Beware of IT Protectionism

All people fear change.  This is a natural part of being human, so we can hardly fault anyone for feeling a bit of panic when they find out that big, sweeping changes might be coming to their industry or career. But IT is a career of managing change and it is necessary for IT decision makers to embrace change, rather than reacting negatively to it.  All change brings opportunity, but those that let emotions drive them instead of rational thinking are not in a position to benefit from it.

In IT we often see emotional responses to change in the form of IT Protectionism.  This can wield itself in many ways.

One key example is IT staff who feel that they “own” your network and your computers and try to maintain control rather than working purely on your behalf. Often this results in decisions being kept secret, hoarding of access, and at worst even absconding with the keys to the kingdom and holding you ransom or worse.

Another example is avoiding modern approaches to technology. A common example here is IT staff claiming that they don’t “trust” cloud products because they don’t control them. This tends to be either an example of trying to “grab control” as I mentioned above; or just plain fear that moving to cloud hosted applications or products will cause their job to be eliminated.  In both cases, what is best for your business isn’t taken into consideration, but only what either makes them feel in control, or gives the appearance of protecting their career.

The last example that I will give is selecting technologies based on what the IT staff is familiar with, rather than considering the needs of the business.  IT staff should, in theory, easily be able to adapt as business needs change.  But often this is seen as risky to their careers to “more of the same” is often chosen to ensure that there is no risk of the staff selection being modified.  In larger companies, you will often see additional staff with matching skill sets hired to reinforce the company’s dependency on decisions that are made in the interest of the staff, rather than the needs of the business.

Protectionism is a scary thing for any business as it can creep in and represents a sizable risk either by making the business insecure, costly, or inflexible.  There is no simple answer to avoiding protectionism, it must be watched for from the very top and can be different to identify as often it is masked in technical jargon.  But there are signs, from unexplained fear of change or modern approaches, to a focus on hiring or using specific technologies without solid explanation, to language and behavior withholding access to systems or use of possessive language.

Be vigilant. The network belongs to the business, and IT needs to be a part of the business, not in competition with it.