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The Disconnect Between Management and the Value of IT

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the grab-some-better-educated-managers dept.

Businesses 333

DavidHumus writes "According to a Wall St. Journal article top executives at most companies fail to recognize the value of IT, having a tendency to think of information technology as a basic utility, like plumbing or telephone service. The article lists five primary reasons for 'the wall' between IT and business: 'mind-set differences between management staff and IT staff, language differences, social influences, flaws in IT governance (defined as the specification and control of IT decision rights), and the difficulty of managing rapidly changing technology.' Does this fully explain the extreme lack of understanding of IT at high executive levels? The article is even-handed in apportioning blame but touches on a few good points. In particular, how '[m]ost top executives ... think of IT as an expensive headache that they'd rather not deal with.'"

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333 comments

utilities are important (5, Insightful)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714820)

According to a Wall St. Journal article top executives at most companies fail to recognize the value of IT, having a tendency to think of information technology as a basic utility, like plumbing or telephone service.

I think this comment shows a failure to recognize the value of basic utilities.

Re:utilities are important (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714934)

But does the plumbing infrastructure need to be redone every few years?

Re:utilities are important (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715036)

Depends on how often your staff has "Taco Day" in the lunchroom.

Re:utilities are important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715334)

Every big building I've been in has at least one broken toilet all the time.
Most have guys going around replacing lights.

Goatse 2.22.0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22714958)

Goatse 2.22.0 released Wednesday 12 March 2008 [twofo.co.uk]

You nerds love it.

Amen! (4, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715024)

Price != value.

Basic utilities are immensely valuable. Imagine how much less productive your office would be if it didn't have phones, electricity, or indoor plumbing.

The fact that these items cost only a fraction of their contribution doesn't mean the same is true for IT.

The key difference is that most basic utilities are or have historically been regulated and their price set at the cost of production plus a reasonable profit. Where they are not regulated they are theoretically kept reasonable by market pressures or political pressures.

Employment of knowledge-workers on the other hand is different:
Each job is unique. Each worker is unique. Leaving one employer for another you hope will be better takes time and effort, as does "getting rid of" a less productive worker and replacing him with someone you hope will be more productive. For these reasons, if someone's pay, benefits, and working conditions are "close enough" to what both the employer and employee think are fair, the employee probably won't quit and he probably won't be "gotten rid of."

Phones make people productive? O RLY? (5, Insightful)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715200)

Basic utilities are immensely valuable. Imagine how much less productive your office would be if it didn't have phones, electricity, or indoor plumbing.
I'd be more productive without the demon-ridden telephone, as it would be harder for people to interrupt me.

Re:Phones make people productive? O RLY? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715308)

This goes to show my point:

For the small price of an LED, I have the near-infinite value of a "do not disturb" button on my phone.

For the price of a screwdriver and a very good knife, I can cut the lead to the "message waiting" lamp.

Now I've got a phone that works on my terms.

Re:Phones make people productive? O RLY? (3, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715646)

My message light has been red for months, it doesn't flash, so I can pretty much ignore the always-on light (it only turns off if I ever check my voice mail). I use a headset, so the phone only makes a short beep when it rings. I look at caller id to see if I want to answer it and if not, it won't continue to ring. Best arrangement I've ever had for a phone. The use is retained, the annoyance factor is not. Everyone who knows me (including business partners) knows that if they want to reach me, the phone is the worst avenue. Most of the time, they IM to say "can I call you".....of course I would love to answer "no", but alas, I don't.

Layne

Re:Phones make people productive? O RLY? (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715704)

and then you have a mob of angry co-workers at your desk wondering why your not returning their calls?

or worse, your boss wondering the same thing...

Re:utilities are important (1)

dindi (78034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715156)

Agreed. In a non-IT related company IT is a basic utility. But you know what happens if your toiled clogs up, or when 500 employees cannot use phone, or brush their teeth/wash their hands after their lunch break.
I work for companies who have almost no in-house IT, and from time to time I am charging more for a few hours of work then what a full-time person would take there as a salary. I do not mean pc service, because that is handled by the local guy who knows windows and pc, but basic setups, web maintenance and things that would cost them very little with a full-time IT guy.

Re:utilities are important (3, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715344)

The point is that while water and electricity are crucial to a business, and providing them more efficiently helps the bottom line, there's no way for a business to get a significant strategic advantage from having hotter hot water*. The argument being made is that improvements in IT *can* give you such an advantage. (Of course, there's that guy from Harvard who periodically gets linked here arguing the opposite -- I have no idea.)

* Yes, there might exist businesses that might benefit significantly from hotter hot water. Please spare me your nerdly nitpicking.

Re:utilities are important (2, Funny)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715542)

and in the case of McDonalds, having hotter water can be a bit of a liability.

Re:utilities are important (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715506)

Well for plumbing services are usually a cost without any value to the company. Insuring if you have Hot Water or not, or if a toilet (Out of many) is clogged will not effect the companies profits. They need to to be fixed for health and safety reasons but they could be put off for a few hours or even days or weeks without it effecting the bottom line, unless employees start getting sick. Telephone services I would argue fall under IT as well, as telephones are a Information Technology.

Maintaining the pretence of superiority (5, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714862)


They missed something off the list. One of the biggest, if not the biggest barriers I see is the desperate attempts of managers to pretend they know more than their staff. This is never more apparent than in computers and the painful experiences I have had with managers who have to try and justify a higher salary whilst doing something which, at the end of the day, is less critical to the production of a product or service than the people who are actually developing it, have left me with nothing but pity for those managers. It's a terrible burden to have to try and instruct someone who knows a lot more about how to accomplish something than you do, and it tends to result in interference or denigration. Only a few non-technical managers I have had have had the confidence or humility to just ask me what the best thing they should decide is. And they were the best managers.

Re:Maintaining the pretence of superiority (4, Insightful)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714966)

To be fair, you have to realise how crappy at decision making most IT people are... If all managers had that "humility", even more projects would fail than they do now...

Manager: "Hmm....well, on this decision, I guess I'll have to delegate to you. Now, honestly, what do you think we should do??"
Dev: "Scrap the java codebase and start over from scratch in Ruby on Rails"
Manager: "Hmm...didn't we work on this for 10 years and have millions of lines of code invested, including stuff that we can't readily replace because we're still trying to replace that last senior dev?"
Dev: "Scrap the codebase and start over"
Manager: "Well...ok!"

