reaction in me, although it’s been a long time in coming.
One of my clients needed a few videos from me. Too big to email, I can’t Dropbox or Wetransfer these as an FTP site is blocked to this client. I can’t send it on memory stick because all external ports are blocked on all machines. They just cannot get large files. They can get small email attachments, but nothing else. Do IT not know that virus files are tiny?
Another client used HDMI connectors in their auditorium. Nice and up to date. But HDMI does not allow you to control volume via your laptop (someone still has to explain that backwards step to me – but that would be a different rant). The volume was too high, so I made my way to the control room to turn it down. It was locked. Only IT had access. We called and someone from IT arrived. The digital control panel wasn’t working, so we looked for the manual volume control. This was inside a locked control box, which an outsourced IT company managed. No keys on site. They were called and sent three people to assist. At what cost and inconvenience do we have a locked control panel – and what benefits? No benefits that I can see.
Another client chatted to me about a computer system that was about to be launched. It was an internal HR system to be implemented across a multinational group with more than 50,000 staff. The system had taken more than five years to build, and the HR team felt it was now so out of date as to be almost useless, but they had to use it anyway because of the IT sunk costs. Any piece of software that takes 5 years to build in today’s fast-paced world is by definition useless.
Over the years, I’ve seen this sort of thing over and over. Companies that are trying to make their way into the digital world of social media, but cannot access any social sites because IT has blocked them all. This includes HR not having access to YouTube or TED talks for education, or marketing not having access to a social platform that they might want to advertise on.
And don’t get me started on hotels that charge for wifi access, and/or absolutely rip off their own customers with extortionate data price packages. Enough already.
I could go on, but I hope the point is made. There are so many ways IT makes the average day at the office worse, not better:
- Bad wifi.
- Crazy hoops for visitors to jump through to get access to wifi in your buildings.
- Lack of remote access to systems.
- No BYOD.
- Outdated software.
- Restrictive access controls.
- Blocked web access.
- Presentation rooms not working at all. The worst is when they’ve set up Apple TV or a wifi-enabled connection, but the lag is so slow, watching videos is practically impossible.
- Most IT departments treat their business colleagues worse than bad parents treat delinquent children.
- Do you have any examples – add in the comments below.
So, this is a wide-ranging rant. But it points to one key point: the way most organisations do IT is broken. IT itself is broken (with a few notable exceptions), but it’s more than that. It’s the whole approach and all the underlying assumptions and values around IT that need urgent updating.
If you’re in the IT department, I can hear you shouting from here: “It’s not our fault”. That may or may not be true. But I do hear you. Most IT problems are the result of poor decisions made by non-IT senior managers. In this day and age, if companies have rubbish IT, then the company itself is failing. It isn’t just the fault of the IT department. It’s the fault of the senior management who frequently neither understand nor involve IT in the business. The biggest proof that it’s the whole system that is broken is how people inside corporates just accept IT’s bullshit. If I worked in any of these companies I would become IT’s worst nightmare, demanding changes. But most people I know just accept what IT says and does with a resigned shrug. That’s not acceptable. It’s not good enough from IT and not good enough from everyone else. And senior leadership is so non-tech-enabled they don’t even know. The whole system is stuffed up.
Before I suggest some responses, here’s a fun advert from SportsCenter on this topic
So, with the rant out of the way, the question is what we should do about all this.
If you’re in corporate IT, I say simply: don’t get defensive. Read what has been said above (and maybe in the comments below), and realise that this is the perception of your function in the business. If you think this doesn’t apply to you in your organisation, I ask you simply how you can be sure. If you are sure, and your IT department is awesome, then well done. If not, there are a few simple (well, conceptually anyway) solutions for you:
- Stop saying “no” and start finding ways to say “yes”. Stop being the compliance police and start looking for ways to enable the rest of the business.
- Think of your colleagues as customers. And treat them as such.
- Many of the issues highlighted above are a direct result of management/business policies, and IT often feels it’s out of their hands. It’s not. It’s most likely a symptom of corporate cost-cutting and leaders who view IT as a liability rather than an asset and then refuse to invest in IT. I know it can be tiring for those in IT, but you obviously need to do a better job of explaining your value to the decision makers in your business so they stop seeing IT as a drain on their costs and instead need to embrace what IT can do to move them forward.
- The sooner businesses move to the cloud and start outsourcing IT elements that are not key to their business, the better. The reason cloud is the future is not just the technology, it’s because it frees you up to be faster, more responsive and agile.
- Stop hiring only IT techies for your IT team. IT is becoming more and more about the user experience, and that means you need designers, artists, copywriters, journalists, process engineers and people with similar skills. IT people tend to only hire IT people for their teams, though.
Here’s another fun video from the Little Britain comedy series. It’s where “Computer says NO” comes from as a phrase:
If you’re not from IT but are frustrated by the IT department in your organisation, here’s what I recommend (note, these might not all be career-advancing options, and might not fit your personality – follow this advice at your own risk):
- Take back your systems, move to the cloud and look for outsourced solutions for your department. This is especially true for HR and Finance. This might be a crazy step for you to consider, but at least talk about it with your team: just don’t use corporate IT.
- A less drastic step would be to shift some of what your team does to the cloud. Use Dropbox, Yammer, Slack, Google business tools (sheets, docs, hangouts, etc) and other systems that allow you to bypass your corporate systems.
- You could also try and move IT into your department, rather than having them separate. If this is not possible, at least make one of your team the “key account manager” for the relationship between your team and IT. Make this relationship a priority and work on it. Think of IT as one of your key clients.
- The IT department ultimately reports to the Executive leadership and beyond them to the Board. Just escalate your concerns up the chain, and have the Exec team fight this out as senior leaders. IT should not be allowed to impose their rules on the organisation – they should serve it. Take this analogy: let’s say HR decided to say “we’re not going to employ black people in our organisation.” They would not be allowed to get away with this, regardless of what data and arguments they used to back up their decision. The organisation would overrule them. The same needs to happen in the technology space.
- Develop your and your team’s IT abilities – learn some of the language, understand the systems, and know how to speak to and about IT. I think IT has been able to get away with the BS for a long time because most senior leaders have been clueless and ill-informed about technology.