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The 10 Commandments for building the ideal IT organization, part 2

The second five commandments according to Harris Kern involve honoring thy elder disciplines, spreading the IT gospel, and sharing the same values.

Harris Kern

This is the second "stone tablet." Click here to see the first five commandments.

VI: Thou shalt honor time-tested disciplines (standards, processes, etc.)

  • Processes shall be streamlined!
  • Implement minimum yet sufficient
  • Centralized control
    Whether your company has a mainframe environment or not, it is crucial to understand the importance of mainframe disciplines, processes, procedures, standards and guidelines. In the age of distributed everything to everywhere, disciplines are more important than ever. But you cannot simply transplant mainframe disciplines into network computing environments. You need to customize and streamline these disciplines so they can manage a modern, chaotic, heterogeneous infrastructure. By necessity the mainframe environment was large, complex and enjoyed the luxury of timely planning. Today's network computing environments need the same type of structure and discipline with more streamlining.
    There are many system management processes to implement, but please don't attempt to take them all on unless you have an unlimited resource pool. Implement the handful that is most critical to your environment. From the 200 companies (Fortune 500 and Global 2000) I've studied, very few have the most critical set of processes, and if they do many of them are not very effective.
    Develop minimum yet sufficient enterprise-wide standards, architectures, documentation, etc., for each area of IT, including the network, data center, desktops, development tools, nomadic computers, servers, and so on. You need standards for today, and clear statements of direction for your standards, environments, platforms, paradigms or architectures (you pick the buzzword) for the future.
    Centralized control means controlling costs by developing architectures, and deploying standards from a central location, for example:
    • Global Standard Network
    • Global Standard Desktop Hardware
    • Global Standard Desktop Operating System
    • Global Standard Desktop Application Suite
    • Global Standard Virus Scanning
    • Global Standard Server Hardware
    • Global Standard Server Operating System
    • Global Standard Data Backup
    • Global Standard Messaging & Collaboration Platform
    • Global Standard Monitoring
    • Global Standard Remote Access
    • Global Standard Development Database
    • Global Standard Application Distribution Platform
    • Global Standard Development Methods and Tools

    Without standards and centralized control of key enterprise-wide processes, it will be futile to build a cost-effective world-class organization.

    VII: Thou shalt demonstrate and convey the value of IT throughout the enterprise.
    Today's IT professionals need to walk with the great unwashed and communicate with customers. We need to schmooze, sell and otherwise promote our services. IT organizations need to sell to their business colleagues the fact that IT can and should be leveraged for business value and growth. True commitment requires educated understanding. It is the job of the CIO to demonstrate the relationship between the understanding of strategic technology initiatives and the long-term success of the firm. If executive management fails to see the value of their involvement, it is the CIO's role to change that perception or to think about his next career move.
    Value should be quantifiable and measurable. It is best to communicate value in its simplest recognizable form. Check out the difference between the two ads:
    Unedited version: We built a robust, flexible Editorial platform that is scalable and automates the editorial process utilizing redirect ional metadata technology to deliver abstract, encapsulated information.
    Value Communication Version: We built a reliable and flexible Editorial tool that gathers, presents and delivers customized information to our clients. The tool reduces product creation time by 40% and can deliver information in any industry standard format without requiring technical intervention.
    Value is best communicated to the enterprise by IT's business partners. The right relationship and recognition of value leads to the ideal situation of business partners becoming evangelists. At a fundamental level, it needs to be understood (without having to say so) that underpinning the entire process of value creation is the partnering relationship. All members of IT must be taught to recognize their business contributions. All need to understand their business partner's concerns and address them both formally and informally.

    VIII: Thou shalt establish and uphold a common set of shared values.
    Values are guiding principles, basic beliefs that are the fundamental assumptions upon which all subsequent actions are based. Quality of life leads to success. As a whole, values define the personality and character of an individual or a group. Values are the essence of an individual or group and provide guidelines by which to make consistent decisions. In reality, values are ideals that are indicative of one's vision of how the world should work.
    These values form a contract between the individuals and the group. If all staff members are making decisions based upon the same values, it is more likely that:

    • Delegation of responsibility and authority will function effectively.
    • Thousands of individual decisions will converge in a consistent strategy.
    • Synergies will be realized.
    • Partnerships will prosper.
    • Productivity will accelerate
    • Retention will never be a problem.
    • The firm will reap large profits.

    Appropriate values inexorably lead to principled actions and a high quality of life. It's a guide to hiring decisions; they establish a common culture; they foster strategic decision-making (even short-term tactical decisions made by guiding principles are strategic); and they lay the groundwork for internal consistency.

    IX: Thou shalt focus with the same intensity on organization, people and process components as thou doest on technology and development!
    Please give non-technology initiatives equal billing!

    X: Thou shalt measure and benchmark!
    If you don't know the numbers, you can't cost-effectively manage the environment. IT professionals need to focus on two objectives: The first is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of IT, that is, getting more things done faster and better with the same or fewer resources. The second is demonstrating the value of IT to the enterprise. The key to both of these is measurement. In the first case, IT performance is measured so that there is a benchmark against which to improve. In the second case, measures are used that connote value, whether that value is expressed in reducing the cost of doing business or in new revenue streams that are the direct result of an investment in information technology.
    Metrics by themselves provide little value -- it's how the metrics are implemented, reported and acted on that differentiates successful measurement programs from failures.

    Harris Kern is an IT consultant, lecturer, author and publisher. His clients include Standard and Poor's, 20th Century Fox, Nike and Fannie Mae. For more information on the Harris Kern Enterprise Computing Institute, visit

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