That wouldn't go too well :) Now, some IT people have good decision making skills and can readily assist managers... but thats rare :)

Re:Maintaining the pretence of superiority (4, Interesting)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715378)

or in my case...

Me: "I have fleshed out our draft spec for the new Web site through a series of phone calls and emails over the last few weeks and the developers say they will be able to meet perhaps 80-90% of what you want by the tight deadline you have set and then they will roll out the remaining features over the next couple of weeks."

Director: "I am really concerned that the developers are so far away in another country"

Me: "Distance is not really a problem these days - and in any case, I have sounded out several of their customers and UK contacts and they have all recommended this team. Overall, they can do the job for a very good fee + offer the after-sales support."

Director: "I will think about it"

Email from Director 3 days later at 8pm one night:

"I have spoken to a friend and he has recommended a local company he knows so I have given them the contract."

So, for 3x the cost and over 8 months late we got a half-assed, closed-sourse site with bits still missing.

Boy do I feel valued round here. Thinking of moving? Funny you should say that...

Re:Maintaining the pretence of superiority (1)

DavidHumus (725117) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715166)

One of the best managers I had was one who pretended no such thing. He gave us credit for being knowledgeable in our field and trusted what we told him. He saw his job as standing between us and higher management as a buffer and as an advocate (both ways).

Good reasons? (2, Insightful)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715236)

Only a few non-technical managers I have had have had the confidence or humility to just ask me what the best thing they should decide is. And they were the best managers.

I knew one like that. He got fired for not knowing some tech buzz word that I can't even remember myself. Many of those guys are defensive for a reason: maybe because of their own irrational insecurities or maybe they've learned the hard way not to look "stupid".

Let's face it, if you don't know something, many, if not most, IT folks will be quick to criticize and pounce on the "stupid" person and give the poor bastard a bad rep that is almost to get rid of. I once worked somewhere on someone's code that I thought was designed quite well: it was tight, commented impeccably, excellent memory management (in 'C'), and it work as designed. I was told that the original coder has a horrible reputation as being "stupid". I just shook my head and said that I wish I were that "stupid". He was no longer with the company. He quit and got a better job - good for him!

Re:Good reasons? (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715370)


Let's face it, if you don't know something, many, if not most, IT folks will be quick to criticize and pounce on the "stupid" person and give the poor bastard a bad rep that is almost to get rid of.

Perhaps, but what you say is the likely outcome of someone being found out as ignorant. When someone actively comes to a programmer and says "I'm considering developing the project like X, do you see any issues with that," then they don't get jumped on, they get a lot of respect. Obviously people skills can make a difference in any direction, but all things being equal, I think asking your staff for information is way better than pretending you don't need to.

As a favourite character once said: "The only stupid questions are the ones you already know the answer to, and it's perfectly okay to ask those sometimes." Like a lot of behaviour we consider good or moral, it is behaviour that has a short term cost (appearing ignorant) for a long term benefit (not actually being ignorant). The article was about the disconnect between management and IT - I can't see much bigger contributor to that than trying to pretend that you know something better than your staff when you clearly don't. It's not like they're fooling anybody.

Re:Maintaining the pretence of superiority (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715374)

If you have the manager of accounting, HR, and sales with budget control and they are making purchasing decision of their IT equipment, you end up with a bunch of stuff that may or may not work together, may or may not work as planned, and an IT department struggling to make it work after the fact which makes them look bad. This increases the complexity of things removing many chances for automation and reduces the IT departments productivity which then raises costs and no one is happy. There is no way in hell that a manager of accounting has the resources or experience to make the best IT decisions, all they have is signature ability and many different sales reps hounding them to buy buy buy and giving them empty promises knowing the end of the budget year is approaching. THAT DOES NOT WORK! This is strickly opinion but that manager now also has to justify the decisions he made and may incorrectly try to place the blame on the IT department for failing to get it to work as advertised.

A "single" strong IT manager/department that works with the people in the different departments help determine their needs will provide a much better experience for everyone involved. You have the department expressing a goal and the IT department choosing the way to reach that goal. I've worked at both type of places.

No surpise. (4, Insightful)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714870)

The top execs are the true victims of the IT bubble and nonsense IT sales pitches they bought into that ended up just costing them and their company valuable time and resources. Add to that the possibility that they lost boatloads of personal capital on IT stocks, it should be enough to justify their phobia for the sector altogether.

To us IT folk, the nonsense might seem clear, but to those who are targeted and easily confused, treading waters softly is really a matter of safety, not ignorance.

Re:No surpise. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715346)

Posting AC from work.

Bear in mind, those who purchase IT services (Sr. Management) tend to rely on those most like themselves to advise said purchases - consultants and 'suit' salepeople. I am a consultant, my firm sells Big Software (ERP implementations, etc.) and let me tell you - there is a night and day difference between those who sell work and those who do work. I know a Managing Director who makes bank selling work, but does not know anything about tools - I had to explain to him what ACL was, and it is a standard tool at our firm. Likewise, our Oracle team (for example) are really great, knowledgeable people who *when given the chance to talk to client IT staff* do a very good job getting quality work done. The problem is, they don't get involved until after the deal is done, the schedule set and the stopwatch started. Management needs to learn 'what they don't know' and be willing to either understand some of the technical experts domain, or at least trust them (preferably both).

"top" execs (2, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715596)

The top execs are the true victims of the IT bubble and nonsense IT sales pitches they bought into that ended up just costing them and their company valuable time and resources. Add to that the possibility that they lost boatloads of personal capital on IT stocks, it should be enough to justify their phobia for the sector altogether.

So, we're talking about guys who
-jumped on the latest bandwagon without thinking about the actual usefulness of IT for their business
-or maybe were just afraid to look obsolete
-and wasted some of their own money buying the latest crap stock because it had ".com" in its name

Yeah right. Exactly the kind of guy who should NOT lead a company. Or at least only a company held privately, with himself as the only investor ;-)

IT attitudes (5, Insightful)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714884)

Perhaps the reason some businesses "don't want the headache" is do to the attitude of some IT departments. In my dealings, some of them (READ SOME) have the attitude that they are doing you a favor, just talking to you.

