Why do people think we’re blockers?

June 29, 2010
Written by anjalimittal

Are IT just blockers?

Ever heard this?

“We prefer not to go through the IT Department, they just block everything we try to do.”

Sadly, it’s a fairly common refrain in many organisations and often leads to departments buying their own systems without the help of corporate IT.

What many people don’t realise, however, is that IT isn’t always just about service; we do have a governance responsibility also. We need to ensure that systems fit in with the overall strategy, comply with local, regional or industry standards and, especially at the moment, are cost effective over the system lifetime. (Anyone else seen users caught out by systems which are cheap to buy but horrendously expensive to maintain?)

I suggested to my team that they need to be clear about whether they are speaking with their service hat on or with their governance hat on. I even considered getting two actual hats made up, to illustrate the point literally, and I may yet do this!

I also had a think about whether there are any behavioural reasons why IT staff might be perceived as blockers and realised there are personality factors which might be part of the problem.

Certain people place a very high value on competence and technical knowledge. As a result, they tend to be very analytical and are very good at spotting flaws in arguments or identifying logical inconsistencies (In Myers- Briggs’ theory, these are people with a preference for Thinking – as opposed to Feeling – when it comes to decision-making).

Since IT is based, to a large extent on analysis and problem solving, many people with these characteristics are drawn to careers in IT, particularly in technical roles.

So when our typical technical expert shows off their intellectual prowess, by using well-developed analytical skills to dissect an argument, for instance, the average user just hears negativity and blocking behaviour.

I’ve seen very smart IT people provide 27 brilliantly argued reasons why something shouldn’t happen, when all the user wants to hear is “we’ll look into it”.

Add in the issue of governance, described above, and it’s easy to see why users sometimes get frustrated with corporate IT.

I don’t know if this is true universally, it’s just a theory, but I would be interested to know whether anyone else has noticed this culture clash between people who value critical analysis and people who value new ideas and creativity.