Kennis Reversing the vicious cycle of bad IT results

Reversing the vicious cycle of bad IT results

Last week my colleague Yanne Veronneau wrote a piece on this blog about avoiding the vicious cycle of bad IT results (I strongly suggest you read it - and also check out the original article by Bob Lewis from IT Catalysts that inspired it. Good stuff).

Anyway, it's been a bit of a hot topic around the office since then. And it got me thinking about the people that aren't so lucky that they can avoid that awful situation to begin with... Some people believe that the relationship between Business and IT is doomed to be a bad one, but please believe me, it doesn't have to be that way!

So here's my complementary post about reversing the cycle of mistrust and bad IT results...

1. How to realize you're in the infernal cycle?  

The first step in turning this downward spiral around is to realize you're in it in the first place. As explained in Yanne's post, Business and IT form a relationship which is purely based on results. The quality of results affect the relationship positively or negatively, which in turn affects the quality of future results.

So are you in a cycle of bad IT results? To find out, ask yourself this:

"Is the general consensus within the organisation that IT results just don't meet expectations? Is there distrust between Business and IT?"

If the answer is yes, then you're in it!

2. How do you identify the problem?

Do you have bad results? How bad are they? As stated, bad results yield more bad results, so you should really measure the quality of your organisation's IT output. Is there a method or process already in place to measure the quality of IT results? If so, what does it tell you? Also go further and find out what should define the quality of IT results for your organisation and how you can measure that?

Then, make sure Business expectations are clear to IT. That can be a major problem...

Once the expected results/quality levels are well defined, understood and agreed upon by both Business and IT, start measuring. It won't take long before you have a clear indication of the quality of the results.

After that, it should be a lot easier to identify specific problems. Is it the amount of bugs, late deliveries, incomplete functionality, etc.? Identifying problems that result in the output not matching expectations should allow you to detect the causes. Do these relate to competence, budget, governance, delivery? Identifying the weak link in the chain empowers you to change the dynamic.

3. How do you turn it into a 'virtuous' cycle?

With measurements and a list of identified problems in hand, Business and IT need to sit down and have an open and honest discussion about where they stand and how results can be improved. Sure, there might be some uncomfortable moments, but in general people are willing to help each other out once it's acknowledged the problems are shared and should be resolved together.

Also, IT has to take the lead here by starting to solve problems and causes of bad results, in small steps. Define the quick wins for Business and solve those first. Start building trust again. Once Business sees the early results of your improvement plans, there will be more trust. More trust will lead to a healthier relationship, more competence and more budget for solving the bigger problems.


Note that this whole process will be a lot easier if you do the following: Be honest in acknowledging that you are in the downward spiral. Be humble, it helps to identify your problems . Ask IT and Business team-members for their help to identify problems and their trust to resolve them. Be bold to really solve the causes of your problems and turn the cycle upwards. Be proud when you see the results of your investments. Share your succes.