Every organization of which I have been a member fights the constant war: IT vs The Company. Far too often companies are faced with the challenges of growing the IT infrastructure to meet the business requirements while staying on track and under budget. Each organization fights this war in a different way. Some organizations fight against IT, others allow IT to dictate the rules of engagement. No matter how your organization handles IT, you can bridge all gaps with one simple thing: Communication.
There are things on which IT doesn't need to communicate with others- like why they can't put their kid's picture as their background, flower themed letterhead in Outlook, or the requirement to set a strong password. All these things are very important to IT, but they're not important to the rest of the organization. Things that need to be explained to users though, and department heads, is how each system integrates into another. More often than not users will get along without knowing how the AD Forecasting application ties into Inventory Control. Generally, users take these systems for granted. Since this does happen, it's the job of the IT Management team to make themselves more aware of the growing needs of the business.
With the implementation of Cloud Computing and SaaS, IT is no longer just knowing how Active Directory or the seven layers of the OSI model work. We need to educate ourselves and embrace dialogue with colleagues about what the needs of the company are. This is crucial in our daily pursuit to protect the company from the outside, as well as itself. IT managers that schmooze with other department heads can help steer the course of technology within the organization.
You will have to seek out this dialogue because far too often IT is looked upon as nothing more than a black hole. It is viewed as a department who has ballooning expenses with not a lot of measurable equitable return. On the other side, IT views most of the organization as non-understanding to the demands and security needs of the organization. These are complicated issues, but they can be overcome. Here are some ways to do so:
1) Engage department heads; Open dialogue. I used to invite other managers to lunch and have off the record brainstorming sessions. This is a great way to make allies and transfer knowledge. It's a good way for you to be candid with each other and freely discuss any issues. If you don't take control somebody else will and I assure you, you won't like that very much.
2) Evaluate and propose. Evaluate the current infrastructure and needs of your business. If you are in the distribution business, is your technology infrastructure supporting that division adequate enough? If you are in the retail business does your POS system meet not only your current needs but future needs? As the technology cheerleader for your organization you will be more widely accepted into discussions as well as sought out for advice if you open dialogue first. This will also allow you to evaluate and take control of project time lines. It's important for IT to dictate when IT can get things done. If you don't take control somebody else will and I assure you, you won't like that very much.
3) Don't go it alone. I worked for a very wise VPIS one time. He said to us once "I'm not going back up there anymore, they just think all we do is spend money." As I said, accounting thinks IT is a black hole. If the VPIS or CIO is the one pitching the new purchasing system to the CEO, then he or she had better be an expert as to how it is really going to save money for the company. Since you're not an expert in it, don't go it alone. Bring the plan with your fellow department heads that will be impacted to help make your case. This of course means you have to sell them on the system first, but that's OK.
4) Honesty is the best policy. Far too often we are quick to give users a generic answer so we don't have to answer a lot of questions. If we're more transparent about things people will trust us more. That doesn't mean that if your Exchange information store gets corrupted you start telling everybody they have the potential of losing all their mail - that causes pandemonium. You do however explain to them that there is a critical and severe problem with the system and you're working on restoring connectivity as quickly as possible. If you have a failure situation and need to restore you tell them. "We know what the problem is and project you will be without mail access for up to two days as it will take that long to restore the system." People will respect that a lot more than "we're working on it, it will be up when it's up."
5) Change control. Everybody hates it, nobody wants it, and it adds tremendous red tape to any project - but it can improve the process tremendously. If departments are aware there is a proper process they need to follow if they want to implement or change something then they will improve the communication with IT and vice versa. It's also a paper trail to protect the investments of the company.
6) Smile. Keep in mind; most people only talk to you when something doesn't work. They never call to ask how the day is or tell you how great the network is performing. They will also spring something on you at five o'clock on a Friday. When something breaks, smile, make them laugh. A smile goes a long way
Communication between IT staffs and the rest of the organization are very important. As businesses grow more dependent on technology it is important for IT professionals to evaluate the needs of their business. Understanding what marketing needs - and why - goes a long way to forming a mutual respect and communication between the two departments.
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