Study: Management blocking IT projects due to rampant "fear"


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There are lots of things in this world to be afraid of. Spiders. Terrorists. Clowns.

Now it seems you can add IT projects to that list. Online storage provider Mozy recently released results from a study which note that 55 percent of IT managers complain that the companies they work for "perceive the adoption of technology as a risk" and that 57 percent of company executives are "fearful of new technology implementations."

37 percent of respondents to the survey said that IT projects had been axed or blocked due to this fear.

Fear? Fear of what, exactly?

irrational fearsMozy

Fear in the workplace is a topic that is far more complex than a simple phobia involving snakes or walking under ladders. At the office, workers have a veritable minefield to navigate. According to the study, they worry over just about everything: accidentally sending an email to the wrong recipient (25 percent), being on the mark during presentations (15 percent), and even clicking on an "inappropriate link" during Internet searches on the job (21 percent).

Some workers really end up in the weeds. 13 percent worry about accidentally setting off the alarm in the office, 8 percent are afraid of the coffee machine, and another 8 percent believe that the office photocopier is "plotting against them."

That's a lot to be afraid of, but it doesn't really touch on the biggest fear of all: Getting fired.

The fear of losing your job is not an irrational one in today's market — although 23 percent of workers say they are "always" thinking that they are about to get fired — considering how stillborn the national economic recovery has been, particularly in the arena of employment.

For IT workers, that fear expresses itself in a different, more subtle way. IT projects are undertaken based on the promise that they will make a company more competitive, more productive, or more profitable, but as many IT managers know, calculating a legitimate ROI can be elusive. Business managers, in turn afraid of losing their own jobs should a project they approved ultimately fail, keep their cards close to the vest. Unless a project can be proven to be absolutely vital to the ongoing existence of the company, management is likely to simply say no.

Of course, those fears also have a flipside. If a tech project fails it could bring the company down… but if it succeeds, it could isntead make the manager that approved it irrelevant and cost him his job in a different way. It isn't hard to see how, for many, approving a tech project really is a no-win situation.

irrational fears 2Mozy

Coping With Fear

IT managers are slowly learning how to overcome these fears and push their projects through, and Mozy Senior Director Gytis Barzdukas has identified a number of ways that IT managers can help this process. To wit:

  • For starters, consider the buzzwords you use. Certain terms and phrases go in and out of fashion, often with alarming speed. Today's best buzzwords: Cloud, collaboration, on demand, and virtualization. Bad buzzwords: Gamification and …as a service. (The fact that "cloud," "on demand," and "as a service" mean functionally the same thing should not be lost on the reader.) While both terms are positive, "cloud" is currently a far better choice than "on demand."
  • Drive from the bottom up: Get employees to suggest technologies that the companies need and encourage their adoption, then build proposals around them.
  • Start small: Pilot programs keep risks — and the level of fear — to a minimum.
  • It's all about the money: Any tangible financial benefits should be placed front and center in any project proposal.

Highlights from the study can be found at the above link. The full report, Mozy says, will be released in the next few days.

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