Mid-Management Buy In

by Ivor Soans    Aug 24, 2006

Getting top-management buy-in into IT is key to the success of the Enterprise IT Leader. However, in many intelligent Indian enterprises this is no longer a concern area for the Enterprise IT Leader, as visionary boards of directors and CEOs already understand the strategic edge that IT can provide to businesses. Though they don’t understand the nuts and bolts of IT, they understand the value that IT brings and thus more and more enterprises are becoming a knowledge-based organization as a strategic objective.

Unfortunately for the Enterprise IT Leader, this is no cause for celebration. While the board and the CEO support IT to the hilt, the support often ends at budgetary sanctions and encouragement. The board and CEO understand that many IT initiatives take a year or a couple of years to deliver results and that dovetails in quite nicely with the strategic vision that the board has, which is usually long-term too.

But on the ground, what makes the difference between success and failure is user acceptance. Mid-management has a huge role to play here since a vast majority of users directly report into this management layer. However, mid-management doesn’t operate at the strategic vision level, concerned as they are with day-to-day issues, which lead to quarterly results, half-yearly results and at best annual results.

Anything beyond this leads to a lack of interest and as a result IT suffers. Implementations are delayed because of lack of support, functional managers nominated to be part of committees overseeing IT implementations don’t seem very interested and even when implementations are completed, there is user resistance to change and this results in even more frustration for the Enterprise IT Leader.

How do Enterprise IT Leaders tackle this issue? Since this is a mindset issue, pat answers that say ‘training’ and so on are obviously not meaningful solutions.

I think, the key here is building a people-friendly face to IT. Enterprise IT Leaders and their subordinates are technologists and often geeks and as a result, people-friendliness comes much lower on their priority list as compared to ensuring that systems are shipshape and humming along like clockwork. Unfortunately, while this brings about greater efficiency, it doesn’t win anyone friends, especially at the mid-management layer.

One suggestion would be, that Enterprise IT Leaders get their subordinates involved in building active networks and communities of practice with other functional mid-management heads. Helping IT mid-management co-ordinate better with functional mid-management will build and facilitate a collaborative culture and will yield results in the form of greater functional mid-management support for IT. Also, mid-management needs to be educated about the strategic importance of IT and benefits need to be demonstrated to build confidence and reduce resistance to change.