The purpose of IT

This past week, my wife was working on communicating with staff at a service organization by e-mail. Unfortunately for her and them, their IT is managed by draconian control freak IT people. This is evident in a number of aspects of their environment, not the least of which being that more than 50% of the organization's staff doesn't even use their e-mail system, instead, they use their own accounts on Gmail and Yahoo and so on.

By any measure, this is utter failure.

We must ask the question, "Why?" You got a foreshadow of the reason in the first paragraph: the people running the systems, no matter how well-intentioned, don't get the purpose of IT. What about you?

The purpose of IT is to improve the productivity of the organization, period.

Anything IT organizations do must be filtered through that truth, and the questions must be asked: Does this improve the productivity of the organization?

Part of that process, of course, is protecting the assets that are produced. But, as I mentioned to one of those poor users in that organization earlier this week, "It's easier to lock assets in a closet than it is to figure out how to make them available for safe and productive use." Yet there are far too many IT support staff who think that their job is to protect the assets, so they lock them in the closet.

Don't be one of those!

Locking them in a closet makes no business sense. It's a cop-out. And it fuels the already challenging rift between IT and the rest of the organization. It's time to focus on the purpose: Make a positive difference for your organization.

One way to do this is to think about the friction that technology introduces. It should be friction-free for each member to do the work that they are there to do. If they are HR staff, it should be friction-free to access HR records, update them as appropriate (including automated checks for errors to help them), and so on. If they are not HR staff, they should neither see nor care that there are those HR records.

And so on throughout the organization.

What are you doing to make productivity friction free? If you're in IT, that's your purpose. And you can do it better than any other.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.