I don’t profess to know how things work in your business, but one situation I’ve come across in almost every place I’ve worked is that the ICT team don’t actually own the equipment for which they are accountable.
If you’re responsible for technology in your organisation, this is a problem. Why? Because you will generally be asked to support it, even if you don’t actually make the decisions about it. It’s hard to manage technology and control the associated costs if you don’t actually own it all. This is a simple concept that it seems is very hard for business units to get their heads around.
Let’s spend a few moments thinking about this. What does “own” actually mean? This might sound like a simple, straightforward question to you and me, but it’s a massively complex issue, particularly in larger organisations.
In terms of this blog, it means that it’s your asset. You’re responsible for its operation, related expenses, maintenance and budgeting for replacements and failures. It’s all yours. The buck stops with you and your team. You are the “one throat to choke”.
And when I say “own it all”, I mean all — every bit of technology equipment including phones, mobiles, PABXs, routers and all the stuff that traditionally technology teams either don’t want to touch or regard as administrivia, or, worse yet, that business units view as being their responsibility and not to be touched by “those technowonks”.
Here’s where it starts to get interesting.
A couple of years ago I was talking to the sales manager for a large consumer products company (he’ll remain nameless because he still works there) and he was telling me about how he’d managed to negotiate a great mobile contract for his sales team. Just think about that for a minute… the sales manager negotiated a telephony contract for his department in isolation to the rest of the organisation. I asked him why this wasn’t all centrally managed and the answer absolutely floored me.
He said, “We don’t want to let the technowonks tell us what phones we should use.”
Then I asked who he calls if there’s a problem with the phones or their use.
He looked at me and said, “The tech support guys. That’s their job.”
Finally I asked him if they standardised on one handset when they negotiated the contract.
His answer was the icing on the cake, “Why? Each guy on my team should be able to pick the phone he wants to use, especially these cool new phones with a built-in GPS.”
So, basically, his team of ten guys could have ten different types of handset and would expect the “technowonks” to provide them support on their handset of choice, including access to email and internet and integration with their laptop.
When we stopped to talk about the advantages in terms of cost, ongoing support and maintenance on standardisation of technology platforms he completely agreed with what I was saying, just so long as it didn’t impact on his personal fiefdom.
Now you may wonder how management allowed something like this to happen. “It’s simple,” he said. “You’ll damage team morale if you don’t give these guys what they want.”
You know, if I don’t give my four year old what she wants at the supermarket, it damages her morale too…
This is just a control issue and, at the end of the day, if you’re responsible for keeping it working, you need to own it. If you get asked questions about the cost of technology, you need to own it. Otherwise, you’re being held accountable for things that you’re not responsible for, and that just doesn’t work.
In a lot of places this is organisational heresy — usually followed up with a CFO-led Spanish Inquisition into your intrusion into corporate asset control.
There are a lot of strategies on managing this situation and in some future posts I’ll pass on some war stories about dealing with getting the ownership you need to do your job. I’ll also come back to this case again with a follow-up on what came of this after about a year.
The 1% Spend is written by a prominent Australian I.T. consultant who is choosing to remain anonymous (and candid).
Photo: Net Efekt