User Attitudes (5, Insightful)

alohatiger (313873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715472)

That's a bad attitude, but it develops as a defense to crappy user attitudes. "You NEED to fix this!" is the cry of the user who did something stupid/inappropriate and broke his computer.

Employees also tend to blame IT when they got caught browsing porn or running their home business at work.

User: "My computer is broken."
IT: "What's wrong?"
User: "I can't access Myspace"
IT: "That's because we block it."
User: "You suck!"

Re:IT attitudes (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715712)

Perhaps the reason some businesses "don't want the headache" is do to the attitude of some IT departments. In my dealings, some of them (READ SOME) have the attitude that they are doing you a favor, just talking to you.

They are. Tactical and strategic decisions rely on good information, and that means information technology. Without them, you're deaf, dumb and blind.

When you get down to it, an organization relies on the executive to have a "big picture" view and use that perspective to bring an intelligence to the actions of those that operate underneath them. As information technology makes this big picture easy to see for every member of the organization, it carves into the tasks that made the executive important in the first place.

Perhaps they're conscious of that threat?

If only we were treated as well as utilities (5, Interesting)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714886)

Where I work, our Facilities department gets whatever it wants. They take care of the generators, the lights, the A/C, etc. All things this place needs to keep running. We IT people get shafted at every opportunity because we "cost money," yet we take care of the servers and applications that keep this place running. Turn our stuff off, and it's as detrimental to the business as turning off all the lights. I can only dream of what being treated like a utility would be like. It must be nice.

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (3, Insightful)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715034)

Perhaps you should start encouraging equal recognition by lobbying management for pay parity with your facilities department.

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (5, Interesting)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715158)

You maybe are being sarcastic, but the average salary of our maintenance staff is the same as the average salary of our IT staff.

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (2, Interesting)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715150)

We IT people get shafted at every opportunity because we "cost money," yet we take care of the servers and applications that keep this place running. Turn our stuff off, and it's as detrimental to the business as turning off all the lights.
That is the IT Manager's fault. He/She should be selling the value of the department. You don't need to sell upper management the value of a phone, toilet, or lights because they were sold the value when they were kids - at home. However, their home probably did not have an IT closet next to the utility closet. Sure, in the back of their minds they know computers help productivity, but the value of the department hasn't been sold.

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715328)

If your office is anything like any other corporate office I know of your mail server goes down a lot more often than your A/C. Your internet connection is considerably less reliable than your lights or the toilets. You also make about twice as much money as the facilities guy. If your services are truly equally valuable then you need to be prepared to offer the same level of service for the same pay. But you can't. You require a LOT more pay for worse service. *shrug*

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (1)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715450)

Oh, if only that were true. See, we have this brand-spanking-new building with motion-activated paper-towel dispensers, automatic flushers in the toilets, and the fancy-pants climate control system. Things are failing CONSTANTLY. You can't keep a room at a constant temperature no matter what you do. The flushers like to flush _immediately_ after you stand up, and spray you with flush water before you can get your pants up. They also like to stop working altogether, and there's no manual flush outside of a button that engages the automatic device. If the autoflusher is busted, that button does nothing, and you leave behind a nice stinky mess for somebody else to discover.

In contrast, since this building opened, I have had exactly 3 service failures. Each lasted between 5 and 15 minutes. Nobody seems to notice this discrepancy, though, and facilities still gets a blank check for anything they need. I have to beg and plead for just a few thousand dollars.

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715826)

The squeaky wheel (or broken toilet) gets the cash......

Sounds like a time for the CEO's blackberry to stop working for a day or two.....especially if it's one where he's out golf---err meeting with his buddies and *their* blackberry's are still working. Don't bring the mail server down completely, because you don't want to hold the company hostage.....but a few hiccups here and there will probably get some money thrown your way.

Layne

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (1)

profplump (309017) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715762)

I think you're wrong on all counts:

A) The average office building could have the A/C off 65% of every week without affecting perceived quality of service. If IT had those kinds of maintenance windows on an email server I bet you'd never notice the downtime. Even for always-on systems like data-center cooling, the A/C undergoes regular maintenance and downtime, which is why no one installs a data center with a single cooling system.

B) Chiller maintenance is big business and even the techs they actually send out to do it make good money, on-par with grunt-level IT staff. And their bosses make more, just like yours do. The contracted cleaning crew making $8/hour is not doing your chiller maintenance (or if they are, you're gonna be in trouble next summer).

C) Comparing an "email service" to "lights" is like saying "but my bicycle never needs an oil change". Electric lights are 100+ year old technology with exactly one dependency -- electricity (and not even clean power at that) -- and one failure mode -- irreparably damaged. If your email server only needed electricity and could simply be replaced with a spare when it failed I'll bet IT could keep a few on-hand and give you similar reliability.

Re:If only we were treated as well as utilities (1)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715508)

Of course, when there's a facilities issue, they generally know the cause and what the fix would be within 30 minutes, if that. If it's an IT issue, it could take hours or days to even figure out the cause. And from my personal experience, if something physical breaks (a conveyor, a machine, etc.), facilities is out there within 10 minutes to look at it. If there's an IT issue, I first need to sit on hold for an hour to get through to the help desk, and once they realize it's a major issue, I may have to wait hours or a day before I see anyone in person.

It's not just management (5, Insightful)

Sniper98G (1078397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714890)

No one (management or not) ever recognizes the value of IT until they don't have it.

Re:It's not just management (1)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715048)

Truth. Big time. We need a world-wide "IT People On Strike" day. Maybe that'll force everyone to realize that we really do have some value in this world. Unfortunately for those of us that keep our stuff together, they probably wouldn't notice because our services would keep working through the whole day.

Re:It's not just management (2, Insightful)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715170)

Unfortunately for those of us that keep our stuff together, they probably wouldn't notice because our services would keep working through the whole day.

Who says that you can't simply turn of the services with a cron-script at midnight and turn them back on with another cron script when the day of strike is done? At least, that's how I'd do it.

Re:It's not just management (1)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715216)

I think that moves beyond "strike" and into "sabotage" territory, but if I were ticked off enough, I'd probably do that.

Re:It's not just management (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715258)

Not really, if you have a factory and the workers strike, they block the entrance of the factory so that those willing to work can't enter. It's a bit the same: you make sure others can't work because the service you provide (because you get blamed if the shit hits the fan) is not working.

Re:It's not just management (1)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715292)

Alright, you sold me. Viva la revolution!

