Transparency – A Cure for the “IT Black Hole”
If you’re in the IT field, you may have heard the phrase, “IT Black Hole”. A Black Hole is defined as a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape. Or more informally, a place where people or things, especially money, disappear without trace. Used in the IT industry, it’s where requests for IT assistance go - never to be seen or heard about again. Similarly, perhaps your IT team is known as the “Business Prevention Department” or The Department of “NO”. IT leadership can sometimes be out-of-touch with the business. Conversely, business leadership sometimes doesn’t know what IT is working on or why. This can lead to an expectations chasm between business leadership and IT leadership. A strategy for IT leaders to help combat this chasm can be transparency.
Transparency’s literal definition is - having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly. Within business, transparency is characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.
Transparency between business and IT leadership can help improve the IT black hole situation and breakdown barriers that may be preventing the IT team from achieving the expectations of the business. Here are some tactics to help embrace a transparency strategy.
- Forge a partnership with business leadership peers. Meet with business leaders regularly. Take the time to get to know what’s important to them. What are they trying to accomplish within their functional area(s)? Not just in terms of what they want from IT, but in terms of what their short and long-term goals are. At the same time, let them know what IT’s goals are. This helps improve the personal relationships and aligns goals as well.
- This simple tactic can not be overstated. Internal IT customers want to know the status of their requests and projects. It’s important that they understand what’s going on. Provide an easy way for your customers to see or visualize the status of their enhancement requests or projects. Share or post status information and keep it updated and readily available.
- Often the business isn’t aware of what IT is working on, but even more importantly it doesn’t know WHY IT is working on something. In the continuing spirit of transparency, involving business leadership in IT projects and enhancement requests prioritization helps the business understand not only what is being worked on, but why it’s being worked on. Steering committees are a vehicle that can be used to facilitate the prioritization of work categories within IT. A Project Steering Committee and/or an IT Enhancement Steering Committee can assist IT with evaluating, discussing, and ultimately deciding the priorities of projects and enhancements. Steering committees help foster a healthier business partnership.
- Create a culture of accountability within your IT team. Do what you say you are going to do. Once the IT team starts meeting commitments and realizes some quick wins, this generates a lot of good will and helps to build trust in the process changes being implemented within IT.
Transparency and the tactics associated with it aren’t new ideas and certainly aren’t complicated to implement by any means. They are relatively simple changes, but they can lead to improved respect for the IT team within the organization. Sometimes it’s the basic blocking and tackling of leadership that can result in the biggest gains for the organization.