IT’s Perception Problem and How to Fix It

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

In many businesses, innovation is being held back by a fundamental disconnect between the IT department and the rest of the organization. Instead of being viewed as a strategic part of a business team, many organizations view their IT departments as a hindrance. William Murphy, CTO at Blackstone, places the blame for this squarely on the IT department’s shoulders.

Most IT departments started out with two purposes: managing technology and managing risk. For early IT departments, these two roles trumped other concerns– to the exclusion of other business imperatives. Concerns like return on investment as well as understanding of the underlying business that the department served were frequently not major focuses for IT leaders.

Over the years, this became a part of the internal brand of many IT departments. In the eyes of the companies that they ostensibly served, the IT department got linked with negatives like cost overrun and defensiveness. IT departments got branded as lacking knowledge and as not being helpful. The divide became so great that some IT application vendors approached corporate departments with the pitch that their products didn’t need to be supported by IT.

At the same time, most of the major trends in modern business are either technology-based or largely technology-driven. ┬áBig data doesn’t work without powerful databases, globalization can’t happen without international unified communications links, and mobile workers are only mobile thanks to portable IT devices. Furthermore, these devices aren’t just risks to be managed and technologies to be supported.

The opportunity for the IT department to rebrand itself comes through these technologies. While they are all business shifts that create opportunities outside of IT, they are also all IT-based. With input from an IT department that is strategic and business-aligned, corporate leaders can make better decisions about how to integrate these technologies into the business. As IT morphs away from an administration role into a hybrid of selling technology, analyzing the financial impact of new applications, mentoring corporate leaders, and managing relationships with vendors, it can change its perceived role in the organization.