Strengthening IT Accountability

Unfortunately, accountability in some IT organizations has become something that happens only when they are dealing with major problems. What you have is a working environment with members taking responsibility only when things go wrong. That is, when someone or some group has to own and be answerable for the consequences that impacted the business operations and later on work on reactive solutions. This kind of accountability seldom works because it is founded on the wrong principles.

Accountability in IT happens when IT team members or teams take responsibility in performing functions and work to achieve objectives. Here they take ownership of the services they provide to the business. This kind of accountability impacts both IT services delivery and ultimately, the company’s results.  This kind of accountability makes things go right and far from being a punishment for failures. This kind of accountability develops the culture that produces people with the right attitude and managers that execute the right IT strategy. Highly accountable IT organizations have that commitment at all levels — from top management to IT operators that manage day-to-day functions.

IT Accountability in Operative Teams

In my current occupation, I am fortunate to lead a team of professionals with a strong sense of pride in what they do and with the goal of contributing to the organization. That sense of pride translates into a positive attitude and best practices that govern how we work to provide the best service to our internal customers. I once told my team that what I admired most about their work is their culture of shared responsibility. I like that each one has a sense of ownership of the team’s overall performance. They have the initiative to perform certain functions within the scope of their responsibility — very mindful that they are accountable for keeping business operations running efficiently. In our team, doing things above and beyond for the sake of customer service is daily routine. To me, that’s accountability in every sense of the word. The way we hold ourselves accountable defines the very nature of our working relationships, how we provide support to the business, how we work in projects, how we respond to problems and how we interact.

IT Accountability in Cost Management

Accountability in cost management practices is one of the most important areas where IT can really impact the business’ bottom-line. IT leaders need to start by responding to the following questions: What are my cost drivers? What business objective is driving spending? Is spending aligned to the business strategy? Is IT cost transparent and does business understand the value? Accountable IT confronts these tough questions together with their business counterparts. The practice of shifting the focus from IT cost to one of business value no longer works, especially during these tough economic times. It has to be a balance of both. IT needs to be accountable for the business cases that go with its project portfolio. I think that the biggest challenges in IT are those that deal with the intersection of both technology and business — how the cost of investment in certain technologies translates to business value. IT management needs to be at the forefront in taking responsibility for cost efficiency and value creation of their products and services. IT management needs to understand what drives IT cost. The basis for effective cost management is understanding cost structure and analyzing the costs flowing through that structure. 

IT Accountability for Improved Service Delivery

Better accountability improves service delivery performance. But how does this work? IT accountability for improving IT services delivery is not simply a question of providing the technology needed to run its business or ensuring service availability. It is also about its service culture as well as better partnership and alignment with the business. In short, the challenge is as much about partnership and customer relationship as it is about providing the right IT business solutions. Service culture is one of the softer elements of the IT organization’s identity but it’s extremely important when you want your organization to have a strong sense of accountability in delivering excellent services. Essential to improving partnership with the business is a deeper understanding of the business strategy, objectives and the service levels that are required. How do we engage business leaders? What is the current and evolving business strategy of the company? How can IT be leveraged to gain competitive advantage? How do we manage ongoing innovation and process improvements? Does the business understand our capabilities to maximize our value? How do we communicate and manage perception about IT services? These are some of the difficult questions and challenges that must be addressed head on by IT leaders. There must be a structure used to allow learning from business engagement about strategies, core elements and innovations to improve service culture.

Although the concept of accountability is often reduced to ‘answerability’ or ‘enforceability’, a more complete understanding includes the actions that take place at every level and every internal customer touch points. Again, accountability does not only happen when things go wrong—accountability is taking ownership from the beginning. It is continuous rather than having an end point.

Photos courtesy of Salvatore Vuono and Michal Marcol.

Follow Glenn Remoreras on Twitter.

9 thoughts on “Strengthening IT Accountability

  1. Accountability is to be able to account and reckon things. Take for example when Ivy gives you your 20 dollar budget for day in the morning, in the afternoon she would ask for your gas and meal receipts to make sure that you did not used your money for something else. Some says that accountability therefore cannot exist without proper accounting practices.

