My Aching Technology Department

Sometimes it's hard to know exactly where the pain in your information technology comes from. Use this worksheet to zero in on a diagnosis. (Baseline)

Sometimes its hard to know exactly where the pain in your information technology department comes from.

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"Its like a patient who tells a doctor that his knee hurts, when its actually his hip thats causing the fundamental problem," says Ann Browne, vertical market director of Lawson Softwares service process optimization division.

When the patient is your technology department, you need to make sure that an ache in one area doesnt cause a knee-jerk reaction in another. For example, Browne says, take the technology unit that simply adds business liaisons to each department rather than directly addressing its customers general mistrust. "They may add to the comfort level, but its an extra layer of expense," she says.

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Another pitfall is the tendency to overpromise and underdeliver, says Lou Pereira, senior product marketing director at St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson. That fuels a perception of the technology unit as an unresponsive black hole. The problems compounded when information technology departments fail to adopt a good method of determining the value of their work.

To remedy the situation, technology managers need to think strategically, Pereira says, and combat "utility company" expectations in which "people think everything [in technology] should work perfectly with the flick of a switch."

Baseline and Lawson Software created the diagnostic quiz at left to help technology managers locate their departmental pain. The quiz focuses on four main areas: customer satisfaction, project management, financial management and performance measurement. An especially high score in one of those areas may help you zero in on a diagnosis.