IT’s Changing Reputation

Welcome to the first post of 2008! I hope you all had a good relaxing time over the holidays with friends and families. I know I did! Now it's time to get back to work...

A few weeks ago, I asked what you thought of IT's apparent bad reputation, according to an article from CIO Insight and one of their readers' response to that article. I got quite a few reactions - this seems to have hit a nerve with many people. The general consensus seems to be that there are good IT techies that are known as trusted professionals, good IT organizations that work to give opportunities to their IT staff and good companies that understand the value of IT. But there are also slimy IT technicians that use tech talk to intimidate, dysfunctional IT organizations that hinder rather than help IT careers and many organizations that feel IT is just a necessary evil.

IT Individuals - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

From my own experiences, I've seen and worked in all kinds of environments. Most of the IT professionals I've worked with are hardworking individuals who love to solve problems and have an innate curiosity about how things work. However, there always seems to be one in every group that either is too smart for his or her own good and isn't able to talk in layman's terms to less technical people or seeks to confuse and seem smarter than everyone else by using lots of important sounding technical terms in everything they say. My feeling though is that these individuals are becoming less valued and are being forced to either learn some business acumen or be out of work.

There are also the folks that are only in it for their own gain. Unfortunately, these people usually become consultants. I know this as I worked as a consultant for many years and was constantly having to win the trust of senior management who had been taken advantage of by seemingly professional IT consultants who had come in, done little or shoddy work for a lot of money and then disappeared into thin air. However, I really think that it's becoming less easy for these people to do damage and disappear. People are becoming more informed. Business owners and management are talking, either on-line or in face to face networking groups. Reputations are being made and broken, not just in the local area where the damage was done, but in a wider scope. The extinction of this breed of IT predator can't happen fast enough, imho. They do a lot to give IT and IT professionals an undeserved bad reputation.

From the Companies' Perspective

As for companies, I think it's still very tough for organizations whose main business is not technology to understand the value of IT. One reader who works for a company in the biopharmaceutical business emailed me with a comment that it's sometimes hard not to be reactive when the people in the company don't understand the consequences to their actions. It's "...very hard if you work with Bio-scientists. They cannot imagine what are the consequences of buying a new spektrometer (sic) with [a] 4 GB output per hour...". I've seen this happen many times, where business decisions are made without any thought or understanding of the IT implications. So when Nicholas Spanos, the reader who responded to CIO Insight's original article, complains that there is a leadership void, I would encourage IT professionals to become the leader and trusted advisor within their organizations, so that business decisions are being made, they have a seat at the table. I know, I know - that's sometimes easier said than done! Well, for these companies, change won't happen overnight. But perhaps if the company isn't willing to change, it may be time for you to change companies. Just a thought.

Final Thoughts

Speaking of Nicholas Spanos, I really wonder why this guy is in IT at all. He seems to have a very ugly view of our field. Todd Lamothe said it best in his comment to my original post: "I am just glad I'm not working where he is." IT may not have the greatest reputation, but I believe it's changing. And it's changing from the inside out, through the efforts of IT professionals who love what they do and are working to make a difference. These are IT professionals who don't sit in a bad situation and complain but they work to change it for the better. Look around, I bet you know a couple of these people. Better yet, look in the mirror. The profession is what you make of it.

Comments (5)

  1. Nick Corcodilos says:

    Such dialogue and strong opinions are the sign of a healthy profession that’s in flux. I get tired of hearing that ANY corporate department is an internal customer and that another is an internal vendor. Everyone and every function is overhead, period. Controversies ensue when people and operations come under scrutiny and try to prove their worth. Again, I think this is a sign of health. If the analysis and justification are legitimate, companies become stronger.

    I believe that IT as a function has come under much scrutiny because the world now regards technology as the edge, the savior, the challenge, the answer. Balderdash. Smart people and good ideas put to practice are the answer. Technology is just another tool; IT is just another department. And in the end, it’s the individual that matters. Spanos’s complaints are the complaints of truck drivers, teachers, engineers, sales reps, everyone. The work is hard and we succeed in spite of the systems we work under. Smart people get that, and they get on with it.

    To circle back to the idea that every operation is overhead, I think the challenge of each individual is to show how they contribute to profit. If a tiny bit of corporate overhead were devoted to an honest assessment of how everyone contributes to profit, we’d all be doing more work that makes more money. And maybe getting paid better as a result.

  2. Ruth Morton says:

    Thanks for your comments, Nick!

    I think that so many companies are just used to the way things have always been and corporate culture is never an easy or quick thing to fix.  IT has always been a cost centre so why change now? Fortunately, many organizations are realizing that they can make better business decisions, have more productive employees and, ergo, make more money, by changing the systems that their people have to work within.

    I agree wholeheartedly that IT is a healthy profession in flux.

  3. Stephen Ibaraki says:

    This blog created this image:

    Before: After

    – No consistency: Common standards

    – Weak voice: Strong voice

    – Poor perception: Respected and valued

    – Geek: Professional

    – Technical specifications: Business solutions

    – Lackluster job: Energizing career path with rewards, recognition, and support for career progression

    – Alone: Common identity and engagement

    – Loose associations: Secure trusted organization / community

    – Fear from change: Support from a common vision about the professional

    – Mixed results: High quality, reduced business risk and supporting competitive advantage

    – Disconnected silos: Alignment with organizational strategy and performance

    – No measures of skills: Standard means of measurement and an independent assurance of quality around professional skills and competencies

    The flux or churn [the Before] creates the need for a common purpose which speaks to the whole idea of “professionalism” [the After].  Professionalism also embodies: professional certification, a profession-based code of ethics, and a common body of knowledge.
    There are several blogs that speak to this and more.

    For example, this blog on “IT’s Changing Reputation” triggered memories of the Q&A exchange on “professionalism” that occurred in this Ignite Your Career webcast:

    And then these blogs around the same idea:



  4. Roger Hart says:

    I have been a consultant for one of Canada’s largest professional services firms for more years than I care to remember and before that I was (what we used to call) Director of MIS, which definitely dates me.

    In my consultant role I have met many CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CTOs, CIOs — the list goes on. Those companies or government departments which might be thought of as the “bad” or the “ugly” from an IT perspective usually had one of two opposite characteristics: either the IT function was headed up was an executive who didn’t understand technology or someone who was technically deep, but didn’t understand or couldn’t address themselves in business language.

    The IFIP Task Force on the International Professional Practice Program (I3P) is defining its top level Professional as someone with proven abilities in both the business environment and IT to try to avoid this dichotomy. Specifically, the proposed global IT professional designation is envisaged as operating at no less than the equivalent of SFIA level 5 (see which is defined in terms of autonomy, influence, complexity, and business skills.

    Will the roll out of I3P help reduce or remove the “ugly” and the “bad”? The Task Force believes that the evidence from those companies and countries that have already begun to implement some form of IT professionalism is an emphatic “Yes”!

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