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A tech crisis that kills businesses - and how to avoid it

I feel sorry for a lot of techs with titles like IT Director or CIO who may not have the skills required to prevent a catastrophic - and unplanned - career disaster.

One of my mentors, now retired, was a CIO at some very successful and prominent companies, including one tech company famous worldwide. He typically came in to his role on the heels of another CIO's departure, often related to some kind of technology failure or crisis that negatively affected the business. Systems and devices stopped working, information goes unavailable. Millions or tens of millions of dollars of business is lost.

One day, when I was nearly done with business school, my mentor explained to me over lunch what the root cause of all these IT failures was.

"It isn't a tech problem," he said, "It's a business problem."

In almost every case the business crisis happened because of a tech resource mismatch: Either the CIO couldn't see an issue to take steps to avoid it, or was operating without a comprehensive technology blueprint for the business. So ultimately the IT Director or CIO gets fired or resigns, and another one gets hired.

Do you feel this way about your IT?

Do you feel this way about your IT?

The next part is really interesting: the majority of the time the same scenario happens again. Tech crisis. Business falters. Money lost. IT Director or CIO gets replaced. If the CIO didn't feel like the tragic Greek character Sisyphus, repeatedly pushing a boulder up a hill into eternity, the CEO certainly must have felt that way. Just like in a small business, it doesn't matter that the tech is at fault for a major tech problem- the business owner still owns the results. In my experience, most of the time the business owner knows something is wrong- it's scratching at the back of their minds. They just don't know what to do about it, or they've outgrown their tech or external service provider, and they don't know what resource they actually need. So it's a business problem, not a tech problem. It's a lot like giving one's excellent bookkeeper the title CFO and later getting angry about poor CFO performance.

A lot of times when CEOs and business owners engage me to help them get more horsepower out if their technology, I usually help them see what they need to do to help their tech, who is often great at executing technically but needs management that understands how to design and a system that is manageable.

If you don't have a comprehensive IT blueprint for your business technology, or if your technical resource is spending more than 30% of their time fixing problems, it may be time to check the title you put on their card, or check your expectations against their skill set.

If you're a business owner or executive who feels you may have an IT mismatch, feel free to email me anytime and I'll be glad to set up a complimentary and confidential call to discuss your situation.