IT’s Reputation Problem

I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation
You’re living in the past it’s a new generation
~Joan Jett, Bad Reputation

IT apparently has a reputation problem. You’re aloof, overpaid and you don’t do enough. Or so says a post in The Tech Republic that suggests 10 reasons why you’re underappreciated and, well so sorry to say it, not very well liked or even respected inside your organization.

IT can't seem to shed its bad reputation, but if you look at finding ways to be more cooperative with business, units, you might find it improves.

I’m not sure I agree with many of these reasons or even that it’s true. Blanket statements tend to be just that, and while they make good blog posts (something I know a thing or two about) and generate some page views, and might even ring true; they certainly don’t apply to all companies at all times.

But let’s start with the premise that you have a less than stellar status in your company. Have you have stopped to consider why?

A little introspection never hurt anyone, right? Could it be that you’re seen as an obstructionist when it comes to new projects? Say, I’m a manager. I know I need some sort of technological solution to help my department. I do some reading and I find what I consider to be a good approach. I go to you and you shoot it down…every time.

There’s a security issue. It’s not compatible with the XYZ system. The lawyers won’t approve it or you’re just not familiar with it and you don’t want to learn another new system to satisfy the whims of yet another manager who did a little reading.

The trouble with this attitude today, is that there are ways around you. You are not the center of the company technology universe anymore. You are consultants working with other teams to solve the high-level technological problems. If you just say no all the time, nobody’s going to consult with you. They will just find a way to do it alone.

And as you know, there are plenty of ways to go it alone. Unless you plan to shut down the Internet at your company, you might as well face the inevitable. And before you think that’s a good idea, remember if it didn’t work for Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt, chances are it will backfire on you too.

As Mubarak learned the hard way, when you shut down Internet access, dammit, it hurts your business.

So maybe it’s time to take that reputation problem to heart. Maybe you need to be a little more cooperative and leave the old-school protectionist issues behind. Decide what is truly important and why, and then work with business owners to set up reasonable guidelines everyone can follow.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, but if you want to shed that bad reputation, it’s going to take some work — and two-way communication.

Photo by  moonhouse on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

11 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    My manager will love this article :)

  2. Shawn H Corey says:

    “Say, I’m a manager. I know I need some sort of technological solution to help my department. I do some reading and I find what I consider to be a good approach. I go to you and you shoot it down…every time.”

    Your first mistake was not to consult IT before you decide what product you needed. First, go to IT and tell them your requirements. Then listen to what they suggest. Cooperation is a two-edge sword. If you don’t start with it, you’ll never get it.

    • Ron Miller says:

      Excellent point, Shawn, but it’s a chicken/egg thing. People have the technical aptitude to at least start the process and today more than ever, they’re going to hear about solutions at conferences, meetings and articles and they are going to see a solution that helps them today. That conversation may be starting based on that. Most ideas don’t develop from nothing. The consultation process begins based on some idea. The idea that IT is just saying No to everything though is not a new one.

      As I say it might not be fair, but it’s also not fair to shoot the messenger.

      • Joseff says:

        Actually, by the time the manager does the reading he has his idea problem set. It’s at that point that he/she needs to goto IT and say “hey guy’s this is my problem, and this is what I need out of the solution. I’m sure there are products out there that may do this but I wanted to consult with you guys first.” Yes, it is humbling BUT you are doing two things in this quick statement: You’re letting IT a) do it’s job (not your’s) and b) communicating the respect that they know how to do their jobs.

        IT doesn’t go over to sales and say “You should lean in with a high price then edge out to 20% of that because the wholesale price is only this.”. We sorta expect/appreciate the same non-interference when architecting systems.

        • Ron Miller says:

          Joseff:
          That’s actually an excellent work flow. And your point about IT not telling other departments how to do their job is a good one.

  3. Hans Bezemer says:

    I’d say IT got everything it went for. Instead of using reliable technology and well-designed systems, they fall for the iPhone trap and go for everything that’s trendy, unreliable and unproven. Instead of following the likes of Dijkstra and Knuth we went for idiots like Alan Kay, Gates and Jobs. Instead of finishing a document quickly and easily with LaTeX, they try to be document designers in Word. The likes of van Looijen, Dietz and the likes showed us how to run an IT department, but instead we turn to “frameworks”, “green fields” and “best practices” like ASL, BiSL and ITIL. As if methodology and mathematics stop when we’re talking “computer science” (which Feynmann called “psst, it’s not science, it’s about doing nice thing with the gadgets you got”). And now we’re whining that “they’re not nice to us”? Come on, wake up! Drop all the garbage and let’s make a difference – let’s do the job we’re paid for!

    • D says:

      “I’d say IT got everything it went for. Instead of using reliable technology and well-designed systems, they fall for the iPhone trap and go for everything that’s trendy, unreliable and unproven. Instead of following the likes of Dijkstra and Knuth we went for idiots like Alan Kay, Gates and Jobs.”

      Then the wrong people were hired. You know who hired them? Management. You know who typically drives MS and iPhone implementation and goes for the “Look Im cool” stuff? Management, because its about image not functionality.

  4. D says:

    The problem was stated in the first part and has zero to do with IT personel.

    “I know I need some sort of technological solution to help my department. I do some reading and I find what I consider to be a good approach. I go to you and you shoot it down…every time.”

    You hired your IT staff for a reason. WHY are YOU not involving them IN the project? If you cant see where the problem is here then “the problem” will never be fixed. IT people are there to find you solutions in IT. How people dont get this Ill never understand. Why not present the problem to them in a meeting to get people thinking. Of course thats part of the problem. Management, more and more THESE days, dont or maybe cant think.

    As far as a bad reputation its because we are behind the scenes most of the time and people simply assume we dont do anything. Its kind of like the people that hate seeing a cow being slaughtered but have no issue buying that big juicing Carls Jr. double ranch burger.

    • Ron Miller says:

      D:
      I think it would be a mistake to start making this and us versus them kind of issue. It’s about what’s best for the company. There are lots of trends changing the way IT interacts with the organization. Consumerization is what brought the iPhone into the enterprise, not a management decision or an IT decision, but just a fundamental change in the way your users want to interact with their devices.

      As for your other point, people inside the organization don’t necessarily want to ask permission for every decision they make. They make their own computer decisions at home and the tools are friendly and easy to use. It makes sense to me that they want the same ease of use when they get to work. And if you as an IT pro aren’t providing that and I can sign up in 30 seconds for an online service that does just about everything I need for me and my team to get my job done, what do you think I’m going to do?

      That said, you’re right. IT is behind the scenes and it’s hard to see what you’re doing sometimes, but again communicate and let the company know what you’re doing and that will help improve the reputation. Getting angry and pointing fingers is not going to get it done, no matter how satisfying it might feel for a little while.

  5. alamedated says:

    I agree with with the general outlook about the IT guys as arrogant bastards. If I go to the IT guy with a database recommendation, I am just giving him an idea about what I want to do. I don’t care how he does it or what software he uses. If there are security issues, give me a solution.

    You guys saying the manager needs to go to the IT department first are part of the problem. I say this and I like our IT guy, the arrogant bastard.

    • Ron Miller says:

      Alamedated

      Again, I would avoid making this an us versus them dynamic. The idea here is find ways to work together. The goal is to get organizations within the company to work in harmony. If we have departments in contempt of one another, very little work is going to get done. But you’re right, it’s about getting the solution. Let’s get it done and leave the politics out if it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>