Re:It's not just management (1)

hostyle (773991) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715188)

... more reason to buy MicroSoft then :P

Re:It's not just management (0, Flamebait)

EMCEngineer (1155139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715360)

Not to be an ass but - Boo-fricking-hoo. Lots of people feel unappreciated in their jobs. I just hear IT whine about it way more(maybe because I read Slashdot). Most IT people seem to think the company would implode if they weren't around for one day. Maybe they get this impression from hordes of idiots bothering them all the time for computer help.

The reality is, IT is overhead. It may make my job, and every else's job, a hell of a lot easier, but it is still a major cost. Spending money on IT past a certain point is unlikely to bring another dime to a company. Once basic networking, servers, vpn, etc. are implemented, IT is just a cost.

How is IT different than a basic utility? Utilities for most business require some facilities management people, and cutting a check each month. IT requires trained personnel, and a much bigger check each month. Managers don't want to spend their time on what they see as something that should always work, like electric power.

The Cost Of IT (3, Insightful)

Arccot (1115809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714894)

The way I usually put it, at least to my company, is that a good IT department can MAKE the company money, rather than cost it money. A good IT department can increase productivity of said company's employees, provide support services to customers (through the web), provide exposure to potential customers (again through the web), and fix the boss's home computer when his daughter breaks it. (Har-Har)

Re:The Cost Of IT (2, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715160)

IT is a constant drain on money. Plumbing, lights, generators, etc last for YEARS. the average Server hardware last for 3 years if your lucky, and then you need to triple the price for all the software upgrades, then tack on even more for the IT department training, and then employee training for all the new software.

IT deptarments only cost money with constant upgrades, in hardware and software. Lighting fixtures have a one time cost, and then a minimal replacement cost.

every 3 years all hardware and software is now useless and needs to be replaced. The real reason no one is moving to Vista. XP is finally starting to pay for itself for businesses who work on decade time frames.

As soon as IT departments stop asking for money for new software every three months or to sign contracts for software assurance that last for years but provide no benefit IT departments will earn some more respect.

Re:The Cost Of IT (1)

wangfucius (1153523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715404)

You're obviously not an electrical engineer, a plumber, or an IT guy how about you get your hands on any of the above and tell me how "it all just works" tool

Re:The Cost Of IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715642)

Upgrades are just that *Up*grades. You need to upgrade software because the old software is no longer good enough. You need to upgrade hardware for teh same reason, 1T hardrives were good enough three years ago but just aren't big enough to hold the stuff that people generate nowadays. Why? The business grew.

If a business grew so much that it had to move to a bigger building every three years, I don't think the CEOs
would complain about the cost of new buildings.

Re:The Cost Of IT (1)

dedalus2000 (704571) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715810)

the reason for the upgrades is not that suddenly all of the servers failed it's because businesses wanted the ability to utilize their IT infrastructure in ways that the old hardware and software wouldn't allow. for example moving from shuttling Excel files around in email to using an ERP. Adding data warehousing so you can mine your historic data and find trends. Creating a web presence to provide prospective customers a simple means of finding you. these are all huge jumps in functionality that require some level of infrastructure investment. the reality is that businesses invest in IT because it gives them a competitive advantage.

I guess I'm Lucky (5, Interesting)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714914)

The CEO was once an IT grunt back in the old days. So, yes the tech has changed but he still sees the world through the IT "filter" as it where. Many decisions he has to defend to the board and rest of management because they make sense from the business side for IT (such as hot swap backup equipment). The other managers see it as expense, luckily the CEO sees it our way (yes, it's a cost now, but downtime mean more cost later)

The value of IT to most businesses... (2, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714926)

...is the same as the value of a toilet.

- it is necessary to the functioning of the business
- unless you are a toilet manufacturer or a landlord, it is NOT part of your central business
- ideally it "just works", allowing you to focus on more important things
- when it doesn't "just work", things start to stink.

The difference is that it is unthinkable that most companies should have a "Chief Plumbing Officer", but the IT world seems to think that they need to be involved at the highest reaches of every company's management.

Re:The value of IT to most businesses... (5, Insightful)

bestinshow (985111) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715250)

If upper management treated the plumbing like IT, then you'd have a bucket to piss in and slop out every day, and the bucket would have a leak in it, but there wouldn't be any money to patch it up to keep the contents secure. The bucket would also be in the company basement, in a poorly ventilated corner next to a dead dog.

Plumbing - you do it once, it lasts 25 years if not 50. The only upgrades might be for more efficiently flushing toilets and taps that don't drip. That's the equivalent of putting a 750GB hard drive on an original IBM PC.

IT is an essential part of a modern business, and if it's done wrong the business can go down the drains. Wrong can be getting IT in the way of people's jobs, instead of helping them. Sadly this can't be avoided (e.g., third party clients demanding that you use IT for something that only benefits them whilst being a massive inconvenience for the supplier).

I bet many IT guys would love to get paid at the rates plumbers get paid at though. I don't think they'd like the apprenticeship period though ...

Re:The value of IT to most businesses... (4, Funny)

Spad (470073) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715390)

Most businesses don't cease to function when they suffer a toilet outage, however.

Re:The value of IT to most businesses... (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715874)

Most businesses don't cease to function when they suffer a toilet outage


They do if that toilet outage is on an upper floor....

Re:The value of IT to most businesses... (5, Insightful)

blueeyedmick (844023) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715530)

The toilet analogy is a pretty good one, but it fails in one respect that is very important - few companies choose to design their own toilet. They assume that existing, simple, common toilets will work just fine for them and they assume that even if they chose to design their own toilet it would give them no competitive advantage. Now, examine software for a moment. How many companies would be willing to change all of their procedures and operations in order to adopt a standard off-the-shelf solution purchased as a commodity on the open market? How many would abandon their carefully crafted strategies and competitive practices in order to avoid special purpose software? To put it another way, how many would be willing to run their businesses exactly (and I mean EXACTLY) like the competitor across the street so that the two of them could use the same software "plumbing"? In my experience, the answer is NONE. And that's why we have CIOs and Technology Officers and the like slowly forcing their ways into the boardroom. Without them, the custom-made "plumbing" isn't worth the millions spent on it, and the company can't compete.

