In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a princess of Troy who possessed the gift of prophecy, but was cursed never to be believed. I was reminded of the story by a tweet from Peter Kretzman:
To the biz, IT folk are unfortunately often viewed as overstating impacts, overreacting, etc. The flip side: we're sometimes right. #cio—
Peter Kretzman (@PeterKretzman) October 17, 2014
Credibility is a precious commodity in the business world. It’s hard to earn and yet can be lost astonishingly easily. Poor customer service, regardless of whether it’s due to malice, apathy, or just plain ignorance, damages trust.
Likewise, commitment mismatches can leave customers (internal and/or external) disaffected. The project that will be “out of sight, out of mind” for IT is the product that they will be saddled with for years to come. IT’s perceived lack of commitment (justified or not) is a source of conflict and mistrust.
Lack of a business focus is a credibility killer as well. Things like indulging faddish practices, essentially engaging in one-sided experiments with the enterprise’s money, are seen as evidence of immaturity. A dictatorial attitude toward technology issues is typically resented (regardless of whether the opinion is correct). Failure to communicate business value, whether out of arrogance or ignorance, can lead to ill-advised decisions on the part of the business. When you’re asking for seven figures and “trust me” is your sole justification, you cannot complain when you get turned down.
Things that might seem purely technical can damage the relationship with the customer. Technology for technology’s sake, putting your vision ahead of the customer’s needs, ignoring user experience, and inadequate attention to quality can all lead to a loss of trust.
Quality and reliability can be particularly problematic. Stepping into the breach and heroically fixing issues can be perceived as admirable in some organizations. All a customer sees is an outage. When dial tone services go down, so too does credibility. As Matt Ballantine observed in his post “Firefighting”:
But if your world is one where you can only justify your own existence through the solving of problems that are of your own creation, you’re in trouble long term. That’s where IT has been – and why commodity services have become so pervasive so quickly. The IT team wins no points for fixing stuff that’s gone wrong when someone else can be providing that stuff without it failing all the time.
Working with the business, IT can serve as a powerful force multiplier. Opportunities can be seized and risks averted. For that to happen, however, IT has to be heard. The less we shoot ourselves in the foot, the better chance we have.
3 thoughts on “Fixing IT – Credible or Cassandra?”
One of the most significant problems is that when our view of truth is at odds with what our customer wish to believe they will not. Couple this with you can always find someone to say “yes” and credibility becomes even more difficult.
I tend to see those as less of a credibility issue and more of a customer issue: sometimes ignorance, sometimes something more sinister. Either way, its out of our hands. Having the customer own the application (https://genehughson.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/fixing-it-the-importance-of-ownership/) rather than IT, can serve as a counter-balance. Letting the customer go with the provider who tells them what they want to hear can be a good way to demonstrate why they should have listened.
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