IT as whiners: The great debate

Over at TechRepublic, Patrick Gray has managed to rouse a hornet's nest of IT managers. What did Mr.

Over at TechRepublic, Patrick Gray has managed to rouse a hornet's nest of IT managers. What did Mr. Gray say wrong? He called IT folks a bunch of whiners.

In his first post, Gray told folks to stop whining and noted that technology types have an image of being a mad scientist type with limited people skills. Needless to say that didn't go so well. In a follow-up, Gray tells people how to get beyond IT's tarnished image.

Gray's advice and my take:

Forget that business alignment thing. He writes:

We’ve spent more than a decade in IT talking about “alignment” and “getting a seat at the C-suite table.” In contrast, look at counterparts in Finance, Sales, Marketing or Operations. There is no talk of aligning Sales with “the business,” and rarely do you hear CFOs or COOs lamenting their inability to get the CEO’s ear. We tend to focus on technology as the sole reason for IT’s existence, rather than the tools of the trade to accomplish the company’s objectives.

My take: Amen. Of course, I'd love for the term business alignment to be retired--because after two decades IT still doesn't quite get it. Maybe a new term--or even an acronym would fly. All kidding aside, Gray has a point. Why did IT create a term that already indicates technology and business doesn't go together? Here's what IT's fumbles on business alignment has led: Companies are putting non techies in the CIO role. There's a reason that Bausch & Lomb put an operating guy in as CIO. They want that alignment thing.

Also see: ZDNet's career blog,  the TechRepublic career and IT leadership blogs and BNET's management primers.

Certifications as stereotype. Gray notes:

I lamented the tendency of IT to “certification surf” in a past column, with HR making hiring decisions based on what certifications were on one’s resume, then summarily “downsizing” those people when technology changed or the skill was no longer relevant. While any corporate function has a need for those with unbridled technical experience, be it Sarbanes or .NET, I firmly believe IT frequently fails in developing their peoples’ abilities to learn, solve problems and interact with the rest of the corporation.

My take: Certifications aren't useless, but you may want to check the market conditions before you go leading with your cert--especially during cutback time.

Don't be a commodity. Not surprisingly Gray hit a nerve on outsourcing--even though he never mentioned it in his previous missive. He writes:

If you’re the stereotypical propeller head toiling away in a cubicle slinging code, the bad news is that you’re going to be seen as a commodity. The good news is that if you can develop a deep understanding of your company’s business, or critical relationships with counterparts in other business units you’re no longer a commodity. IT needs more of the latter.

My take:  This advice is easier said than done--especially if your CIO doesn't support you and has a bias against "propeller heads."What's your take? Is Gray an ivory tower consultant or does he have a point?