How to Encourage Smarter Use of IT

My last post profiled a CIO who is interested in increasing the IT-smarts of his organization. To help ensure success, we encouraged the CIO to approach the effort in a way that respects that change is driven from psychological, not just logical, forces. With this in mind, we identified eight steps to smarter IT. At this point in the process, the CIO has identified the high-impact opportunities and is ready to translate his strategy into specific tactics by doing the following:

  1. Target people who like change. Accelerate adoption of IT-smart behaviors by targeting people who love new technology (i.e., the "power" or "super" users of IT) and those who are frustrated by the status quo (IT's most vocal critics) and work with them to implement IT-smart programs, such as the "IT Gate" program discussed in this blog.

  2. Don't rely on classroom training to change behaviors. When surveyed, business leaders say they want to learn more about how to 1) get the most out of the systems in place and what current technology can do and where it is headed, 2) make IT-enabled strategy and invest responsibly, 3) deliver complex solutions, and 4) learn how to work with IT. Define an education approach that communicates the critical concepts as quickly and painlessly as possible, engages business leaders, and promotes the application of the concepts in the real world.

  3. Empower people to fulfill their IT-related needs on their own. IT can help the other parts of the business fulfill many of their day-to-day needs on their own. There are four key targets for promoting self-sufficiency. First, empower users to manage their passwords. Password calls constitute 30% of the IT call center requests in many organizations. Second, empower users to generate their own reports. Third, when developing/buying software, ensure that configuration tools are available that allow end users to define acceptable data values, screen layouts, and process flows. Forward thinking IT organizations modify existing applications so that these capabilities can be managed directly by the users. Fourth, teach business leaders how to fulfill key project roles, starting with designing business processes, defining high level requirements, managing change and, over time, building the capabilities necessary to directly managing projects and larger scale programs.

  4. Provide incentives for the right behavior. Make it easier to do the right thing than to do the wrong thing. This involves taxing undesirable behaviors as well as incenting desired behaviors. For example, establish light governance over projects that align with standards and heavy-handed governance for projects that are breaking the rules. Provide self-sufficiency tools at no cost and charge for services that users continue to delegate to IT (a reader of the previous blog required users who refused to use the business intelligence tools to "pay for the time of the IT people they were jerking around.") In addition, leverage peer pressure by helping key influencers uplift their IT-smarts and broadly telegraph their accomplishments.


As Seth Godin articulately stated in a recent blog, "The only real help is self-help. Anything else is just designed to get you to the point where you can help yourself." With IT promoting self-sufficiency in all they do and deliver, business leaders will be able to drive IT-enabled innovation without day-to-day support from IT. It may take 10-15 years, but once business leaders can help themselves, the capacity for IT-enabled innovation will increase exponentially.

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