Is IT Killing Your Organization?


There I sat hearing the same lame excuses I’ve heard for the past 12 months from the staff of a very large not for profit: “we can’t do it because IT told us it would take 5 years before we can have online registration and payments.”  Are you kidding me!? It’s been over 8 hours since our meeting and I’m still outraged at the ridiculous notion that a multi-million dollar organization cannot, let me rephrase, will not figure out how to make something as common as an online sign up forms work system wide. Sadly, in this case,  IT is killing the organization.

IT is killing your business

I sound like a broken record on this issue, but marketing should drive your web strategy and not IT. Really.  Your online presence lives or dies on the end-user experience. If people can find what they’re looking for, if they can intuitive navigate the site and complete their transaction quickly, then everyone wins. If they don’t, then you lose. Users don’t care if you’re on a Linux, .NET, or whatever platform much less about what you’re redundant backup systems are. They want their experience to be intuitive, well designed and fast. If you website doesn’t deliver on these expectations than you lose. Yes, you need security, redundancy and a stable platform, but unless you have the front end right, nothing else matters.

When I run into such situations usually there’s an individual, a CIO, head of IT or even a Webmaster who’s responsible for such online debacle. Organizations get on such predicament because of:

1. Laziness. I’m not willing to learn new things and “start over” with a new development language, program or operating system. Let’s just maintain the status quo.

2. Ignorance. Technology moved past me, and I’m stuck doing what I know well which happens to be old, obsolete technology that can’t do what the market demands and the competitors are doing.

3. Fear. I spent  a ton of money on a system that’s now ineffective and to admit it and make a change now might cost me the job. And besides I’m afraid I might not understand the new technology anyway.

4. Any combination of the above.

Unfortunately, these IT professionals work for non-tech savvy COO’s or CEO’s or Executive Directors and all they need to say is “It’s very costly to make a change now, and there are several security issues with this plan. This could be a big liability for us.”  This phrase alone is enough to instill fear and trepidation on any executive. After all, who wants to be responsible for a costly, unsecured liability? So the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t know.

Meanwhile the organization misses opportunities, sales and credibility with consumers and members.

In my experience, these  situations point to a leader’s inability to put the organization’s best interest before an employee or team who’s holding everyone hostage with their rhetoric.

What’s your take? Am I being too harsh?

  • Joe Rogers

    Maurilio, I feel your pain. I sit on a board of a non-profit and I'm facing the same frustration. None of our initiatives have been able to be implemented due to the incompetence or disregard of the web team. I'm about to resign from my position because I hate wasting my time in meetings that go nowhere.

    • Joe,
      We are too busy to spend time in meetings that we know will produce no fruit and will not advance the cause. I call it "happy talk," because it's all it is, happy talk with no change of ever becoming reality.

  • Tami Heim

    I've seen many sides of this issue and more often than not – I've found what you posted to be true. It is sad how many opportunities are lost. It is always painful when this is the case.

    • Tami, you have felt this more than most with your background as a leader of large companies. Thank you for your input.

  • Robert Ingram

    This is a good reminder that leaders have a responsibility to the organization and not solely to their employees. Every time I see a strangle hold by IT, web or whatever area in an organization, it reminds me that there’s a leader not wanting to make the tough call and deal with the problem at its highest level.

  • Renato

    Managing IT in corporations require skills unlikely to be found in one individual. IMO you have correctly but simply described incompetence. I feel your pain, but that explains why competent CIOs are expensive: they perform way better, and they create value for their companies.

    BTW: how come you have such a Portuguese name/surname?

  • Ummm…wow. AMEN – and, didn't you and I have this conversation about 5 years ago, several times? LOL.

    • Yes we did, but I'm still fighting this battle.

      • You're battling a common and frustrating mentality that usually never opens its eyes to new thought, but has to be trumped by someone with authority to do so in order to move forward. Marketing should absolutely drive web strategy. IT should build itself around an organization's strategy, not control it.

  • Geoff Surratt

    Thanks for pointing out the naked emperor, any idea where we could get him some clothes?

    • Geoff, you know I can get clothes. Let's connect offline.

  • When people fear that which they don't understand or that which threatens their "knowledge domain" they reject it and down grade the importance of it to others. Social technology is disrupting all business processes including IT and changing the foundations of beliefs about all business models.

    Corporate cultures and people's insecurity are the greates constraint to progress. In a market connected and fueled by "we the people and our conversations" things are changing at the click of the mouse.

    Great post

  • Ken you're truly blessed. Most organizations have not figured that out yet.

