Was It Something I Said?

I was in one of those small, interior conference rooms when it first happened. It was very hot outside, with an obvious threat of another day over 100°F and extreme humidity, as well. But, it felt even hotter in the room. I was there to provide insights to members of the network and security teams for a regional retailer, and only a few minutes into the training, it seemed like everything I said resulted in angry rebuttals. As a pretty easy-going guy, I couldn’t figure out how it was that I had offended the senior network engineer so completely. So, I asked her, “What has you so upset about this information?”

“Simple!” she hissed through clenched teeth pointing across the table, “They are going to just use this to beat me up!”

There, in a nutshell, is a fundamental problem with many IT organizations: different teams have different fundamental objectives and instead of working together and understanding the goals in a more holistic way, they end up in an adversarial relationship, something-i-saidfighting for resources and the favor of the CIO, CFO, and CEO.

It starts with the clear distinction between the role of network operations and security. The network team is responsible for making sure that packets get through. Their phone doesn’t ring as long as everyone gets access to what they need and there are no slowdowns. On the other hand, security is responsible for making sure that some packets do not arrive, protecting network assets from unauthorized access and from potential attacks of various kinds. As a result, the two teams often find themselves diametrically opposed to one another.

The solution to this rests with the CIO as typically the executive responsible for all aspects of the network infrastructure. As a result, the CIO is the place where these divergent objectives join to create a single strategy, and she is the one who can provide the context and vocabulary for unification.

How is this done in your organization? How have you seen it done, perhaps in organizations where it doesn’t work so well (since I’m sure your organization doesn’t have this issue!)? What do you need in order to make sure that the entire IT organization is aligned to the same goals?