12 ‘Best Practices’ IT Should Avoid
How can IT organizations succeed? By following the “industry best practices” that draw on the experiences of the most flourishing organizations and the knowledge of the most authoritative experts? Well, it’s not that simple. On the contrary, many “best practices” such as the following ones are often the surefire recipes for IT failure.
1. Tell everyone they’re your customer
IT people are frequently advised to tell everyone outside of IT, “You’re my customer. My job is to make you happy.” This is wrong. People from IT and other parts of an organization are colleagues who collaborate as equals to make the company thrive as a whole. IT shouldn’t be placed in a subservient position to serve their colleagues; all employees in an organization need to work closely with each other to serve the company’s actual customers and make THEM happy.
2. Establish SLAs and treat them like contracts
In many companies, internal contracts — Service Level Agreements — are signed between IT department and other parts to “improve” IT service. But does that work? Not really. SLA is a commitment between a service provider and a client, which makes IT subject to their outside-IT colleagues’ demands. This is the worst way to build a trust-based relationship between IT and the other departments, since the purpose of contracts such as SLAs are not to enhance trust, but to define what happens when something goes wrong due to lack of trust.
3. Tell dumb-user stories
It could be hard for IT people to understand the “computer illiteracy” of others, hence come the “dumb user” stories with punch lines like “you’re having a power outage and you can’t understand why your PC won’t boot (snicker).” These stories may be laughable for IT people, but definitely not for others, whether being the objects of mockery or not. It only sends out one message — IT guys are disrespectful!
4. Institute charge-backs
It’s not unusual for organizations to institute a chargeback system in which IT users pay for the services they obtain from IT department. But it is also a terrific way to discourage the use of information technology, because under such a system, users will have to spend lots of time producing invoices detailing every type of IT service related expense, e.g. developer hours, help desk calls, etc. It also damages collaboration extensively between various parts of the company when they argue over the fairness of the charges.
5. Insist on ROI
It’s a huge mistake to insist that the IT governance process require a tangible financial ROI — it will only result in critical projects being rejected, including those that can help business departments deliver better products faster to meet customer demands. The value of many IT investments cannot be simply calculated by ROI; the real benefit they provide are often intangible — the organizations’ future capability of acquiring sustainable competitive advantage through proper leverage of the right type of technology.
6. Charter IT projects
When IT projects are defined in a charter that stipulates how IT job is done by delivering the “perfect” software that meets the stapled specifications, the real value obtained by these IT projects could be extremely limited. In many cases, the charter only provides IT with a measure of self-defense when business managers complain that the software doesn’t do what they need it to do — the software meets all the specs in the charter after all. It’s a perfect way to prevent IT from helping deliver actual business value.
7. Assign project sponsors
It’s a common practice to assign a business sponsor to an IT project, which only increases the project’s chance of failure. These assigned business sponsors are usually SINOs — “sponsors in name only” — who are primarily concerned with their names and reputations that are tied to the projects’ technical success defined by meeting all the pre-set specifications, rather than ensuring the projects’ real success defined by delivering true business value.
8. Establish a cloud computing strategy
Cloud computing is the future, thus every IT organization is supposed to establish a cloud computing strategy. But if the sole purpose of such a strategy is to follow the trend, its real benefits will not be reaped. IT organizations must think more thoroughly than that and assess both the pros and cons of putting their essential data and applications in the cloud, such as the potential problems of security, loss of control, network connection dependency, and technical difficulties, etc.
9. Go Agile. Go offshore. Do both at the same time
Any level of success in going agile requires a high level of user involvement so that improvements are made frequent and progress are seen every day thanks to continuous user feedback; while going offshore is a strategy that has only one purpose, i.e. lower labor cost, and provides the smallest possibility of user involvement. Going agile and going offshore are two things that cannot be more incompatible with each other, thus pursuing them at the same time isn’t for the faint of heart, if not utterly impossible.
10. Interrupt interruptions with interruptions
Another surefire recipe for IT failure is to insist everyone multitask, which only reduces productivity and quality while stressing people out when they try to get all things done at the same time. The reason is simple — multitask involves way too many interruptions. When people go back and forth from one task to another, they waste time switching mental gears; and the more concentrated they are at one task, the more time they have to waste to switch to another. In fact, if anyone wants to be efficient, he has to focus on one thing at a time.
11. Juggle lots of projects
IT is always short of staff to handle all the tasks assigned to them, so the problem of multitask comes back — IT guys have to move back and forth among multiple projects, all of which consequently take a lot longer time, cost a lot more money, and end up with a lot more sub-standard deliveries. What IT needs to do is the opposite: fully staff every launched project so that no project will have to wait for a team member to become available to move forward.
12. Say no or yes no matter the request
The last and the most reliable way to ensure IT failure is to answer to any request with a simple “Yes” or “No.” Either way will cost IT dearly: saying “No” damages relationships; saying “Yes” destroys IT reputation as they can’t keep their promises due to lack of time or staff. Instead, the right answer of IT to any request should be: “If we are to do that, here’s what it will take.” IT needs to learn to explain what is required to satisfy the requests, but in a conversation instead of an argument.
It’s not that these “industry best practices” are not good in themselves, but no organization can find best strategies through simple copy-paste. All IT organizations must understand their unique business contexts and characteristics before borrowing the most suitable parts of others’ “best practices” to create their own.
Lewis, B. (2017, Jun. 13). 12 ‘best practices’ IT should avoid at all costs. Retrieved from https://www.cio.com/article/3200445/it-strategy/12-best-practices-it-should-avoid-at-all-costs.html
Overby, S., Greiner, L., & Paul, L.G. (2017, Jul. 5). What is an SLA? Best practices for service-level agreements. Retrieved from https://www.cio.com/article/2438284/outsourcing-sla-definitions-and-solutions.html
Advantages and Disadvantages of IT Chargeback. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://softwareitmanagement.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-it-chargeback/#:~:text=If%20not%20properly%20implemented%2C%20however,is%20not%20clear%20to%20them.