Forgotten Factors in IT Decision Making

Jul 31, 2007

CIO Update Staff

After the dot-com bubble burst, there was a period of lean living in IT circles. But how times have changed.

Few are willing to jinx things up, but there is no denying that things are looking up for tech firms and IT personnel. So, then, why are they more stressed than ever? What’s with the budgets that make drawing blood from a stone look easy? Moreover, why is your tech crew still under relentless pressure?

For answers, you have to start at a familiar scene...

Sop up the Drool

It’s another mind-numbing staff meeting and another hour-long session of head nodding, notepad doodling and methodical grunting of the staff signifying their agreement to the muddle emanating from the front of the room. The sad thing is, this is the meeting where the IT leaders of your business are trying to make a decision on what technology stack to move to, or which servers to virtualize, or some other undoubtedly important IT-related, future-impacting decision.

Deadlines are set, expectations are documented and expenses are approved. The official meeting notes will be in your email box within the hour where you’ll sit there perusing them, checking for accuracy and trying to figure out which tasks are going to fall under your realm of responsibilities.

All this, and for what?

Is this project really going to make a difference or is it just another band-aid on a bigger problem? Is it going to give your business the cutting edge, is it going to separate you from the competition? Will it, in any discernible way, differentiate your business from the dozens of others?

These are the questions that should be asked at these meetings and you should ask them. Don’t let these real world questions go unanswered. And speaking of the competition, do you even know who the competition is? Who are your competitors and what is your business doing to crush them? Perhaps “crush” is a little extreme, but at the very least, don’t be a pushover.

To deal with the competition, you’re going to have to shake things up a bit, you’re going to have to bend the rules and go against the grain. You're going to have to actually “make a decision”, a big one. One that will set your business off on a path to greatness, not just a successful business, but a world class organization that is revered by all.

Invest in the Employee

So where do we start? Well, we start by actually listening to what our employees have to say. What is it they want? What makes them happy, what motivates them? Most of all, what will make them want this business to succeed? Answer that and your business can move mountains.

Ask yourself, why are the folks at businesses like Google, Genentech, and Wegmans Food Markets always walking around smiling? OK, we can’t guarantee that the folks at these businesses are actually “always smiling” (that would be creepy). But they should be, because they are all a part of an elite group of organizations to make the Top 10 Businesses to Work For this year.

How did they accomplish this?

By treating their employees with respect and earning their loyalty. A happy employee is a loyal employee, and a loyal employee will succeed where others fail. You have to wonder why it is so difficult for many CEO’s to grasp that simple concept.

It is really quite simple actually. Simply stop treating your employees with the “there’s the door” approach and flaunting those Rolex watches and the Porsche Cayenne Turbos when the remaining 99.9 percent of your workforce can barely make the payment on their Sonatas. Get the picture?

In other words, stop ripping them off, do the right thing, and set your business on a path that shares some of the wealth instead wallowing in unabashed corporate greed.

Google did it and there’s not a perk missing from the list if you’re an employee. Does your company offer you three free meals a day from one of eleven gourmet kitchens right on the premises? Well, maybe someone will have made a fresh pot of coffee when you get back to your office.

Start a Revolution!

Speak up! Tell your managers, tell your HR rep, or tell your CEO what you expect, what you need to be happy.

You may want to work flexible hours so that you can deal with home life and other responsibilities! You want a workout gym on the premises to help relieve daily stress! You want a cafeteria that serves up good, healthy food all day long and at a reasonable price or even better, at no cost? Or here’s an oldie but a goodie… how about a year-end bonus?

This is not, however, the time to board the self-entitlement bus. Back up your suggestions with examples, studies and data (start with the Business Week article linked above). Emulating some of the best companies can drastically change the mood and boost morale, even if you embark in modest measures to start.

You don’t need to be pulling in Google-like sums money to make things better. It’s amazing how just starting with a little acknowledgment on behalf of management can make a worker feel invested in an enterprise, and ultimately, its success.

And think before you throw another app, box or Blackberry at the problem. Efficiency-boosting technology helped many firms succeed, that’s true, but it’s just as easy to become enslaved by it. Smart firms have been able to temper the oftentimes cold, relentless pace set by today’s workplaces with perks that make employees feel, well, like people.

While this may sound all warm and fuzzy, take a look at some of the balance sheets on some of the companies mentioned above. Suddenly, this all sounds like smart business, doesn’t it?

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