14 bad habits IT leaders should break now

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Bad habits in IT

At a time when moving faster is the mantra of every IT organization, bad habits can slow or even inhibit a CIO's success. IT leaders and their teams are increasingly relied upon as technology continues to move to the center of all business decisions. With all eyes on IT to lead their organizations through digital transformation, there's no time like the present to identify the hangups that may be standing in your way.

We asked IT leaders to share their thoughts on the worst habits in IT, and they came up with this list. Is your IT organization guilty of any of the below? 

1. Poor communication

“Over the course of my career, one of the worst bad habits I’ve seen in IT is a lack of transparency. Working with my IT team, I’ve found that a little communication goes a long way. While a follow-up e-mail, Slack update, or a Skype chat to your manager might seem tedious for a project you’re working on, I assure you, it isn’t. Today, communication can happen in so many different ways that adding context to what you do is a no brainer. It is crucial when it comes to staying on top of your work and managing your projects. That’s why I’ve always erred on the side of caution. My advice to other IT leaders would be to sit down with your team, open the lines of communication, and make sure your team understands you’re there to help them succeed.” – Antonis Papatsaras, CIO and CTO, SpringCM

2. Hiding behind your metrics 

“We often feel like we are defending our team and the resources we manage. We have to explain why we need what we need to position correctly within and for the organization. The best way to do this is through tracking and measuring. How many requests, how much hardware/software, how many projects, etc. The measurement and accountability are good for the team to stay focused and execute until they no longer focus on the customer, the quality of their interactions, and the ultimate product of an awesome customer experience.” – Stephen Held, Vice President, CIO, Leo A Daly

3. Sitting on an IT throne

“CIO’s are no longer the technology kings and queens of the technology kingdoms dictating what technology can and cannot be deployed across the kingdom. Times have changed, and IT paradigms have shifted. Disruptive technology, shadow IT, a plethora of ambiguous clouds floating over us, millennials who came into this world with technology placed immediately into their hands shortly after their birth, and the consumerization of IT are all now dictating what happens next in the IT landscape across the enterprise. Today, CIOs must be more focused on the people than technology within their organizations. Focusing on people involves aligning today’s IT with the business, delivering superior customer service and IT support to their customers, working with management to decrease costs and increase efficiencies, and successfully interfacing people with technology.” – Brian D.Kelley, CIO, Portage County

4. The need to manage it all 

“With the expansion of all the cloud-based services, there are more environments to manage user accounts in. IT leaders want to manage all aspects of any secured environment, which drives them to want to own the administration rather than teach colleagues best practices for administration. IT leaders are also trying to expand their budgets by including additional services that support other departments like sales and marketing automation, cloud-based accounting services, customer support tools, etc. With the move to public cloud hosting, IT leaders are finding themselves trying to take over the management of code deployments or managing serverless applications that run code.” – Ralph Linares, CIO, Events.com 

5. Failing to delegate

“One of the most important skills of the great tech leader is the ability to delegate. It is very important not to stick to the mindset that you are the ‘lone ranger’ that able to manage the company’s business and start to delegate tasks. Delegating is a great way to get rid of the over-controlling style that motivates the team and concentrate only on strategic tasks that will help you to develop a visionary style of thinking. Ability to delegate is a win-win strategy and one of the most important features of a great leader as it empowers the team members, helps to make the overall performance better and the work much more efficient. Through delegation great leaders empower others to become the experts. In such a way, you will encourage your team members to be much involved in their own development, which will lead to team’s success.” – Oleksii Vitchenko, CEO, Digital Future 

6. Analysis paralysis

“With all of the options in emerging technologies today, it can be overwhelming for IT leaders. Don’t be distracted and lose sight of your objective: to bring value to your business. The facts of the matter are that there is time to thoughtfully pick and choose your technologies and processes going forward, and there are many paths to success. Failing to move forward through 'analysis paralysis' is just as bad as ignoring newer technologies and falling behind your competition whom you know are looking for any edge they can take.” – John Purrier, CTO, Automic Software 

7. Failing to lead by example

"First and foremost, IT leaders need to walk the talk and demand the same of their peers at every level. Many times the person in charge of building and enforcing the security policy or the acceptable use agreement is also the same person who demands to be able to use their unauthorized, insecure device on the corporate network or who writes their password down on a sticky note. The quickest way to get people to ignore your policies is to demonstrate that you don't care about it yourself." – Paul Paget, CEO, Pwnie Express