Re:The value of IT to most businesses... (1)

Alphager (957739) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715600)

The difference is that it is unthinkable that most companies should have a "Chief Plumbing Officer", but the IT world seems to think that they need to be involved at the highest reaches of every company's management.
The difference is: If the toilets on floor 11 fail (get clogged; whatever), the people on floor 11 can continue to work. If the domain-server for floor 11 fails, the cannot do _anything_ in most businesses. Each _SECOND_ the IT-infrastructure isn't available costs serious money. And you can always let a stranger pee in your toilets, but you should never let a stranger anywhere near the main data-servers...

Re:The value of IT to most businesses... (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715656)


The difference is that it is unthinkable that most companies should have a "Chief Plumbing Officer", but the IT world seems to think that they need to be involved at the highest reaches of every company's management.


On the other hand (for most businesses), plumbing is something that you either have or you don't. You need it for your employees to be productive, but getting better toilets probably won't make them more productive.

There's almost always potential for some facet of IT to add new value to a company, though. Maybe it's replacing a previously expensive phone system for an international call center with VoIP. Maybe it's replacing a mostly manual order-entry system that takes a lot of time and is prone to human error with a workflow system that can automate 90% of the steps, saving time and cutting errors way down. Maybe it's revamping some internal (software) process to add high availability to a system that incurs significant profit losses whenever it's down for an hour.

For any company big enough to have some of these possibilities, hell yes it makes sense to have a person knowledgeable about technology at the higher levels of leadership to help decide when technology can add more value to the business.

Bad comparison (1)

Icarium (1109647) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715726)

Most reputable companies don't use thier plumbing to move around large volumes of sensitive/urgent/otherwise critical data. Poor plumbing is an inconvenience - poor IT can break a business.

It's like superheroing in reverse - with great responsiility we want great(er) power (Does that make IT supervillians?)

And how does IT view Management? (2)

captaindomon (870655) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714942)

And how does IT view Management? Do they view them as nothing more than an employer? Somebody who writes payroll checks and should stay out of the way of IT? Does IT understand the value of business investments, legal contracts, general ledgers, due diligence, SEC problems, etc? I think in order for Management to care about IT, it is going to have to be a two-way street. IT and Management need to learn to work *together*, and that is going to require some understanding from IT as well.

Re:And how does IT view Management? (4, Insightful)

Cerberus7 (66071) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715080)

I used to respect management folks. Then I started actually getting to know them and how they operate. Their decisions have next to nothing to do with what makes sense. Their decisions are about squeezing ever last drop out of the bottom line, all other priorities are rescinded. Need a new app to do task X? Get the cheapest one. It doesn't matter if it sucks, it's cheap and that makes Manager X happy because their year-end bonus, that's about the size of your entire yearly salary, will be bigger.

Re:And how does IT view Management? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715204)

I don't know about you, but based on my current place of employment, I'd have to ask if management understands any of those things. I'm not even sure they can read.

We're garbage men/women. (1)

dpaluszek (974028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714948)

After all, we just take out the trash every day (figuratively, that is). Honestly, top management and executives could care less why the , they just want it fixed since it's hampering their business "productivity."
Maybe I'm bitter, but we are viewed as objects that do the dirty work.

Re:We're garbage men/women. (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715108)

I've always seen IT more as the stage hands on the theater of business.

Without us the stars don't shine and the show doesn't go on. Very rarely do you get a producer or director who recognizes the work of the set designers or prop handlers but they're just as needed as the people on stage who bring the people into the theater.

I know, it's not a Car analogy... Maybe we're the pit crew for the race cars of the business world?

Re:We're garbage men/women. (1)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715218)

I know, it's not a Car analogy... Maybe we're the pit crew for the race cars of the business world?
Specifically, you are the "jack man" on the pit crew because when people go to you for help, you jack them around and then make fun of them for being idiots.

Just joking, but that is the way most feel about IT staff.

Viewed as a cost rather than a multiplier (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714950)

You tell them, spend $10 mill and we will get you $50 mill in sales.
They say... nah, how about $3 mill and $10 million in sales.

And this is for a multi billion dollar corporation.

---

They throw away software that has been fixed of all issues and buy packages recommended by salespeople that never works as promised for several years (at which point they throw it out and get new stuff... again!!!) I think that is because the tax laws incent new capital investments over maintaining/upgrading existing software.

One Word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715428)

Depreciation. Back a few years ago when i was doing this kind of thing, you could depreciate the cost of software/hardware/etc (over a period of 3 years iirc) and take that out of your income so you were paying taxes on a lower income.

I've seen this disconnect (1)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714956)

... and I've had to address it. It is possible this [sancairodicopenhagen.com] might be of interest and relevance; I worked some time in microfinance, and was asked to deliver a capacity building workshop on IT for senior leadership. Managed to make it Creative Commons. :) But a glance at the deck goes a long way to illustrating the kind of fundamental lack of understanding and pragmatism towards enterprise IT which the article refers to.

FWIW, I think one of the key outputs of IT Governance implementation is to stamp out this form of disconnect.

My personal experience with my IT staff (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714960)

My IT staff are despised in our organization. They are antagonistic, have terrible (if not outright non-existent) customer service, and are generally a bunch of obstructionist pricks. Anytime someone makes a request of them they either refuse it outright or throw up roadblocks until the requestor just gives up in frustration. They use security as an excuse to be increasingly heavy-handed (to the point where technical staff like me have to work from home just to have access to the sites and tools we need to do our job). They have a "help desk" that, to my knowledge, has never helped anyone.

Typical call to IT here?

"Hi, I need to use X piece of software (which is mainstream and well-known). I can't install it myself because I don't have admin rights, can you install it please?"
"Why do you need it?"
"Well [insert many technical reasons here]"
"Sorry, we can't install software that hasn't been approved."
"How do I get it approved?"
"Well it will have to go before the board, which meets every 6 months or so. And you also have to [insert about 100 roadblocks and obstructionist measures here]."
"Great. Screw it, I'll just work from home again."

If you want to know why your IT department is hated, ask yourself how you treat your customers. Do you treat them as your bosses, or as your enemies?

My own (2, Interesting)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715098)

I have a better one.

Back in the early 90s when I was a real newbie, I asked an ISP if I needed a special phone line for a SLIP connection. Instead of just saying "No" and being done with it, the guy just kept asking "Why". I was not very technical back then and the internet was extremely new (to the general public) so I wasn't coming up with very good reasons. But still, he kept asking "Why" like some retarded parrot.

