Doing Less in IT to Achieve More

Susan Hall

My colleague Don Tennant wrote about his conversation with Neil Giarratana, a retired multinational CEO and author, whose advice to IT pros was "Stop swaying in the wind." Giarratana said:

I have found that IT people sometimes [fail to manage] conflicting signals from different parts of the company - from different division heads or different executive vice presidents, or even from the CEO himself, who may call and ask about a specific project. That suddenly becomes the project that's really hot, because the CEO has called and asked about it, and wants some information on it.

But one of blogger Rob Enderle's four rules for CIOs is, "Employees at any level who say 'no' too often are replaced." So doing so gets really tricky. My colleague Ann All wrote about some advice from midmarket CIOs on handling that.


In a CIO2CEO post at Datamation, however, writer John D. Hughes makes the case that IT should be doing less work, but higher-value work. It's all about setting priorities, he says.

It's kind of like being "in the clutch" when you're driving a standard shift car. When you want to go faster, you push in the clutch and then shift into higher gear. For a brief second or two the car hesitates, it slows down.
It's the same with organizations. ... You must slow down to go faster.

He offers these tips to make that happen:

  1. Acknowledge that your team is in firefighting mode.
  2. Communicate to everyone that IT will be shifting to higher-value work.
  3. Teach your team to not be order takers.
  4. Give your team permission (and a way) to say no to low-value work.
  5. Support them during the transition (there will be a lot of gear-grinding, so they will need you).

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