  • IT and marketing should both report to the Chief Information Officer. My company is structured this way. I oversee communications, media and technology. If marketing wants something that will advance the company, IT will comply because my job is to advance the company through communications, media, or technology…

  • Mark Hively

    I know exactly what you are saying. I worked for a large corporation that wouldn't think twice about spending $100k for a new truck but was using an 8 year old patched together server to run a $25 million division. They would also buy off the shelf basic pc's for the engineers/architects and expect them to not have issues. I went through 3 laptops in less than a year. They finally realized after blowing up dozens of pcs that the design staff needed different specs than the secretary pool.

    • Well said Mark. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  • This is a great post!! I've spent years coaching executives and business owners on how to be better leaders with their technology and their IT Staff. You've hit the nail squarely on the head. Execs make a decision to hire or contract for their IT/Web work and then put absolute trust in them without the knowledge or ability to hold them accountable. Many boards have this problem too.

    Its like a guy who has never farmed, inheriting a farm and then going to buy a tractor after only driving cars all his life. He thinks he knows what he needs, but really how is he supposed to buy well. He needs more data and better data rather than kicking the can (decision) down to the farmhand.

    • Great farmer analogy, Brendan. I'm going to use it soon.

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  • Rick

    As the head of an IT department in a for profit company, and having worked in the field for many years, I've found that that things are usually more complicated than they appear at first glance, and IT is often an easy target to blame for lack of progress and innovation. I wholeheartedly agree with that web strategy should be driven by the marketing folks and not IT. I also think, if a CEO or COO lets the IT department drive his or her business decisions based solely on IT's concerns, then that CEO or COO probably needs to be replaced. IT shouldn't drive business strategy…unless IT is the business. Our role is to enable business strategies to come to fruition through use of technology…to not necessarily be experts in all technologies, but to be able to find the right technology experts to deliver what's needed.

    • You're right Rick, things are always more complicated. I'm not sure if this is your situation or not, but I know several IT heads that have inherited a lot of issues from their predecessors and are trying to make the best with what they have. I know that's a tough place because it's easy to pick on the geeks downstairs.

  • Good point, Josh. Often executives underestimate the financial and people resources it will take to bring a project to fruition.

  • Well said, Mitch. And you are your own IT department.

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  • thekarrz

    I also work for a large non-profit and your post sounds just like my last tirade with our IT department. I find that all too often non-profit's promote people with IT-like competencies into the IT department OR due to tight budget hire those with great hearts but a fairly shallow competency pool. Even if they get the right people they find themselves pulled by so many areas that they throw tons of bureaucracy at everything to slow it down.
    I believe that the best option for a non-profit is to find the absolute best contractors you can (and drop them if they cease to be the best) and use internal IT for helpdesk support and keep a few incredibly forward-thinking individuals in-house to respond to strategy. IT should never say no – they should be the wise counselors that highlight areas that will be affected, suggest best technology to use, and ask the right questions to get implement the solution quickly. Especially in the area of Christian Ministries, the mindset needs to be “the time is short, we have NO time to lose”

  • I just found this post and I'm one of those IT geeks myself. I absolutely agree that IT should respond to business strategies; not the other way around.

    However, I've also seen marketing folks come up with great ideas but when the implementation strategy is worked through, the marketing people wonder why it's so complicated. Sometimes, IT people make it more complicated than it should be. Sometimes, what is requested of them is extremely difficult (or expensive).

    Many of these issues can be solved by better communication and by teams that are singularly committed to the goals of the organization.

  • Mark M

    As an IT professional, I’ve had the privilege of working at Tech Savvy firms, so generally, the CEO and COO and head of marketing understand tech at least at a minimum.

    However, I can see what you describe napping where there are non-tech-ish people incharge of the business.

    That said, I think you are being way too harsh. You will never convince anyone in any part of IT to help you implement the next big thing if you call them lazy and insecure. Sure, there are people like that in IT, bit there are lazy and insecure people in every job! You can’t single out IT, especially as a marketing person and say, as a whole, that IT is lazy.

    My 2 cents.

  • bslwins

    You gave quite a tirade against the large non-profit IT staff.  How much do you actually know about the IT environment?  What if the IT staff already has a backlog of 4.5 years of high priority work to do?  What if they have asked for more resource or tools and been turned down or ignored multiple times?  What if they are never provided the necessary resources to keep the non-profit operating (not to mention implementing new technology)? Does it seem like a lame excuse then?

    Sometimes people only see their own request to IT in a vacuum without understanding the overall scope of what the IT department is trying to balance.

    Frequently in non-profits, I think the IT department assumes that all requests must be done with existing resources.  The IT department should answer such requests with, “We would be glad to provide that new functionality. We think it will incur a one-time cost of about $________  and yearly costs of about $________.”

    • I understand your dilemma. We all face it. However, no matter the reason: budget vs man hours vs experience, the right option for the ministry should be considered regardless of the circumstance. Not every case is the same and we all have systems that define and shape what we can do. My point is that opportunity and mission should dictate where we go next and not what we currently have in place. Always work backwards from where we want to be.

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