To work with, that is!
CIO just reported some very interesting findings from their 2015 State of CIO survey which has important insights for every IT project manager. In many respects, yours is a tough job because not only are you trying to get a hard job done, you’re battling negative perceptions of your profession, the IT Division itself, and perhaps even your boss, the CIO.
According to the Survey more than half (54%) of business leaders see the IT group as an obstacle to getting things done. Additionally, they want the IT group to be “easier to work with,” and to have the IT folks much more focused on external customers. It’s the “easier to work with” sentiment that made an impression on me. What does this really mean? And, how, as an IT Project Manager, can we make this happen?
To be sure, “easier to work with” in IT has a lot to do with daily operations, such as help desk activities. One company, AES Corp., overhauled its help desk processes by creating a space in their building similar to Apple’s Genius Bar. Rather then keep the help desk techs in the back room behind their cipher-locked metal doors, they relocated them to a very prominent location so people could just drop by and have their questions answered. It was a big hit, even for the tech folks who actually started enjoying talking to people.
But how would “easier to work with” manifest itself on IT projects. Here are a few questions I came up with for you to consider which will give you a sense of how easy you, the IT Project Manager, are to work with. Let me also add that I was an IT PM for many years and have some sense of how it is to work with business folks.
- Do you provide your business counterparts your cell phone number encouraging them to call or text you any time they have a question or a concern? Or, do you require them to go through “normal” channels to reach out to you?
- When someone from the business requests a scope change do you demand that they fill out a change request form before even discussing what it is they have on their mind?
- Is your first reaction to client dissatisfaction is to remark “that’s beyond my pay grade and you have to call my boss?”
- Do you regularly reach out to certain key stakeholders, outside of regular reviews, to check in to see how things are going from their perspective?
- Do you meet with the end-users of the system to see what type of implementation issues there may be?
- Have you ever asked the business to meet with the company’s customers (assuming the system is external client focused) to have a better sense of their needs and how the application could be made better?
There’s a lot of talk these days about the “death of the CIO.” In fact, the survey revealed that 59% of business leaders see the CIO role becoming that of a “cloud wrangler,” that is, mostly managing cloud service providers. Interestingly enough, 49% of CIOs thought the same thing. If the CIO’s death is becoming more of a probability what does that mean for you, the IT Project Manager? It’s not promising.
For example, the CIO of Wayfair, a $900 million online retailer, has adopted a strategy of asking the business if they want to select candidates who are interested in moving to IT to run their projects. Ostensibly, he’d rather have someone in the business run the project than someone in IT because they understand the business better, making them, I would surmise, easier to work with.
While one person alone can’t change years’ worth of perceptions, it can be a beginning. That can start with you, because to your client, you are the IT Division. If you’re easier to deal with, they’ll see the IT Division as being easier to deal with as well.
You’re goal is to end each conversation with a business person thinking ” that was easy” just like what you hear when you press the Staples button shown here.
Hey, we’ve got to start somewhere.