I wish it weren't true, but I'm constantly amazed at how badly some organisations manage their IT investment. Really when I say some, I mean most, because most organisations use IT, most organisations have some sort of technical support capacity, but most of them don't have a strategy and operations expert to direct their IT spend effectively.
It's always a fun process when I conduct an initial audit for a prospective client. I sit with the non IT Executive (who looks after IT) and some tech staff for a few hours to work though the areas that a good IT Manager / Chief Information Officer would typically address. I like to start with asking questions about their IT planning processes. Often they don't have any. No strategic planning, no operational planning, no staff planning, no capacity planning, but sometimes they've got a budget. It might be a hacked together spreadsheet though.
It's really interesting to see the changes of attitude in the room as the session progresses. I think generally it moves through 4 stages that I can perceive:
1) Shock - "This is my job and you're telling me I suck at it"
2) Defence - "How am I supposed to know that stuff, I'm not an IT Manager"
3) Realisation - "I never knew there was so much to managing IT properly"
4) Enlightenment - "I think we need help"
Now don't get me wrong - I'm not blaming anyone for this, because at the end of the day you only know what you know, but it does seem that IT is often viewed fairly one dimensionally by many organisations, in that it's largely about the "T" - Technology. Ask, any IT Manager or CIO, and they'll quickly point out that there's also an "I", and that Management activities sit across both the "I" and the "T". Try telling a CFO that finance is all about accounts payable and receivable!
So, companies often aren't aware of the IT Management skill-set, but once they are, there's that one big question that needs to be asked:
Is there any value add in completing IT Management activities?
Well, the short answer is, it depends. It can be incredibly difficult to quantify the costs and opportunity costs for a business that is not properly managing its IT investment across areas like planning; governance & compliance; risk; service delivery; knowledge & information; architecture; performance; change and web strategy. Each area can provide efficiencies, but also cost money through the implementation of improvement activities!
No matter how you look at it though, inefficiencies cost money, not implementing fit for purpose solutions has an opportunity cost, and risk can end up costing money, and even your business. IT Management expertise is at least worth looking into, and remember that if you're worried about the cost of an IT Management professional directing your IT spend, you should also be concerned about the hidden costs of the amateur who is currently looking after it.
By Michael Ouwerkerk