Drawing a Balance between Customer Pressures and Employee Pressures

IT arena is fraught with acute shortage of skilled and trained staff. Particulalry for in-house IT, the developers may be the authors of the software developed or may have got trained on the products being used. When they leave, it takes time for a new recruit to take control of the code level details of applications which someone else has developed. With the IT job markets booming, the in house IT manager has the constant risk of losing trained persons to the software companies. He has to keep them constantly engaged and motivated to avoid the pressures of natural attrition.

On the other hand there is a constant pressure from the internal clients for continuous changes and for change responses at break neck speeds. Developers too get demoralized due to client pressures, when the client wishes, nay demands, that his requests be met instantly.

The IT manager has to draw a balance between the pressures of the internal client and the fear of loss of employees. The more the CIO lets the customer pressure pass on to his employees,  the more will be his pressure on attrition. I have seen CIOs committing aggressive dates to their internal customers either under pressure or to please them. And then they get jittery and put tremendous pressures on their staff to deliver on the promised dates as their own reputation is at stake. When the IT manager bends backwards to satisfy customer requests, he is bound to put pressure on his team to deliver on unrealistic timelines. This increases the risk of employee attrition due to undue pressures. The burnout has to happen sometime and the employee will call it quits. Then the CIOs panic and bend backwards to retain the employee when he or she puts in resignation or threatens to leave. This adds to the pressure of the CIO – leave alone the tremendous pressures he goes through if he has made unrealistic commitments to the customers.It has a snowballing effect which can break the CIO’s back. Whether it is the burnout of the IT staff or the CIO, in the long run who suffers the most? It is the company which loses out and the company’s IT plans which get jeopardized.

So in the long term interest of his company, it is best for the CIO to stand erect in front of both the customer and the employee and not bend backwards neither in front of the employees nor the customer. He should have a win win relation with both.

This requires that the IT Manager has good client management skills and that he does not succumb to pressure. He also needs to have the skills and the confidence in himself to be able to tell the customers realistic solutions and timelines. The CIO may thereby displease the customer, but will benefit the company and prevent the company’s IT plans from going haywire. If the IT Manager is too concerned with his own image and with earning brownie points, he may compromise on company’s interests. Not many companies understand this balancing that the CIO has to do for long term interest of the company.

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