Moral of the story is I developed a patient, not condescending, attitude to non-tech people when explaining things.

That is not IT department's fault. (4, Interesting)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715194)

That is auditors or security departments fault.

IT only allows what other people them is allowed. And normally the people saying the last word are auditors of some kind or another.

But is it really a fault?

You see it as obstructionist, but do you have the legal know how to know if the application you want installed is legitimate? Are you going to vouch for its security? (I have seen badly programmed applications, including FOSS ones, bring down complete networks due toe unintended denial of service attacks. Will you take responsibility it the tool you need does such thing?). WIll you put your hands in fire for your application in regards to viruses, trojans and any other nasties?

The obstructionist attitude has a purpose which is to protect the assets and reputation of your company. If that pisses you off, though.

Re:My personal experience with my IT staff (1)

huguley (87575) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715248)


For every 1 user that is responsible with work resources there are 5 that will do boneheaded things and break something. Then when you want to reimage their computer to fix it they scream and yell that IT is unable to keep their computer working. Those 5 complain to their bosses and so the complaint count is always greater than the happy count. In all likelyhood the 1 person that knows what they are doing also knows that the other 5 are idiots and its pointless to try and argue with them.

I am being generous with the 1 in 5 btw. I suspect the gap is much greater.

This also explains why calling the helpdesk or customer service results in little getting done. The ratio of lunkheads to competent people is the same in all fields. Not that I am cynical or anything just my experience.

Re:My personal experience with my IT staff (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715262)

Honestly they are just doing the same thing the rest of your company is probably doing, covering their asses.

If they install something on your computer that leads to a network intrusion and massive down time or data theft, they get shafted not you.

Security as the roadblock reason. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715322)

You're the exact type of person who will be the very first to blame IT for the hack/breach that'll happen if they install your unapproved software, or loosen up security because it interferes with your convenience.

We in IT security (I'm a CISSP) know you very well, in fact your type (over-demanding internal users) poses the worst [networkworld.com] security [zdnet.co.uk] threats [slashdot.org] above and beyond external threats and malware [arstechnica.com] . You are also "Cleopatra" -- Queen of Denial.

"we're not in the software business" (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714968)

The mindset at one place I've worked is that "we're not in the software development business, so we don't want to invest in good software development practices", even though the primary business depended, heart and soul, on very specialized and customized software tools. I can see this kind of thing from a secretarial staffing agency. I can't see this kind of thing from an industrial giant making any sense, but it's really a common attitude. They want to develop tomorrow's products using nothing but COTS tools. Newsflash: if all the tools come in predefined boxes, it's really really tough to think outside the box. Software is soft and malleable for a reason.

On the other side of the wall (4, Funny)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22714990)

'[m]ost top executives ... think of IT as an expensive headache that they'd rather not deal with.'
"Most top IT people think of 'top' executives as a bunch of lobotomized, management-speak babbling, suit wearing, golf playing, secret handshake boy club members that we'd rather not deal with."

Re:On the other side of the wall (2, Funny)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715082)

Most top IT people think of 'top' executives as a bunch of lobotomized, management-speak babbling, suit wearing, golf playing, secret handshake boy club members that we'd rather not deal with.

We dont just think it, we know it!

Re:On the other side of the wall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715566)

Those clowns think that way about everything. That's why they're in management.

What IT are you talking about ? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715052)

Because if you're talking about sysadmin, managing files, network, backups, net access, etc... I don't really see the difference with a basic utility. It should "just work" it requires money and work to maintain, it is possible for users to do stupid things. It is possible for managers to ask impossible things or to impose an impractical solution.

In the eyes of ... (1)

moseman (190361) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715078)

... the bean counters and excs, IT is a cost center that does not help you sell more widgets. This puts IT in a bad light. I used to work in the environmental field (80's and 90's) and I saw this kind of response all the time. Why should I spend money on running a clean business when I have been doing it my old way for so long. It becomes a big thorn in their foot.

Exactly. (1)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715124)

The sales department makes money, while the IT department costs money.

Disconnect from both sides... (2)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715140)

The problem? IT people don't typically understand good business practices, how to make money, and The Big Picture. Management doesn't typically understand the overall usefulness of IT and how it isn't the plumbing and lights - they just know it isn't management or sales. When management and IT REALLY don't get along, there's a serious productivity disconnect that affects everyone.

Well, on the other hand (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715168)

IT people often forget hey are a support, not line function.

On the third hand, IT departments are often not staffed adequately, either in butts in chair or in the quality of the heads over those butts. It seems absurd to think about using IT to achieve breakthroughs in productivity or competitiveness when they seem to spend more time restricting the work that goes through the department than actually getting things done.

The bottom line is that skill is distributed on a normal curve, and the vast majority of people are mediocre. That includes top management; most companies have mediocre leadership. When the leadership of a company is weak, there's not much IT can do to make things better. They really are just a facilities type function.

Public Co (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715238)

I worked for a publicly traded company for a couple of years. The biggest problem I see is that not enough IT people are getting promoted to upper management positions. We had two CIO's while I was there and they both had finance backgrounds. I really did feel bad for the second one as she was a woman who had absolutely no idea about what the department actually did in a department full of men (although when I saw her stock options I felt a lot less sympathetic). But the problem with this is that they don't know how to fight the battles, nor do they even know what they should be fighting for. This results in a lot of tension. I left because they began to take the attitude that there should be more IT Governance, which they said was for our benefit. However, IT Governance was a catch phrase for cutting spending and implementing Clarity - designed by Satan.

productivity gains (1)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715260)

A significant portion of the impressive productivity gains in the American workforce over the past two decades has come from technology (mainly IT) advances and getting those implemented in the workplaces.

I think they ignore that at their peril.

Not really an IT problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715306)

This is not a problem unique to IT. The fact is, anything BUT executives is "undervalued" in one way or another, because executives are profoundly overvalued [cnn.com] . Quote from the linked article:

"Executive pay has drastically outpaced the pay gains experienced by the average American worker, according to an annual study published in August by The Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

Between 1996 and 2006, CEO pay rose 45%, at a time when the average pay for an American worker grew just 7%.

That same study revealed that CEOs at 386 of the Fortune 500 companies took home $10.8 million in total compensation in 2006, more than 364 times what the average worker earned that same year."

