Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Some Things That IT Hates About Executives

I recently read Eight Things Executives Hate About IT, by Susan Cramm, and it rubbed me the wrong way. The article tries to use language that softens the hate, but it's pretty transparent.

Here are my rebuttals to a few points...

(IT) Consists of condescending techies who don’t listen.

We're not condescending, we're just smarter than the execs. There is a serious imbalance of brain power. How that makes an exec feel is there problem, granted, we might be able to rub it in less. Self esteem comes from the self, if they feel condescended to, that is a personal problem. I recommend therapy. The fat paycheck seems to compensate well for the feelings of inadequacy that the job brings up. Many of us don't "lack the expertise to advise senior executives" and many do. Who's being condescending now! It feels it's time for couples counseling.
Seriously though, the Dilbert Principle tells us, (yes, Scott Adams is s-m-r-t) that dumb people with the right political skills are regularly promoted in order to keep them out of the way of real work. I'm not saying all execs are dumb, just that there is a mixed bag. Execs are like a box of chocolates...

I'll quote the whole point here...
"(IT) Doesn't understand the true needs of the business
IT nags you for requirements and complains that you always change your mind about what you want from your systems. Why doesn’t IT understand that change should be expected in a dynamic business environment where nothing is static? "
Seriously, have you take a single programming class? One? A computer system cannot be dynamic. It can't change on its own. It cannot anticipate needs. The code (if you’re lucky) only does exactly what you tell it too. it takes inputs and outputs and does "stuff". Every different type of input or output must be fully understood, by way of a use case, and then code and error handling written for each one. If the use case wasn't thought of, how does one write code?

Proposes “deluxe” when “good enough” will do
My experience has been just the opposite.

IT projects never end
The writer complains about the projects being "perennially 90% done" . Maybe she should have read her own point above about the business being dynamic. If you keep adding 10% to the scope...

Is reactive rather than proactive
"When you need help, you feel like a technology pauper, going door-to-door begging for help from functional specialists who complain that you didn’t get them involved early enough."
Hmmmmm... If only I could see a solution here. Maybe get the specialists involved earlier? No, that isn't it. We'll go out and get crystal balls so we can know what you will need. Please hold your breath until we get back to you.

Doesn't support innovation
"When you try to brainstorm with IT about new technologies you could use to innovate – like 2.0 tools, for instance – they patronize you by dismissing your questions and noting that your people aren’t properly using the systems already in place."
Does she even know what 2.0 tools are? Web 2.0? Let me make her point about condescending IT for her? WHAT!! You want user generated content in your billing system or CRM? Maybe you want photos in your activation system? Maybe she means AJAX? Yeah, spicing up the UI a tad bit, now that is innovation.
You cannot just call every crazy, one eighth baked idea innovation. Wait, I've got it, let's keep all the zeros, but replace the ones with Folgers crystals.
Trust us, if you have even a spark of a good idea, we will help bring it to glorious fruition.

IT never has good news
"No matter how much you spend or how hard you work, the promise of technology seems perpetually beyond your reach. Even the “successful” launch of new systems is accompanied with the inevitable onslaught of bugs, crashes, and change requests"
This is what you get when your project is date driven. Your project options are: Right, Fast, and Cheap. You can pick any two.
I'd recommend cutting scope, or hiring more good developers. And while we are on that topic. Not all IT staff are equal or interchangeable. Nothing spells fail like using sub-par IT staff and PMs.

I do agree with the writer, the situation has gotten out of hand. IT and the execs do need to come to an agreement. The first step should be honest communications about capabilities and expectations. Mush of IT has messed up. We work too many hours, delivering the near impossible time and again. We've allowed the bar to be set to high. Execs, wanting to push the envelope, try to push even further. It's time to reset expectations and force execs to understand the trade-offs involved with the scope of projects.


Rufis Le'fox said...

WoW! Mark, the sage!

silverado1227 said...

Good points.... I think a major part of the problem with Execs (or leadership in general) is filters. You take the original "need" and by the time it gets to that level it has morphed into something that has little to do with what was originally requested so even if you give them what was originally asked they think it fell short because they were sold something different... This means leadership has this brilliant idea as to what will “revolutionize” how say a customer care rep does their job based on the line of bull they were fed when in fact it will do little to NO good and probably impede them. And when you have to explain to them how little what they approved is going to help YOU look like the bad guy cuz THEY were told how great this will be by some manager who has NO experience doing the function they are “revolutionizing”

When you talk of "use cases" what value are they when the person providing them has no clue as to what they are doing and then hand it over to the test team who has never seen the system before.... you can easily get 100% test validation if the one doing the test has no clue as to what it "should" have done. In the end it passes testing but does not meet the customer’s needs and YOU get blamed for it when in fact you gave them what THEY asked for.

Finally politics.... YOU may know and have conveyed exactly what "should" be done however because of politics YOU get overridden by someone who has no clue because they have better backing than you. Again YOU get blamed because that person who overrode you has their ear and you don’t.

In the end we can only do what we are "allowed" to do... problem is "reality" gets filtered so many times the Execs get a completely different recitation of what was going to happen because the people who overrode YOU are trying to CYA so YOU get thrown under the bus.

Sliptide (Sean Armstrong) said...

""Proposes “deluxe” when “good enough” will do
My experience has been just the opposite.""

Not only do we often experience the complete opposite from “non IT”, when we do recommend what they consider “deluxe” it is most often associated with capacity planning and future-state needs!

Ever heard the phrase “Good enough for government work”? Ugh. I could write all day on this.

Great commentary and an even keeled conclusion, Mark!

Sterling said...

Not only was this succinct and well-put, it was also authentic frontier gibberish.

Keep those cards and letters coming, kids! Clarabel and I read them all personally.

If only this were actual public discourse, instead of a simulation, maybe we could accomplish something.

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