How To Drive An IT Department Into The Ground

by drjim on January 8, 2009

Seven Things That An IT Department Needs To Avoid In Order To Be Successful

Seven Things That An IT Department Needs To Avoid In Order To Be Successful

You can go just about anywhere on the web or in your local bookstore and find ways to make your IT department a success. However, clearly this is not an easy thing to do when you take a moment to consider how much time that we spend trying to be successful.

What’s missing from all of this is that you need to understand how people have failed at this task in order to understand what you need to do in order to succeed. How about if we take a look at some of the classic ways that IT departments have failed big time?

  • Fake Synergies: All companies love this one – let’s merge with someone who has complementary strengths in order to grow. However, this rarely seems to work for IT departments. Sometimes synergies do actually exist; however, this can be even worse because it can cause an IT department to head off in the wrong direction. Getting access to new customers or delivery systems can seem like a good idea, until AFTER the merger.
  • Questionable Financial Engineering: We’ve all see this one show up at the end of a quarter or a fiscal year. Getting aggressive in how accounting is done won’t necessarily land someone (you) in jail, but it can cause you some sleepless nights. The two big problems that getting creative with your company / department’s financing is that they can cause you to believe in a product that is less than perfect and they can cause you to take on more risk – a move that the current downturn shows can be very risky.
  • Sticking With A Strategy Too Long: Tenacity has long been considered to be a key asset of IT leaders. However, if you are going in the wrong direction in the first place, then this can lead to disaster. There is a secret at work here: the reason that IT departments don’t change course is because the economics of doing things the new way don’t measure up to the economics of doing things the old way.
  • “It’s Just A Step To The Left”: Often companies and IT departments decide that they need to try to sell new products to their existing customers or maybe through new channels (sometimes called an “adjacent-market” strategy). However, sometimes this is a bad idea that can bring down a department. You can tell that this is a bad idea if you are considering  making this move not because it’s a good business opportunity, but rather because your core business is having problems.
  • Selecting The Wrong Technology: This one we all should recognize – betting on BetaMax when VHS ends up winning.
  • Consolidating Too Quickly: All too often companies rush to consolidate when markets are maturing and the number of companies in the market start to shrink. Keeping in mind that when you buy a company you not only get its IT department, but you also get all of the problems that come along with it.

An IT department is just a part of a larger organization. However, both the company and the IT department are responsible for the overall success of the company. If you can avoid making these mistakes then you will that much closer to being successful!

Have you ever worked at a company that made any of the mistakes that we’ve discussed? Could you see that there were going to be problems from the beginning or did that only show up later on? What did the company try to do when problems started showing up? Did it help to address the problems? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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