3 Ways To Fix An IT Department (Suggestions From Europe)

by drjim on February 11, 2009

 

An European Consulting Company Has Some Ideas About How To Organize Your IT Department

An European Consulting Company Has Some Ideas About How To Organize Your IT Department

Kuppinger Cole + Partner (KCP) is a European consulting firm that specializes in identity management. So it goes without saying that they spend their time in and out of multiple IT departments on a daily basis. They know all of our dirty little secrets. One of their founders, Martin Kuppinger has been doing some thinking about how to fix IT departments

Martin starts out his thinking with some pretty basic suggestions. Specifically, he thinks that IT should be limited in what tasks it performs: do what the company wants you to do and nothing else. Now he follows this up with some clarification: an IT department needs to be able to support new business initiatives, provide insights on how the company is running, and keep itself lean and mean.

I’m pretty much in agreement with Martin, except for one thing. IT is not like accounting: in IT things change and they have a tendency to change quickly. I believe that an IT department has a responsibility to always be pushing the envelope and trying out new things before the rest of the company does. How can you roll a Wiki service out to the company if the folks in IT have not played around with it for awhile in order to get to know its ins and outs?

Martin goes on to suggest that IT should be reorganized. He’s got some interesting thoughts here. He’s recommending that strategy be done in house by the IT department. Next he starts to whip out the acronyms like GRC (governance, risk management and compliance) when he says that part of IT needs to be keeping an eye on how the business is being run and providing reports to all who need them. Finally, he suggests that IT knowledge be decentralized and placed in the business organizations.

I’m going to go both ways here. I’m not sure if IT needs its own stand-alone strategy department. Instead, I believe that IT needs to participate in the strategy planning that is being done for the whole company. What I think is needed is an architecture department that the IT part of the strategy team reports to.

I’m all for having part of IT monitor the business and provide the business with the reports on how it is performing. This is a critical resource that too many businesses don’t know how to do well.

Finally, I think that Martin might be on to something when he suggests that parts of IT should be moved out and into the actual departments that we support. I’m always for getting closer to the customer. There are some tricky questions here about who these IT staffers would report to and how they would be evaluated at the end of the year.

Martin ends up talking about the need for a layer to exist between IT and the rest of the business. His thinking here is that what’s been missing from IT is some sort of business control by which IT can be managed.

Once again, I think that he’s got some interesting ideas here, but I think that he’s missing the mark. I always get nervous when I hear people talking about “layers” because that sure doesn’t seem like the best way to streamline an organization. I do agree that an effective way for IT and the rest of the business to communicate is needed.

My thinking on how best to do that is where Martin and I differ. I believe that he’s hoping that implementation of standardization will result in smooth communications. I beg to differ. At the end of the day, communication will only occur if the proper motivations are put in place to help it along.

I’m just about out of space here, but my thinking goes like this: I believe that IT should be judged on results – how did ITs actions help the rest of the business to succeed? Likewise, I think that part of the way that the rest of the business should be judged is on how well they used the tools and information that IT provided them with.

Do you believe that Martin Kuppinger has the right idea? Do you think that IT should only do what the business asks of it? How should IT be organized in order to make it more efficient? Got any thoughts on how IT staff could be successfully placed in other departments? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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