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Avoiding the "cost center" mentality.

CIO Magazine 2013 State of the CIO Survey lists five stages of an IT organization from a business stakeholders' view:

  1. Cost center
  2. Service Provider
  3. IT Partner
  4. Business Peer
  5. Business Game Changer

I don't think an IT department needs to start at one phase and work their way forward. However, I do think this list exemplifies the categories of IT organizations I've dealt with. If you think about the book "The Phoenix Project", it really is about how to leap ahead to be the last (best) category.

I think that many people don't even know that anything other than "cost center" is a possibility. Just having an awareness of these 5 categories would help inspire a lot of IT goodness.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli

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3 Comments | Leave a comment

Well, the problem isn't what *you* think you are; it's what *everyone else* thinks you are.

And it's very difficult to quantify what would make you not be a cost center *to the people who use that term*; you have to be good enough that the CEO goes to bat for you with the CFO.

CIO's often don't count in that conversation; parallel competing fiefdoms.

It's natural to want to be considered a business game changer, no matter what your field. But for organizations that aren't heavily technical, it's hard to argue that IT changes the game. We're not Thomas Edison any more, inventing a possible new technological future; we're Con Edison, delivering commodity service at the lowest possible cost (and trying to keep it from catching on fire).

CEOs/CFOs don't have interest in infrastructure; they just expect it to work. Unless you're doing something other than infrastructure (research, product development), it's really not worth their time. They don't view plumbing or electricity as changing the game, either.

This is a success story! We went from having TRS-80 Model 1's loading programs off of cassette tapes, to computing being so ubiquitous that it's almost fully commoditized and invisible (unless it's broken). The future we envisioned actually came to be. But let's not kid ourselves about what the role of a sysadmin is in 2013.

I think Jay has this exactly right. We have new leadership at MPOW and the new leadership considers IT as a cost center and is looking to rework other processes to this view. Under prior leadership IT was considered in that last category.

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