Does IT have a communication problem?

Do IT departments need to learn to communicate better with the rest of the business?

Tags: Canon Middle East
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Does IT have a communication problem? (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  December 22, 2013

In the December issue of ACN, we have an article from Anurag Agrawal, managing director, Canon Middle East, on the growing influence of the end user in IT decisions, and the benefits, and risks that this trend brings.

Agrawal stresses the need for the IT department to keep control, but to include the end users more in the decision making process, which will bring benefits in terms of creating a more robust and more agile IT system. The question of the influence of the end user on IT strategy is interesting, particularly in regard to how much the IT department is actually willing to listen to the end user.

End users are definitely getting a bigger say and influencing the IT landscape in a number of different ways. In business terms, the diversification of IT is bringing more people to the table for IT decisions - for instance, Gartner predicted in 2012 that by 2017 the Chief Marketing Officer would control more IT spending than the CIO. At an individual level, the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, and the popularity of online services such as file sharing sites and social media has resulted in a whole new breed of end users who are using their own devices and applications for work, often without the knowledge or control of the IT department, and in turn BYOD and shadow IT are creating a massive security and governance headache.

Even when the department controls the IT estate, end users are usually cited as being a problem. A recent survey by Kaspersky Lab found that 38% of IT professionals said their end users were resistant to security policies, and 41% did not understand why security policies were in place. With that sort of disregard it is tempting to want to reduce end user influence and involvement across the board.

However, the same Kaspersky study showed that 40% of IT organisations don't make regular efforts to educate users about security, and 40% don't offer training to staff on security. Failing to talk to the end user, whether about security or other issues, won't help to elevate the status of the IT department and won't help in solving problems. While IT does not want to lose control - and when it comes to security and governance, IT has every right to retain control - greater openness and two-way communication with the end user is becoming more and more important across the board.

In areas like security, the IT department needs to keep awareness levels high. With complex solutions such as business intelligence coming into more and more workplaces, IT needs to know that it is providing the tools that users want, and that they are able to use. Self provisioning and self service for IT tools has great potential to save IT time and money, but only if the end users understand and use what's on offer. Lack of user input can lead to bad user experience, which will lead to systems that are underused - and guess who gets the blame if the project fails to have a positive impact on the business?

Software vendors have long since learned to communicate with their end users, through forums, user groups, support lines and so on, and while many of the best organisations in the region frequently tell me how their business users are involved in projects, there does seem to be a mentality among some organisations that ‘IT knows best'. A more open approach to end user communication can bring a lot of benefits to the IT business.

So how do you communicate with your end users? Does your IT department have an open door? Or does IT have a communication problem?

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