8. Big vendor syndrome

“These days technology is changing so fast that large vendors struggle to keep up, and this can have a detrimental effect on the businesses that rely solely on them. Large vendors are having to play catch up either by acquiring up-and-coming companies and their products or by re-launching existing products with new marketing. This can create the illusion of a comprehensive, well-integrated suite of products that can meet all the IT department’s needs. In reality, many of the problems are discovered long after the decision to buy is made. If IT executives want to be more agile and responsive to the needs of the business, they need to be able to pivot away from earlier decisions when circumstances or the business needs change.” – Nic Grange, CTO, Retriever Communications

9. Lazy security defenses

“If the big breaches over the last 18 months have taught businesses anything, it should be that out-of-the-box technology isn’t enough. Dealing with today’s fast-moving attacks requires sophisticated defenses. Continuous monitoring with experienced eyes on glass is essential, either through an in-house team or a security partner that can monitor the company network for you. And, while you can’t prevent a hacker from getting in, you can prevent him from doing damage. Threat detection and embedded incident response mean that while a hacker can get in the front door, you can keep them venturing further into your house. Network security is a 24-hour job that requires around the clock attention.” – Mark McArdle, CTO of eSentire

10. Not following your own security policies

“Attacks and hackers can happen to every person in the organization. Just because you’re in IT does not mean you are immune to phishing, pass-the-hash, and other malicious intent. IT executives need to follow the policies and procedures set further for everyone including password changes, password complexity, unmanaged accounts, and even least privilege, to name a few. If anything, IT executives and their egos become one of the weakest links because they think it will not happen to them; of course, because they know better. This is a poor excuse. If we can lead by example, especially for the teams that have the power to circumvent the system and not demonstrate hypocrisy, cybersecurity issues will be much better mitigated for all of the team members within an organization.” – Morey Haber, VP of Technology, Office of the CTO, for BeyondTrust

11. Lack of empathy 

“IT departments are sometimes viewed negatively due to a perceived lack of empathy for employees. They can be seen as patronizing to ‘non-IT’ people when in fact, this attitude is more often a reflection of their desire to problem solve the technology issue rather than the human issue. As younger employees enter the workplace, more levels of the organization will become tech savvy and may have a deeper understanding of a company’s technology infrastructure and the various technology tools they need to do their jobs. Interactions among IT and non-IT personnel offer opportunities for people-to-people relationship building that IT leaders need to take advantage of. This will help develop a stronger connection among teams and give IT leaders the relationships they require to be invited into strategic conversations.” – Jamie Anderson, President, Emergent Networks

12. Running IT in a vacuum 

“IT Leaders often think of IT as a business. They see it as a company within a company. They layer on processes, tools and organizations focused internally, but that provide little visible benefit to the company as a whole. Yes, we want IT to run efficiently and to be accountable, but this very model stands in the way of IT being the facilitator of innovation and market growth in the revenue centers of the organization. Instead IT leaders need to position their people to be business partners that are part of the innovation development cycle. Rather than focusing on optimizing 2-3 percent of the total cost of the company, they should focus on creating linkages to activities that grow revenue, margin, and market share.” – John Picciotto, Senior Principal, Accenture 

13. Shiny object syndrome

“IT professionals are tasked with keeping their business up to date with the state-of-the-art technology so it’s easy to fall into a bad habit of adopting the latest technology without considering how it’ll work with existing systems. There are numerous benefits of adopting cloud technology, but often times IT departments move to the cloud without understanding the impact on their existing datacenter environment(s). Like in any part of a business, it’s important to make sure that new solutions can integrate with existing systems. For example, I’ve seen IT departments adopt a cloud strategy that is independent of their existing datacenter strategy. As a result, they create separate infrastructures instead of one seamless system.” – John Taylor, CTO, Panzura 

14. Not automating day-to-day tasks

“Automation isn’t about the fancy algorithms, a common mistake by CIOs. Instead, IT professionals need to focus on automating what's in the brains of people today, in order to help them do their jobs better (not replace them!). Twenty years ago, lots of traders looking at nine screens at once were actually computing something drop-dead simple: spreads. Traders would compute the spread between highly correlated stocks, and trade when they thought the spread was too wide. It turns out that most traders could compute about 6 pairs in their heads; one computer can compute tens of thousands of spreads simultaneously and simply show them to a trader. By integrating tools that complement what knowledge workers already do in their day-to-day work, IT facilitates improved worker productivity.” – Mark Palmer, SVP and General Manager of Engineering, TIBCO Software

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.