February 24, 2011

Four other things not do in IT without a reason

I started this idea a few posts ago and talked about cloud and cost reductions. The last 4 I’m sort of going to lump into this post because it’s pretty much the same for them as well. “Do what makes sense for the business and the rest will happen as part of that.”

So rather than do a post on Architecture, ITIL, security and, what seems like every CIO’s issue, business alignment, I’ll consolidate them into this one.

We frequently talk about our IT environment and usually during these presentations, we show our applications and how they integrate. Someone always comments on what a nice job we did on the architecture. The funny thing is we don’t focus on architecture, or even have someone whose job is “IT Architect.” Most of this works because we listen to the business and build integrations that make business sense. We do try and be forward looking and build smart, but we don’t have an architecture project listed anywhere in our roadmap.

ITIL is the same way. If you were to look at our IT processes they look very much like ITIL; in fact we consider ourselves ITIL-like. We have looked at ITIL and gone through and made some changes because they made sense. The most obvious is reviewing what causes you the most tickets and focusing on them. It’s one of those things that seems obvious once someone mentions it, but often times goes undone.

Security is almost the same thing. We don’t have a security group, but everyone in IT is pretty security focused. Many times if you have a security group, they worry so much about locking things down, they forget that you are actually trying to run a business. I’m OK with this when it’s the CIA, or NSA, but if it’s the local coffee shop it gets silly.

Business alignment is one of the biggest challenges CIOs face. I’ve talked to folks who think because they have quarterly “Business Alignment” review meetings, and have spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on “alignment dashboards” or “Portfolio management tools” that they should be working as a team. Unfortunately, business alignment isn’t about a new report or tool, it’s about communications. We never have a business alignment meeting, have practically no dashboards and chuckle every time someone tells us we need a portfolio manager piece of software.

What we do though is spend 30-40% of our time actually going and talking to our peers in the business. Sounds pretty simple, and it is. The best tool for great business alignment is a pair of sneakers, a cup of coffee and the initiative to actually have a conversation. Who knew?

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