Forrester calls for IT culture overhaul

IT department culture often differs from corporate culture, according to a new study.

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As many as 85 percent of survey respondents believe the culture of IT can differ from the overall culture of a firm, according to a recent report by Forrester Research entitled "Does your IT culture need an overhaul?"

In fact, IT department culture is probably not a match with overall corporate culture in about half of all businesses, Forrester analyst Marc Cecere estimated. The research firm interviewed 15 CIOs in depth and surveyed 41 IT decision makers for the study, which defines corporate culture as the way individuals feel themselves to be part of a company's identity.

"Sometimes your IT is organised around efficiency and your business is organised more around responsiveness," Cecere said in an interview.

A distinct IT culture may evolve in a firm due to the different ways each department measures success. And, in a large company where leadership varies among departments, cultural gaps are almost inevitable, Cecere noted.

However, the report states, problems can arise when the culture of IT strays too far in three directions:

- Too IT-centric, insular or fearful - When IT doesn't have a healthy relationship with the rest of the enterprise, it's in danger of forming what Forrester calls "an us-versus-them culture where IT hunkers down behind the technologies they manage, problems they solve, and metrics like help desk tickets served, system capacity, uptime, and volumes."

- Too heroic, free range or autonomous - The dangers inherent in this style are a tendency to firefighting and working extreme hours to solve problems for customers. This can also spawn a tendency to developing workarounds, rather than understanding and fixing the underlying issues.

- Too bureaucratic - IT departments can isolate themselves from the business if they set up too many formal processes that customers must follow. In the interests of comprehensiveness or security they may ask customers to submit overly complex requirements definitions and the like, but this can create unnecessary barriers between business needs and IT solutions, according to Forrester.

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