Industry 'Best Practices' IT Should Avoid at all Costs

By Bob Lewis Sep 10th 2012
These supposed industry best practices are sure to sink your chances of IT success.
  • The 12-fold path to IT failure: What makes IT organizations fail? Often, it's the adoption of so-called industry best practices - by people who ought to know better but don't, probably because they've never had to do the job.

  • Employees outside of IT are not IT's customers. Legitimizing the idea of internal customers puts IT in a subservient position, where everyone in IT has to make their colleagues happy, whether or not doing so makes sense for the business.

  • Want to do some damage? Establish formal SLA's and treat these SLAs like contracts. If you really want IT to fail, argue about whether you've satisfied your SLAs every time an "internal customer" (there's that phrase again) suggests IT isn't doing what they need it to do.

  • Laugh when other IT staff members tell them, especially when they have names attached. Or if you want to ensure IT failure, tell them yourself. That way, word will get out that neither you nor anyone else in IT has any respect for anyone else. That'll help the cause.

  • Institute chargebacks--carefully computed ones that generate invoices detailing every category of expense each cost center has incurred. Nothing encourages collaboration like arguing over the accuracy of the bills that determine which corporate pocket should hold the money.

  • Doing that pretty much ensures a slide into obsolescence, while technology that helps business departments deliver better results faster goes unfunded and projects that help drive customer satisfaction are snickered at in the corner office, along with whoever proposed them.

  • Want a formula for business/IT dysfunction? Define projects in terms of software delivery so that IT's job is done when software satisfies requirements and meets specifications. Define every project in terms of business outcome ("increase sales effectiveness"), not software ("implement").

  • Real sponsors, not sponsors in name only, are willing to take risks if necessary to make sure their projects succeed, and put their names and reputations on the line regarding their projects' business benefits. Think someone who's been assigned to be a sponsor will do those things? Me neither.

  • You know you have to be in the cloud, so the purpose of the strategy is to make it happen. It's an old rule: Form follows function. Services are the functions. The cloud is one form some of your needed services might take. Avoid thinking that way, unless you want IT to succeed. Then it's mandatory.

  • Combine a 12-time-zone difference, language barriers, a cultural chasm, and interactions limited to what can be handled with Web conferencing, and agile is a nonstarter. Want to go agile? Want to go offshore? Pick one.

  • This is a highly desirable ability, right? What it really means is reducing productivity and quality while increasing stress in the attempt to get more done.Want IT to succeed instead? Let people finish what they're working on before they move to another item.

  • If you want IT to develop a good reputation, establish this rule: Every project that launches will be fully staffed. Do this, and every project will finish before any one project would have been completed had you kept on juggling them.

  • Don't say no. Don't say yes. Explain what you'll have to do to satisfy requests - Nothing is ever free. What follows will be a conversation rather than an argument - a much better scenario. The right answer if you want to succeed: "We can do that. Here's what it will take"

The 12-fold path to IT failure

What makes IT organizations fail? Often, it's the adoption of so-called industry best practices by people who ought to know better but don't, probably because they've never had to do the job.

From establishing internal customers to instituting chargebacks to insisting on ROI, a lot of this advice looks plausible when viewed from 50,000 feet or more. Scratch the surface, however, and you begin to find these surefire recipes for IT success are often formulas for failure.

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