I love working with IT leaders.
No, really, I do. No-nonsense, straight to the point, you know where you are going, what you are doing, and you just get on with it. Simple, neat and tidy.
IT teams know the limits of what their software and hardware will allow them do. If they say a particular task is feasible, you can be pretty sure that it is. Projects are properly organized following strict processes and guidelines that have been in place for years and have stood the test of time.
On the other hand, Business Users are the dreamers. This utopian perception of the digital world where any need can be satisfied, any software written, any data available. All right here, right now. Process and guidelines? Sure, but they too often get in the way of what we need – we need answers, dammit, and we need them now!
I am aware of the generalization and appreciate that this is not the case in every company or organization. However, suffice to say that in most instances we have two different mindsets at play, and very often at loggerheads with one another. And this is where the problem lies for our friends in IT. The business world is one of progress, evolution, and change. This trend is ever increasing, change ever accelerating and keeping up with the pace and, where possible, keeping ahead of it is among the chief priorities of leaders today.
And this is where CIOs have a problem, as fast change is not easily compatible with a traditional IT process oriented approach. Business users need to make decisions quickly. To make those decisions they need data available. Quickly. In hours, days maybe. Not weeks or months. These are people who now no longer need to get out of bed to do their shopping, or check the weather, or find out which Avengers franchise sequel is premiering this week. IT is overwhelmed with the demand, so often unable to be met with existing processes and guidelines in place. So what does the business do? Set up their own solution. The CIO silently seethes.
This phenomenon is now seeping out of the realms of the project, and into organizational strategy. The Chief Digital Officer. The Chief Data Officer. Market Data Directors. Data Science teams. All roles that have surged in the last few years and have increasingly marginalized traditional approaches – and the people they involve – when it comes to data. But IT still has a role to play – they control the gist of the data, physically. They manage the solutions that host them. They configure user access.
This is the mid-life crisis of the CIO.
What do you do? The perception is if you yield to the demand and freely open up access, you are essentially giving credence to the notion that you are not needed. If you do the opposite and stick to your guns, you are inflexible, unhelpful and liable to be marginalized and left out of the decision-making process.
We spend an unreasonably large amount of time working together with professionals trying to resolve this dichotomy. While there is no default solution that applies in all cases, one thing is clear – a project cannot and will not be successful if all parties do not work together to ensure the desired result is attainable.
Dialogue is the key word here, and through compromise a middle ground must be found. Too often I have seen egos get in the way; invariably what goes around comes around, those egos are removed from the equation one way or another. Therefore, business users and IT alike must strive toward the same goal and not push back on what they know or perceive to be the one and only way of doing things.
The theme of this post is the apparent CIO identity crisis – however we are all party to how this situation arises in organizations and how it can be resolved. A CIO needs their business users happy and the opposite is equally true. Your ability to leverage your data will be all the better for it.
Your Data Guv’nor.
Martin Lee is co-founder and Director of Sales at Actinvision
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