So, judging from the money invested in the matter, the most important priority for executives/managers in the last decade or so is ... their own wages.

IT isn't getting neglected, EVERYBODY is compared to executives and managers, and even business priorities and stockholder value often take a back seat, because there is a poor correlation between how much executives are paid and how well a company does [www.cbc.ca] . This isn't unique to the USA [www.cbc.ca] .

If it is any consolation, IT people are doing significantly better than average, so at least in terms of compensation, management seems to realize that IT is important, even if they commonly do a poor job of involving it in their overall business strategy.

tech life cycle (1)

mbaGeek (1219224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715336)

I don't think "I.T." is being discriminated against in most companies

the larger issue is how does management treat employees in general. "I.T." is going to be treated pretty close to everybody else.

for example: the "bully boss" is still common in 2008. I have yet to come across a "management" book that recommends to "intimidate your employees, refuse to listen to reality, pay them as little as possible, criticize what you don't understand" - but I keep running into various forms of that management philosophy (the accepted explanation for why people/management get away with acting like assholes is because it "works" to a certain degree)

the second big issue is that technology in general has a "life cycle."

Once upon a time, if you owned an automobile (lets say 100 years ago) you probably built it yourself (or at least knew the person who built it for you), and were most likely able to perform "mechanic" functions yourself (there might have been a livery stable in every town, but no gas stations with "mechanics"). as more people acquired automobiles, "mechanic" probably became a very respected profession. Today "mechanic" may still be a respected profession, but ...

information technology has followed a similar cycle. 20 years ago, "fixing" computers was more of a challenge than it is today. If you owned a personal computer 20 years ago, you probably knew how to open the case and "fix" it, and for that matter you probably wrote some of the software you used (oh, and I had to walk up hill, in 20 feet of snow, both ways to school, in the summer!).

computers have gotten smaller, faster, and more dependable. Add in the facts that the number of people with "computer skills" has also grown, that personal computers are pretty close to "commodity" status, and supply and demand rears its head

yes, in general, management may not fully appreciate the impact I.T. can have on the profitability of an organization - but this is simply an indication of poor management (with that said, I'd love to work for Apple/Cisco/Google ...lol)

Having the right Information Technology... (1)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715350)

does not guarantee that your business will be successful, but having the wrong Information Technology guarantees that your business will fail.

Executives that fail to see that truth, will not have long careers.

-ted

IT should be treated as a utility. (2)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715412)

There's no magic in IT. You identify what you need and then implement it. If it doesnt give a significant gain in productivity its not worth dealing with.

Most CIO's and techies tends to look at a new system and then start figuring out where it fits the organization. Thats completely screwed up and is the biggest reason why so many projects fail. The way it should work is that the people needing a function identify it and then the techies find a way to solve it as good/cheap as possible.

IT is just a utility like everything else, there is no gain in overspending whatsoever. You dont buy 10 ferraris when you need one truck do you?

Toilet Talk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22715490)

Just about every reply to this article has degenerated into toilet talk!

Sell Yourself and what you do to other departments (1)

Electrawn (321224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715518)


At our company I will repeatedly tell other department heads when we complete a project or as a casual reminder what the man hour savings are.

One of my projects was to automate a certificate system that reduced the average time to process and generate an education certificate. The average time to process a certificate went from 10-15 minutes per to 1 minute per. This saves hundreds of man hours, and subsequently thousands of dollars in labor in that department.

Another of a projects we maintain is the e-commerce system. Without it, we would have double to triple our Customer Service staff to process calls. This saves labor, floor space and support space.

You need to do this kind of reminding -regularly.- Another I have heard/followed is "Always eat lunch with someone above you." This advice is self serving for career, promotions, but in hard times - to remind the value of yourself and what you do.

If you hide in your cube all day coding/sysadmin/DBA jockeyin without the social selling, it doesn't always pay.

It's quite simple, actually (2, Insightful)

joeflies (529536) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715592)

To a CEO who is looking at the bottom line and the profit of the business, IT appears as a cost center instead of a revenue center. The CEO has no perception of how IT spending helps the business make more money. Thus, they are often motivated to "do more with less" and cut the IT spending budget. IT managers are also partly to blame because they act like a cost center ... spend all your budget or you'll lose budget in the next cycle, just like government does, when it would be far better to demonstrate how spending is not only in the best interests of the company, but it will also help them earn money as well.



IT is not the only department that is misunderstood. For example, Ray Kassar of Atari thought that software programmers were a cost center too, and no different than assembly plant workers. He didn't realize that programmers were vital to how Atari makes money, and thus the best programmers all left Atari and went to start Activision with a business plant o make 3rd party software for Atari.

IT is big PERSONAL revenue source for top execs (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715598)

Many vested interests, some bordering on corruption in banana republics, skew the decision making in IT. How many top execs have cozy relationships with consultant firms who hire outsourcing firms? Indian companies like Cognizant, Infosys and Wipro charge 20$ an hour to 50$ per hour depending on the skill set of the ultimate employee who does the work. And they are hired by one oursourcing firm in USA, which is hired by another management firm in USA, which is hired by a consultant firm in USA and ultimately a publicly traded US company gets billed at 125$ to 250$ a hour. All the intermediaries who pad the bill and collect the profits are all privately owned. The ultimate payer is usually a large publicly traded company. Look at the rate of out sourcing by private companies, unlisted companies, companies taken over by private equity and compare it to the public companies.

Basically the IT management is a personal cash cow for so many people in the corporate hierarchy. India gets blamed for the giant sucking sound and out sourced jobs. But they get a pittance. And the shareholders in America get some peanuts. And the corporate boards, who own very small percentage of the stock anyway, form you-scratch-my-back-and-I-scratch-your-back arrangements with the top executives.

I know people who are in the middle of the chain skimming something like 5 or 10 $ per hour per employee for providing some six or eight consultants from cognizant to a large publicly traded company in USA. Their only job is provide a shell and a cover to firms higher in the chain. They know and they told me the total mark up for the Indians consultants run the range between 200% to 500%. India used to be so cheap that the companies saved some money despite all the skimming by the middle men. But with rupee appreciating and Indian salaries inflating, if the same rate of skimming continues, shareholders don't save any money any longer through outsourcing. But the vested interests who are doing the padding and skimming are not going to let go that easily.

