Information Technology, Part 2
Having briefly covered the org board for INCOMM and some of the ramifications and guesses about it, let’s now turn to the IT part of organizations in general, and how it works. By the way, just as an aside, it’s important to note that virtually any organization aside from a Class IV/V Org would have an HCO set up the way INCOMM had it, where all the staff functions were handled in Div 1, instead of having these functions in Div 5, Qual. In an organization that builds automobile engines, you would not have significant parts of the Qualifications Division devoted to examining and correcting staff, for example. And with this sort of set-up in HCO, the main stat for HCO would no longer be something like Qualified Staff Hired (QSH). Instead, it would probably be more along the lines of Number of Staff Completions (of staff training courses, etc.), assuming there was staff a training function at all.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at where IT belongs in a regular, non-computer organization.
The other day, I saw a video by a guy on Youtube who characterized IT personnel as a**holes. Why? Because we, in essence, put people out of jobs. We make organizations more efficient, and in doing so, eliminate jobs. (Incidentally, he was an IT professional himself, not someone from outside looking in, but someone in the thick of the field.)
I would tend to disagree with our pessimistic Youtube friend, even though technically he’s right. But IT does have an image problem in organizations. I’ll use our pessimist’s example to illustrate. Someone puts in a trouble ticket for their computer to be fixed. You show up from the IT side to fix it, and the person says you can’t fix it now, because they’re busy working right now. But you can come back when the person goes to lunch. At this point, the IT person has two choices: either come back when the other person goes to lunch, or log the ticket as cancelled because the person has refused to allow you to work on the computer right now. A lot of IT people will take it upon themselves to come back later, when that person is at lunch or out of the office. But our pessimist insists that the better option is to hold the person’s feet to the fire and insist on fixing it right now or not at all. Why? Because having to come back when the person is not there makes an assumption about your time. It in effect says that their time is more valuable than yours, something which is probably not true. But more importantly, it contributes to this idea that the “computer guys” are some sort of glorified janitors for the computer systems. This is plainly not true. In fact, those “computer guys” can often, with a keystroke or two, bring down your entire organization.
Management has a similar problem with IT. Management really has no idea what you do when you’re in IT, nor how you go about doing it. They don’t understand anything about the computer systems which are typically doing more and more work for the organization. Our pessimist uses an example of sitting in a chair in the server room, staring into space when an executive walks by. The executive walks by, sees the IT person just sitting there, and immediately thinks to himself how nice it must be to have a job where you can sit there and just stare into space. He may even comment on such to the IT person. What he doesn’t understand is that the IT person isn’t just sitting there spaced out. He’s trying to figure out where the problem is and now to fix it. Management looks at the “computer guys” as a more or less necessary evil. They’re a pain in the butt, especially for being the “computer janitors”. When they’re not there, stuff doesn’t work. And when they are there, they’re always interrupting people to get their work done. There doesn’t seem to be any way around this dilemma.
Except that there is a way around the dilemma of IT. Executives, rank and file, and IT professionals must realize that IT is an executive level function. If you think about it, this is inevitably true. Would you entrust the keys to all your organizational data and the smooth functioning of your organization to the janitor? Probably not.
Here’s another corroborating datum: Let’s assume for a moment that you didn’t have a lot IT people hanging around. Let’s assume instead that, for your IT functions, you had to hire an outside firm to deal with your computer stuff. And let’s assume you had to pay this firm on the same order of magnitude as your lawyer. In that case, you wouldn’t delay your IT company’s access to your computers any longer that was really necessary. When the computer guy comes by to deal with your particular trouble ticket, you’d get out of their way right now. In this case, time is money (as the clock ticks away the dollars you’re spending on these computer guys). By the way, the above isn’t a far-fetched notion. I know of organizations which work exactly this way. They are not big enough to hire the one or two computer people who have to care for their computer systems (or at least they think they don’t think they are). So they hire outside consultants who only come in when they are called. And you likely have to get permission to call them, because they’re expensive.
So the IT functions are executive level, with all that entails. They aren’t the “janitors” for the computers (unless your janitors are paid a lot more than the ones I know). Now, where on the org board do they belong? Department 19, with the ED or COO/President? Not quite. IT reaches all the way to the Board of Directors level. Not Department 20 with all the outward facing defense-type functions. No, IT belongs in Department 21, right up there with the Founder, the Board of Directors and other lofty types. This puts it properly in the Executive Division (7), and protects it from the day-to-day interference of other divisions. Note that in the modern world, most large companies have a Board level executive of “Chief Technology Officer” (CTO) or “Chief Information Officer” (CIO). This person is the one who is ultimately responsible to the Board for the smooth and productive operations of the computers.
That’s about it for this one. I primarily wanted to make the case for where IT belongs in an organization whose specialty isn’t computers or data processing.