When 'no' is the right answer

IT professionals need to stand up to business managers by challenging requests for technology that don't fit with the corporate plan.

Too often, IT accepts projects built on ill-defined business processes and are left shouldering the blame when they don't deliver.

According to consultancy group E-Finity partner Craigg Balance, learning how to say no is imperative for IT when business managers request technology that doesn't make sense for the company.

He said the disconnect between business and IT has a lot to do with IT's passive-aggressive nature.

However, Australian IT managers said they are more than willing to put up a fight if a business proposal is a looming disaster.

But City West Water IT manager Peter Kinsman admits dealing with business managers on doubtful IT projects is like walking a tightrope.

"IT needs to underpin what business managers need to do, but it has to fit with the bigger technology strategy" Kinsman said.

"I get pushed from pillar to post on a lot of this stuff, but have spoken at times; you do suffer the consequences, and then sometimes you're vilified down the track."

Kinsman said it is important to be tactful because business managers don't always understand the consequences of their requests.

"There are risks associated with speaking out against business managers, but I think it's important to do," Kinsman said.

"It just depends on why a lot of these requests come up. Some might just be short-term that you can knock over, and other requests might fly in the face of what you are really trying to achieve."

Howe Leather IT manager Ray Williams says it is always best to give "your two cents worth".

Williams admits he can be tough at times with business managers.

"I make everyone who submits an IT project go through a justification process; the business managers need to be aware that their requests must be of benefit to the organization."

Another factor to consider, Williams said, is that business managers are also your customers.

"So you still have to be polite and manage a relationship with them," he added.

Bankstown City Council manager of corporate information technology services Maria Cabrera is far more subtle, preferring to look at the business goals and point out any pitfalls in an IT proposal.

This, she says, is preferable to a flat 'no'.

"Focus on the business outcomes to make your point," Cabrera said.

"Often IT projects fail because of people issues; if you focus on the business outcomes you can often avoid some problems.

"At the end of that day I won't have any IT project fail and have IT blamed for it."

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