A Matter of Trust

Who do you trust?   Think about this in your own life. Who is someone you trust that will show up for you when you need them?  Someone you can really count on...someone who is predictable?  Someone you are comfortable sharing your personal aspirations with and asking their advice.  A trusted partner.  

Who is the opposite?  Perhaps someone you cannot exclude from your life, but you’d rather not deal with them at all if you didn’t have to.  We all joke about the cable company - we can’t do without it because we must have our entertainment and internet, and everyone has experienced the ambiguous wait for the cable person to show up.  They are a necessary vendor who takes our orders and we only reach out to them when something breaks.

As an IT Leader, ask yourself this question: which one are you - an order taker or a trusted partner within your business?  Does your organization see you and your IT function as a group they can count on for predictable platform stability and project delivery, or do they see IT as an unpredictable “necessary evil” that they would rather not deal with if they didn’t have to?  

Don’t be the cable guy, aspire to be a trusted partner within your business! Here’s a simple framework for doing so.

As an IT Leader, there are 5 critical IT leadership focus areas that must be done well in order to move an IT function from an internal vendor/order taker to a critical strategic business partner with a voice at the table in the core leadership function/suite.  

Activity across these domains is fluid and interdependent, but Production Stability and Delivery come first, because IT leadership will not have the credibility to participate in Planning & Optimization or Fostering Key Relationships if they are simply reacting to the latest production issue every day.  As Stability and Delivery improve, and ultimately predictability, the IT leader will have the opportunity to build on key relationships and become an active part of the business planning processes.  

One could argue that Talent Development pervades all of these, so I put it last not in terms of priority, but more as a fundamental underpinning. For example, solving production stability may require hiring an expert or coaching a team member who might be contributing to instability.  Finally, I believe these concepts hold true no matter what overall delivery framework is employed (Agile, scrum, waterfall, none…).

Clearly, the required level of focus and process definition for all of these areas is dependent on many factors such as company size, IT department size, budgets, etc, but If you find yourself the “Chief IT Order Taker” role, I believe a focus on these areas will help you make the journey towards becoming a Trusted Partner.  

Do you agree with these focus areas and order?  What are the implications for Agile, if any?