    Some says it is like Physics; your money can neither be created nor destroyed: it can only be transformed from one state to another. But, what if you bet your 20 dollars against Gil and Miami won, so you doubled your 20 dollars. You then showed your typical gas and meal receipts to Ivy at the end of the day but then of course you wouldn´t show her the lap dance receipt (if ever they give one? I´m sorry this is purely hypothetical, since I´ve never entered one — this is a poor attempt to imagine the simpleprocess inside these type of establishments). In this case, the money was purely accountable and easily reckoned with. But, is there real accountability?

    Real accountability is self-ethical-accountability. Real accountability is about conscionability or your ability to ethically act on something base on good conscience. Afterall, you are only really accountable to yourself and to your God.

  2. At the base core of actions performed by individuals, there is an emotion. With professional performance I equate almost all emotional motivators to two basic emotions; Desire & Pride. Desire is the most prevalent of these two, as most people go to work for a paycheck, plain and simple. Most leaders treat employee’s as an asset on a spreadsheet. It leaves no room for a any sense of accomplishment or success or value at the individual level. In regards to Enterprise IT, There are no incentives for any IT professional to care about what there support base is doing 1000 miles away. The relationship is purely imaginative. Or how important there support is to operative function. They simply show up at 9:00, follow a script, and leave at 5:00. We all know these organizations, and know how frustrating this support culture can be. We have all spoken to an out sourced support firm, whom is completely disconnected from customer needs, culture, and expectations despite the intense training and documentation. On the other hand we have the pride emotion as an incentive to perform. This is a learned emotion, driven by a shared-sense of the big picture, and how each role, operative and IT, impact the bottom line. This motivator is not natural for corporate structures, and in most cases is deemed counter-productive. Why should an IT dept. expend resources in getting internal teams familiar with the daily roles, pressures, and pain points of operational responsibilities? Shared Service Organization’ are not a BPO. SSO have the luxury to invest in there support teams and forge relationships. I argue for the investment for all IT employee’s to have, at minimum, a basic understand of the over-lying operational requirement. BPO support customers, SSO support partners. Partners understand each others roles and share the common emotion of “we are all in it together”. This HR investment evolves the natural working “incentivators” from Desire to Pride. The support roles go from scripted knowledge base rhetoric to productive trouble shooting. IT Support each can communicate effectively with the same environmental jargon as operations. Support fully understands the operational impact of every minute systems are not available. Support FEELS the operational pain, understand’s their partners situation, and like a “911 call”, rushes to offer support when they are called upon. IT professionals motivated by pride are always available, willing to go the extra mile, and feel comfortable playing the support role. In my opinion, this is what breeds accountability excellence.

  3. hi glenn,

    congrats on ur twin angels,so cute and adorable.
    cant relate much to ur blog,the low tech oldie that i am hehe, but i encourage my son to read your articles- he is also in IT(mapua,2nd year)- i tell him about you,i know he cud be inspired by the career path u have taken…

    god bless,regards.


  4. Great post, Glenn! Accountability is both a key quality, and highly elusive. I’ve conducted many IT capability assessments where lack of accountability was a major gap. Unfortunately, I’ve found that it’s not as simple as saying, “OK, we have an accountability issue – let’s close that gap!” I’ve often found that lack of accountability is a symptom of a lack of organizational clarity.

    For example, if organizational purpose is not clear (i.e., the goals, values desired business outcomes and guiding principles for a given capability are defined and well understood?) then organizational commitment (i.e., sponsorship and accountabilities) will be lacking or confused. With weak organizational commitment, ability (i.e., clear processes, well-defined roles, competent resources filling those roles, appropriate tools and technologies supporting the processes) will be deficient. And with deficient ability, there is virtually no way accountability (i.e., criteria for success and related performance requirements) can be meaningful.

    1. Thanks for your input Vaughan, I learn a lot from your feedback, that’s one of the many advantages that I get from blogging, learning from experienced consultants like you really. I agree with your assertion that lack of accountabilty is oftentimes a symptom for lack of organizational clarity. Accountabilty means that everyone makes a personal commitment to achieving the organization’s results. It’s hard to imagine a group doing that without them understanding their organizational purpose first.

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