Is IT living up to its potential at your company? Why not? Is it your fault? I know at times it has been mine. Luckily, in my latest job, that wasn’t the case. According to Basu & Jarnigan, the reason is the proverbial glass ceiling or wall. IT is shut out of the decision-making circle. I’ve seen this from both sides of the situation, and I wholeheartedly agree. Many times I’ve seen businesses make decisions assuming it’s just a “quick fix” to change this piece of code so it will do this now instead of that. But most of us in IT know that it’s usually a lot more than just a few lines of code and voila!

The reason for the glass ceiling? Basu & Jarnigan point to these five causes:

  1. “Mind-set differences between management staff and IT,
  2. Language differences,
  3. Social influences,
  4. Flaws in IT governance,
  5. Difficulty managing rapidly changing technology” (¶ 7).

Comparing this article to the book IT Risk, I can see how IT governance is a critical mistake businesses make. “IT decisions are often made by the wrong people with insufficient input, and the resulting failures drive a wedge between senior managers and their IT colleagues” (Basu & Jarnigan, 2008, ¶ 12). “The risk governance process is the force that pulls otherwise fragmented, localized views of IT risk together into a comprehensive whole, allowing the enterprise to effectively set priorities and act. No centralized person or group has a wide enough perspective to fully understand and control all risks in even a moderate-sized organization” (Westerman & Hunter, 2007, p. 44).

Or, to put it in my words, in order for business managers to make informed decisions related to IT, we in IT have to translate the risks, and rewards, into dollars for the business side to understand and decide upon. And the only way to do that is to have a seat at the table when the decision is made.

But how do we get that seat? If you don’t have a seat there now, start working from behind the scenes. When management makes a decision, translate that decision into dollars and cents for their approach and other potential options. The more they see that you understand the business side of things as well as the technology side of things, the more they will listen, and the more they will come to you. Notice the emphasis in that sentence, YOU. It’s not up to them to come find out what you think is best, it’s up to you to show them that you have valid and worthy opinions that should be considered when making important decisions that affect IT.

That’s how I won my seat at the table, and that’s how you can too.

— Basu, A. & Jarnagin, C. (2008, March 10). How to Tap IT’s Hidden Potential. MIT Sloan Management Review.

Westerman, G. & Hunter, R. (2007). IT Risk. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.