Business’ Abuse of IT People

By | June 27, 2009

I just want to give a shout-out to all those IT people working their butts off everyday and taking crap for it.

Over the years I've been witness to IT people being abused by the business for not delivering, when in fact, it's the business putting IT in a "no win" position.

One one hand, the business expects IT to make sure that computing resources are used effectively and that costs are kept in check. This includes application procurement, development and computing infrastructure. However, the business also expects IT to not stand in their way when they want to get something done.

Question for the business, "how do you expect IT to keep costs in check and optimize resources when you demand the ability to do whatever you want whenever you want using whatever tools and people you want?"

Look, over the years, I've been a big supporter of IT needing to operating in "business time" and I still believe it is an important goal. That said, one of the major hindrances to this is the lack of adherence to standards where they exist and the end-runs around IT when the business doesn't like the choices IT makes.

IT, this doesn't mean you're off the hook to accommodate the business. Remember, we're here to support he business, not the other way around. You need to pick standards that make sense to the majority of users. Make sure you have done effective enterprise architecture design before making decisions on products and standards; especially products. Don't be swayed by vendors promises. Make sure the business agrees to the value proposition.

One thought on “Business’ Abuse of IT People

  1. Patricia Woods

    I agree that business can be unreasonable….but we in IT are enablers. When the industry shifted from the IT driven "mother, may I?" model of development where IT blocked every innovation in order to maintain statis, to a more customer focused. "whatever you want, dear" model, the sustainability issue got lost.

    The sad truth is that you can get anything to work over the short term. Applications can be punted into production without the infrastructure, process and procedures to keep them up and running and therein lies the potential for abuse. The business likes their shiny new toys and always wants more, but keeping those new toys shiny and new is the hard part….and the part for which they do not want to pay. With no budget for technical debt, IT scrambles to keep everything up and running on undersized, overly complex and poorly understood layers of technology…oh, we understand the individual pieces, but not the interworkings in many cases. Multiple teams use and abuse services and components unto the breaking point. Servers are on rolling restarts which keep the system looking like it is working while we are looking for solutions….without business finding out that their applications really don't work all that well.

    In the meantime…the business has been busy thinking up new ideas to add to the existing system. We permit what I call the "Chirstmas Tree Effect" where a once stable application gets ornamented with interconnections to other applications, and addtional functionality, ehdlessly, not because it is a good idea, but because the customer wants it. This ornamentation continues until the underlying infrastucture begins to sag and we have to prop it up….constantly.

    Then they look at costs of maintaining all that they have demanded and are shocked. The move is to go get cheaper labor….new toys anything but look at decisions already made and beginning to address the technical debt already incurred. In a fit of frustration and impatience…they throw out all existing software and buy off the shelf stuff….from a vendor who knows this game very well….and has built the costs of customization into the model at a price that strongly discourages it. The business accepts the discipline and is much happier for it. They fire their in-house guys…accept some limits on what they are allowed to demand and we get out walking papers. We have allowed ourselves to be portrayed as the problem…and I am not sure that they are wrong.

    We need to learn how to speak truth to the business. We need to include total costs of ownership in our project calculations and measure that against total return on investment so that business is forced to acknowledge that their new "feature" is expensive, produces no additional revenue, and is costly to maintain. Until that happens, we are going to be the fall guys for every bad business decision.

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