Stop IT-speak and stop apologising: Gartner

The firm has made a list of things CIOs do that waste time

Research firm Gartner has released a ‘hit list’ which identifies several time-wasting practices that CIOs should avoid in order to maintain a focus on key priorities that maximise value to the business.

At the top of the list is a warning to CIOs to stop being the budget-priority police.

Gartner vice president John Mahoney says boundary disputes need to be minimised when business units use technology, especially those units that have control over discretionary spending.

He says it’s more important for CIOs to ensure that the enterprise uses technology effectively than to provide all the technology through their own IT organisations.

At number two is a warning to CIOs to stop using enterprise architecture as a command and control tool. “Rigid standards and policies might make it easier to reduce risk in system changes, but this approach reinforces the traditional view that the IT organisation doesn’t understand how the enterprise needs to respond quickly to business or market changes,” Mahoney says.

“Don’t use architecture to control priorities and direct details of business applications; rather, use it to enable coherence.”

Another time-wasting practice is when CIOs communicate using IT metrics instead of focusing on business performance. Mahoney says the focus should be on a manageable number of IT value indicators that are meaningful to business.

“They should be linked to familiar business measures, such as business goals, business strategies or business processes, and should show the current status and progress to date,” he says.

“Ideally, these indicators should be jointly reported on with the appropriate business unit, or included in the business unit leader’s dashboard.”

Number four on the hit list is to stop the proliferation of applications, infrastructure and IT governance committees.

Mahoney believes there is often a common, underlying cause of ill-disciplined enterprise decision making.

“The critical action to fix these problems is to create and repeatedly exploit a strategic portfolio of applications and infrastructure capabilities, with associated rationalisation of IT governance. This means using enterprise architecture and related mechanisms to ensure coherence,” he says.

CIOs shouldn’t waste time apologising for past problems, he says, adding that credibility requires building strong personal relationships.

“It means being politically smart, integrating IT objectives with enterprise objectives and anticipating business needs to deploy a predictable stream of technology that enables business solutions,” he says. “Repeated apologies diminish that.”

And finally, stop defining services in technical rather than business terms.

Although Gartner prepared the research after interviews with 150 CIOs, Maverick Security IT executive Sean Hopkins didn’t completely agree with the hit list.

Referring to the warning about being budget priority police, Hopkins says it isn’t about having central control but ensuring business units do not waste time and money on applications not suited to the organisation.

He also found it hard to believe there are CIOs out there still talking in tech-speak and not focusing on business performance.

“Most CIOs today speak in business terms so I thought this one was a bit dated. I also thought the reference to repeated apologies was interesting — I didn’t realise we were such an apologetic lot,” he says.

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