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Canada: How Large IT Departments Waste Time and Effort
Source: techrepublic.com
Source Date: Monday, April 22, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs, Thematic Website, Knowledge Management in Government, Citizen Engagement
Country: Canada
Created: May 07, 2013

A lack of self-awareness is OK for children and reality stars, but in the corporate world, the way others perceive you can you can mean the difference between getting an initiative funded and not. It can also affect your job security.

To those outside the IT department, it may not be immediately evident as to what goes into keeping all forms of electronic communication running smoothly, ensuring your servers are maintained, and upgrading software. You have to ask yourselves, are you really being efficient or are there instances where your department wastes time? Here are some ways that IT really does waste time.

IT poison
John Wyss, the Director of Product Management at Intuit, believes that the problem is in micromanagement. He says that, in an IT department: “Work items and progress is managed down to the most microscopic level. Cost estimates are compiled, prioritization and cuts are rendered, and workload is distributed carefully down to each productive resource.” Most might consider this to be an example of best practice, tracking the progress of a project right down to the last detail. However, as Wyss goes on to say: “If you are building a bridge, a skyscraper or an aircraft, this is essential, because predictable progress and proper sequencing is more important than maximizing results. If you are trying to build software against a strong set of constraints, it’s poison.”

The devil’s in the details
Wyss’ point is that the constraints that tend to feature most heavily are the ones set by the budget and his belief is that too much of the budget can be spent on “process, tracking, trading of this work item for that, and the worst - lots of people debating whether to fix this bug or that - rather than just getting on with the work.” If the devil is in the details, it seems he’s nowhere more present than in the minutiae of software programming. But surely this is the result of bad project management?

Put the right people in charge
The real problem lies not in the strategies, but in removing the power to make decisions from those who are doing the work. By putting the IT engineers in charge of what they’re doing, you’re ensuring that they’re working within the parameters of what they know, rather than within the confines of a template that, no matter how well-informed, simply doesn’t cover all the variables.

Templates tend to be inflexible, which is why IT specialists can waste an awful lot of time trying to make their work fit your ideas. In short, it might be better to let them get on with the job and report back later. As long as the results are what you wanted, surely the details of how they got there are almost irrelevant?

In giving over the reins to those who know how to get the job done, you also communicate your faith in their abilities, which translates into better results. In addition, the shadow of accountability falls over that department, encouraging them to work together to ensure that your IT systems are the best they could be, without incurring time wastage.

(By Carlo Pandian)

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