The bigger news... (1)

Klync (152475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715696)

Zonk posts something relevant and interesting, that's not a blatant shill for some corporation or corporate pet cause. Way to go Zonk! Keep 'em coming.

There is no disconnect (1)

Ranger (1783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715734)

I think this quote from Philip Greenspun's Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists [greenspun.com] pretty much sums it up:

Java Monkeys

Stammbach, Eduard. (1988). "Group responses to specially skilled individuals in a Macaca fascicularis." Behaviour, 107 (December 1988), 241-266

Does the staggering wealth of particular engineers and programmers mean that there is any chance for nerds to rise socially?

Stammbach worked with a colony of longtailed macaques. In the paper cited above, the running header is "Responses to Specially Skilled Java Monkeys." Stammbach took the lowest-ranking macaque out of the society and taught him to operate a complex machine and obtain food. When the nerd monkey was reintroduced to the society, the higher ranking macaques stopped kicking him out of the way long enough for him to complete operation of the machine and obtain food for the community. I.e., society cooperated to create the conditions under which the nerd could toil for them. However, the monkey who acquired these special skills and provided for the society did not achieve any rise in his dominance status.

No, it is a disconnect in three ways (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715756)

When it comes to IT their are THREE parties involved. Those who build it (IT), those who govern it (Management) and those who use it (Employees).

These three groups often have no idea what the other is actually doing.

Have you ever seen one of those programs where the boss of a big company is put to work on the factory floor? They used to be pretty common, was there ever a SINGLE boss, who wasn't shown to be totally clueless about how the actual work was being done?

You think IT is any better? How many people with the best training in IT skills ever bother to go down to the factory floor and SEE the REAL workflow before they implement a system?

You got management trying to make decisions on how to improve a workprocess they don't understand, you got IT trying to implement something that has no basis in reality and employees forced to choose between actually getting the work done and following procedure.

It doesn't suprise me at all that this article doesn't mention the workforce. Management article talking about proper management but ignoring the people who got to do the actuall work, yeah, never seen that before.

Get your hands dirty before you even bother trying to think of implementing IT, FIND out what is REALLY needed. IT can do wonderfull things to be sure, but it needs to fit with what is really going on in your company, not what some manager thinks should be going on.

Make sure your management decisions can be executed, first observe what REALLY goes on, plan your changes, then TRY THEM YOURSELVE, with FULL pressure. If you can't do it, your employees can't do it and what counts isbeing able to do it on the busiest day of the year.

The most perfect example, testing an application with just 3 records in the database for performance. My job was to convert the old data, if I pushed more then ten records in, performance crumbled. Took me MONTHS to confince them that the problem was in the application, not my conversion (for every insert MILLIONS of reads were being done thanks to the most idiotic database design in history (no keys), compounded by some really really bad code). But they TESTED IT and it worked fine. Yah, 3 records and those not even fully fleshed out.

I could rant on for hours about bone-headed mistakes of all kinds, but basically FORCE management to get a clue and the only way to do that is BACK TO THE WORKFLOOR!

99% of IT projects that end up unused or not meeting requirements can simply be explained because they were designed without knowing what the real situation is.

it's geeks vs. results!! (2, Insightful)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715798)

The problem isn't management not seeing the benefit of IT, it is the lack of management skills within IT leadership and the typical geek mentality which is counter productive to traditional business.

I'm not saying that either one is better or doesn't have a place but workers in IT & particularly IT leadership need to start thinking that those business management classes in college are a good idea to at least take & listen in on. You're not going to convince the ones with deep pockets (upper management) to keep you around if you don't show your value up front to them. Sure, their practices may be antiquated but they are time-tested and in their eyes, work.

Geeks are also going to need to realize that not all things are academic, business leaders expect results, not some elegant solution that looks cool in an IDE. There's that classic line from Ghostbusters I remember, "I've worked in the private sector. They expect results. You've never been out of college. You don't know what it's like out there."

Maybe it's not that extreme but that is the truth, like it or not.

Easy solution (1)

Toreo asesino (951231) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715860)

One good friend of mine who works as a network admin for an unnamed estate agent had this problem. Once upon a time he had 3 people working for him, maintaining the impressive stack of servers and clients connected to them. Slowly but surely, management became increasingly stingy and one by one his minions had to be relieved, as the IT budget dried up. Eventually he even had to sell off some of the servers just to make sure he had enough money to pay himself (oh yes, IT really were disconnected from management in an impressive fashion). After running the network on it's barebones configuration for several months, not receiving pay during that time, and after lodging several complaints I suggested that come the next power blip (a common occurrence in the south of Spain), he just doesn't turn the servers back on again.

One such blip happened hours before a crucial sales meeting and Bob was at home. They called screaming he get the network operational, and said he would except he hadn't been paid in months and couldn't afford the petrol in the car (a slight lie, due to excess server sales). Anyway, needless to say he got his cut in the end plus some extras.

Management often hate IT until they're groping around in the dark begging for them. Sometimes it can be healthy to 'demonstrate' why IT are important to management I think.

The problem is systemic (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715880)

This is a part of capitalism I'm afraid. Power in any business goes towards those with charm, acumen and ruthlessness rather than any particular technical ability, so a clique of borderline sociopaths with decent accounting skills and winning smiles rises to the top of management, and has an unsurprising disdain for those people tinkering away competently but without the ability to use others as rungs on the ladder.

IT guys don't make it to board level (1)

Phurge (1112105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715886)

How many IT managers make it to the board of manufacturing companies (or any other industry except IT Boards). Boards typically comprise operational guys, ex marketing/sales guys and a bean-counter. Not many sys-admins get that high up the chain, so they get overlooked at board level.

Problem: Managers See IT as a Cost vs. a Benefit (1)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 6 years ago | (#22715906)

Funny that this comes after yesterday's IT Labor Shortage is Just a Myth [slashdot.org] .

I can sum it down into language even managers understand, "IT make money go bye-bye." While other departments are seen as money generators for the company, IT is thought of as a cost.

They often don't see the cost/benefit ratio or how IT HELPS them make money, they see it as an expense and a drain on the bottom line. And especially they don't understand that you will have to upgrade the technology from time to time. And when it is upgraded, it becomes a major expense and overhaul because it's been such a long time since the last one.

I would love to see a "day without IT." Turn off all the computer systems, phones, anything related to the IT department and let them see how much business gets done.
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