Your IT team’s most embarrassing statistic

On Wednesday I sat in on a round table discussion with some of Australia’s top CIOs at ADAPT’s CIO Edge event. Hosted by VMWare, the event started with one of their directors, Andrew Fox, sharing the following statistic:

  • 95% of IT people think they provide employees with the digital tools they need to be successful in their job
  • Only 58% of their employees agree

The problem here isn’t that people can’t always get the latest, shiniest new tech. The problem here is that one group of people think they’ve done their job…and yet the people they serve think they clearly haven’t.

So how can this be so? How can it be that there is such a disconnect? Well I dug up the research report this statistic came from. In it I found another, more embarrassing statistic:

  • 83% of IT people think they give employees a voice when it comes to which digital technologies they can use at work
  • Only 36% of employees agree

WHAT?

First, why don’t 100% of IT people feel they give people a voice? You would think that the person doing the job they’re paid to do would be well qualified to provide input on what tools they need to do it.

Second, if you’re wondering why IT isn’t treated like partners in the business, it’s because close to two thirds of people don’t think you listen. The basis of any partnership, or any meaningful relationship is communication.

Unfortunately, as I sat in this round table I noted there was almost a complete lack of embarrassment on the faces of these CIOs. Even though half of them were statistically doing worse than the figures noted above.

The problem here doesn’t lie with IT people, it lies with the way IT people get trained and developed. As pointed out by Julia Steel at the same event, IT people get trained in cables and code, not in how to have effective conversations. And perhaps a decade ago that was acceptable. The IT people did the IT and the operational people did what they were told. But we now live in a world where employees are more tech savvy than ever and job mobility is at an all time high. Now if you don’t give people the tech they need they leave (or don’t take a job with you in the first place).

It’s no longer enough for IT people to be technically competent. The ability to communicate and collaborate with end users and the ability to work in a team needs to be part of every modern IT person’s skill set.

If they aren’t teaching these skills at university (and a quick review of current IT degrees suggests they aren’t) then this needs to be a priority for the people running IT in every organisation.

Regardless of the size of the business, people need to be able to influence the technology they get.

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