Assimilating IT Departments into the Business Process
As I meet with clients about Technology, several complaints bubble up into the conversation:
- Communications –
Executives say: “I do not understand IT” – They tell me that they try to understand, but the jargon prohibits a real understanding of the issues, the tools, and the plans for resolution or enhancements. I’ve been told by Executives that they think IT People “Make up words as they go”.IT says: “Our Executive Team doesn’t even try to understand IT” – Frustration sets in because neither side can agree on a common language. Sometimes, IT People get frustrated because everyone else get to talk in their own special vernacular. The medical community is a master of specialized language. And Banker Babble was coined (pun) because Finance has their own language. For me, the most frustrating profession is Marketing and Sales. Oh, they use English. They just can’t seem to get straight what is a noun and what is a verb, i.e. “Here is my ask”.Thoughts: Resolving our communications issues are not difficult. The common language of business is business. Business leaders do not, and should not have to, understand Technical jargon. Communicate with words everyone understands. Don’t use jargon when you know other words will get the meaning across. If you must use jargon, explain it. Explain that we are buying a Hypervisor, which is software that allows us to create several smaller servers on a large server box. We can have more servers for less money and we can move resources around easily so there is less down time. Everyone understands that. They have no clue how it works but they don’t have to and don’t really want to. Last word on this: Execs, meet us in the middle. We live in a technology-driven world. Terms are being added daily. Don’t let the IT folks off the hook. Ask them to explain if they use a word you do not understand. Thanks for letting me give you my “Think” on that. ?
Executives say: “IT People do not work well with others” – I think it goes back to the 1970’s and 80’s when we used the term “Glass House” to describe the IT department and the data center used to house the corporate mainframe. It was literally in a big room surrounded by glass walls. You could see us, but you couldn’t come in and talk to us. When things got a little dicey, we retreated to the safety of our Fortress of Solitude. Mainframes are no longer a secret and the physical Glass House is gone but the attitude lives on.IT Says: “The Business folks think we are little more than hardware jockeys. They do not value our opinions” – First of all, the term “Hardware jockey” provides such a comical image to me. IT people have voiced that they are not included in Strategic Planning. They are not picked for key roles on important projects. But, we are what we allow people to see. IT folks want everyone to see them for the Technical geniuses they are, solvers of impossible problems, dedicated ‘round the clock magicians, and unfortunately, uninterested in anything not Technology-related.Thoughts: I don’t think we do a very good job of assimilating IT People into the business world. I’ve worked in companies that have mentoring as a mandatory onboarding strategy. But the mentors were always from the new employee’s department. Maybe a little cross-pollination would help. Let’s assign the VP of Marketing as the mentor for the new Application Developer. Assign the Controller as the mentor for the new Sr. Network Engineer. Make the CIO the mentor for the new Sales Executive. Hold the mentors accountable for the mentee’s success. Maybe the business folks will see that IT people are just people, and IT folks will appreciate how hard it is to sell widgets.
Executives say: “I’m not real sure what IT People even do, but we have a lot of them” – They keep to themselves and they seem to come and go as they please. Executives know that Technology runs their company. Without an ERP, desktops and an Internet circuit, you cannot order components, make finished goods, ship products, pay people, process invoices, or communicate with anyone. Technology scares them because it is so important to the success of the business, and they don’t fully understand it – their words, not mine.“IT Says: “No one outside of IT appreciates the after-hours it takes to keep systems functioning” – IT people have the responsibility to keep applications updated, servers patched, and hardware refreshed. Business Continuity dictates that changes and updates occur when the impact to the business is at a minimum – yep, the middle of the night and on holiday weekends.Thoughts: IT folks need to understand that everyone works hard. All jobs are difficult. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes every department to run a company. Be a team. And for my IT peeps out there, no complaining about the hours. You knew what you were signing up for when you chose IT as your career. It is your badge of honor. Business folks, please be a little more considerate and appreciative. Chances are, a team of IT folks will miss family time to work over the Memorial Day weekend to patch servers so there is no downtime for you. I’m not sure what it takes to close the books every month end. I do know it is not one of my talents and I appreciate that the Finance team works around the clock to get the books closed as quickly as possible.
Action Steps: Every problem needs a champion or two to effect real change. So here is your challenge, business world: change your company’s attitude. Here is your homework:
- Create a small committee with the VP of Sales and the CIO. Meet monthly to look for ways to collaborate, not ways to avoid contact.
- CIOs: Learn sales techniques from your Sales partner and get all of IT to start communicating as teammates with the rest of the company. Buy a copy of Todd Cohen’s Book Everyone’s in Sales for every IT team member. Make them read it. (See: https://toddcohen.com/shop/everyones-in-sales/)
- VP of Sales: Sell the talents and contributions of IT to the rest of the Executive Team. You are the new IT Cheerleader.
- CIOs and VP of Sales: Attend each other’s staff meetings. Learn their team members’ names and what they do. Share project successes and struggles.
- CIOs: Start communicating. Send email blasts out when projects start and stop. Keep your customers informed. If something goes south on a project, apologize and take the heat. When an IT Team Member knocks one out of the park, tell the world. It’s time to throw a few rocks at that Glass House from the inside.
As always, questions, comments and anecdotes are appreciated. Hit the link below.