13 'best practices' IT should avoid at all costs

From telling everyone they're your customer to establishing a cloud strategy, these "industry best practices" are sure to sink your chances of IT success.

sinking ship primary

What makes IT organizations fail? Often, it’s the adoption of what’s described as “industry best practices” by people who ought to know better but don’t, probably because they’ve never had to do the job.

From establishing internal customers to instituting charge-backs to insisting on ROI, a lot of this advice looks plausible when viewed from 50,000 feet or more. Scratch the surface, however, and you begin to find these surefire recipes for IT success are often formulas for failure.

1. Tell everyone they're your customer

Looking to fail? Make sure everyone in IT tells everyone outside of IT, “You’re my customer. My job is to exceed your expectations” (or, worse, “make you happy”).

Employees outside of IT are not IT’s customers. They’re IT’s colleagues, with whom IT collaborates as equals if anything good is going to happen for the company as a whole.

Legitimizing the idea of internal customers puts IT in a subservient position, where everyone in IT has to make their colleagues happy, whether doing so makes sense for the business or not, let alone whether it encourages the company’s actual customers to buy more products and services.

2. Establish SLAs and treat them like contracts

Want to do some damage? Establish formal service level agreements, insist your “internal customers” sign them, and treat these SLAs like contracts.

And if you really want IT to fail, argue about whether you’ve satisfied your SLAs every time an “internal customer” (there’s that word again) suggests IT isn’t doing what they need it to do. It’s a great way to keep relationships at arm’s length.

If you’d prefer success, then you’ll remember that relationships require trust, that trust doesn’t happen unless you recognize colleagues as actual people, that if they like you they’ll work with you to fix whatever goes wrong, and that the purpose of contracts isn’t to define relationships -- it’s to define what happens when there’s no trust and something goes seriously wrong.

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3. Tell dumb-user stories

You know them. The classics have punchlines like “Whiteout on the screen,” “Let me get this straight -- you’re having a power outage and you can’t understand why your PC won’t boot,” and “I told him to try reversing the plug on his printer ... and it was a three-prong plug (snicker)!”

Laugh when other IT staff members tell them, especially when they have names attached. Or if you want to ensure IT failure, tell them yourself. That way word will get out that neither you nor anyone else in IT has any respect for anyone else.

That’ll help the cause.

4. Institute charge-backs

Here’s a terrific way to discourage the use of information technology: Institute charge-backs. And not just any charge-backs -- carefully computed ones that generate invoices detailing every category of expense each cost center has incurred, from CPU cycles, to SAN and NAS storage (separate them, of course), to developer hours, to help desk calls, billed out in 10-minute increments.


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