This is a follow on from my last post where I gave my view on why so many companies fail to embrace Self Service BI as at least a part of the overall BI capability.  In that article I introduced the concept “You get the IT Department you deserve”, and I want to explore that concept further in this article as it is directly related to removing barriers to getting started with Self Service BI.  Those that have followed my writings over time will be familiar with the fact that I spent 15 years working in commercial roles (in the business), relying on IT as a service provider.  And I then spent 10 years working in IT as that same service provider back to the business.  My insights having done both have shaped my views on these things.

You Get the IT Department You Deserve

I wanted to clarify what this statement means.  It is ultimately the executive leadership and CEO that are responsible for the way the IT Department services the business.  In that sense what this quote is saying is that you reap what you sow.  If a CEO fails to engage with IT because s/he doesn’t understand IT, then it is his/her fault if things go sour.  If functional departments accept that they can’t get what they need (from IT) to run the business and do nothing about it, it is their own fault for accepting this situation.  So when I say “you get the IT department you deserve”, I am saying it is the business leaders’ fault if IT is not servicing you well.

Of course the implication of this on your access to Self Service BI (Power BI, Power Pivot etc) in your organisation is that you should not blame IT if your company doesn’t embrace Self Service BI.  If the IT department is not giving you what you need, then start the process of influencing the B level executives in your organisation to make a change.

Battered IT Syndrome

Battered IT Syndrome

Do any of these things sound familiar?

  • IT won’t let you do touch anything, even on the PC you work with.  They know when something goes wrong it will be “IT’s fault” so they won’t let you do anything.
  • You have a project, and you spend more time on gaining sign off the requirements documents than almost anything else.  Note I am emphasising the sign off, not requirements gathering.  Then when something goes wrong or is not what you need, the response is “You signed off on it”.
  • You can’t get any action on an important IT item unless you escalate to the most senior levels in the organisation.  Then action happens on that item (and other things stop).
  • You ask IT to do something for you and the response is “…do you have the budget”?
  • I am sure there are many more symptoms.

These (in my view) are all symptoms of Battered IT Syndrome.  The syndrome is created by the people in the business that “beat up on” IT when things go wrong.  The result is a downward spiral in the relationship which includes “thrashings” from the business when things go wrong followed by greater and greater defensive postures by IT (to protect itself).  This can go on for years with deteriorating results for everyone.

The businesses with the worst IT outcomes that I have seen are those that suffer Battered IT Syndrome.  Is it any wonder that companies that have this problem do not embrace new technologies like Self Service BI?

The CEO is Accountable

The CEO is ultimately accountable for the running of an organisation.  My guess is that CEO’s that do not understand (or are removed from) IT are more likely to reside over organisations that suffer Battered IT Syndrome.  To illustrate the point, let me swap out “IT Director” with “Sales Director” and look at some common excuses.  I can’t imagine a successful CEO accepting the following from the Sales Director, year after year.

  • I didn’t have the budget to get the sales the business needed.  If you wanted more sales, you should have given me more budget.
  • It was a lot more challenging than I expected, that’s why it didn’t happen.
  • My most skilled Sales Exec was away on leave, so I couldn’t get the job done.
  • We did deliver the sales target you asked for – it just took us 18 months instead of 12 months and 200% of our budget.

Of course things can and do go wrong in all functions in a business.  When things go wrong, strong organisations learn from the mistakes and plan to improve, then move on.  But if the Sales Director continues to deliver poor results with excuses like those above, then the CEO will get the sales results (and ultimately the business results) s/he deserves.  It is no different with IT.

So What Needs to Happen?  We Are All Responsible

It is difficult to solve Battered IT Syndrome without a significant circuit breaker, and this certainly includes change in some form.  It could be change in the approach by the CEO, change by one or more B level managers, and most likely it needs to be a combination of a number of things.   It is true that you personally can’t solve world peace when it comes to IT in your organisation.  However if your business still doesn’t embrace Self Service BI, then change can start with you.  If possible, start to use any tools you can get your hands on (Power Pivot, Power Query, Power BI) and start the process of demonstrating value.  Assuming you can start using these tools*, then start to demonstrate value to others so you can start to get traction.  I have never met a business leader that doesn’t want better results with less effort.  When you start to demonstrate added value from your own sphere of influence using the new wave of tools, then sooner or later someone is going to say “How did you do that?, How can I do that?”  This is the start of change.

* In some extreme cases you simply can’t start using these tools because everything is locked down on your PC. In this situation, my advice is to enlist some help from your direct manager to get the software you need installed.  You will have to explain why you want the tools and how it will make you (and your boss) get better results. You might even have to demo on your own personal computer what you want to do.  Let’s face it, we are not talking Malware here.  This is standard Microsoft software that is available to most organisations at no extra cost.  Power BI Desktop is free for everyone.

Most of all – good luck.  Another wise leader once said to me something along the lines of “Put forward a proposal and yes it may be knocked back, but don’t sit there and wonder what could have been”.