I had coffee yesterday with my friend Donald. He works as a logistics director for a large hardware distributor in Texas, but had spent the afternoon interviewing with a competitor. I asked why he was eager to leave a company that had employed him for over a decade. Surely they were offering more generous compensation. Perhaps he wouldn’t have to travel as much and could spend more time at home with his family? Maybe they were dangling a better title or an increase in responsibility?

“No, it’s none of those things,” Donald said. “Our systems and processes are so broken that I don’t feel like all of our people are on the same team most of the time. Our computers are old and underpowered for the brand new ERP system we run. And that system is a lot more complex then what we used to use, which worked perfectly fine. I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job and the pushback I get from our IT department is infuriating. I’m the logistics expert; I’ve been doing this for years. But the changes they keep implementing make it impossible for us to succeed. Our IT guys are making things too difficult on me and my team.”

A comic about IT departments

IT should simplify, not complicate!
Image courtesy of Rogersfamilyco.com

I wanted to tell my friend that I was surprised by what he had to say, but that wasn’t the truth. The harsh reality is that many internal IT departments have had a hard time in recent years aligning with the needs of the rest of the organization. Business IT services and departments came into existence to help manage hardware assets and network infrastructure above all else. Twenty years ago, it was possible (even likely) that the vast majority of employees wouldn’t know how to operate a computer at an expert level or take advantage of software like Office and Quickbooks. Things have changed and the role of in-house IT departments and IT providers is no longer simply to care for existing architecture and hand-hold users as they learn how to use email. Now, the role of IT is to leverage technology in a way that enhances business processes and aligns with the company’s core mission.

That isn’t to say that changing course is going to be easy. Here are some suggestions for how to understand, prepare for, and embrace the new place that IT departments have in the enterprise.

    • Get over yourself.  Perhaps the biggest deterrent to new thinking in IT departments is the threat that a new solution will make a particular job obsolete. That’s the entire point! New technologies mean old roles like “Systems Administrator” or “Database Manager” may be unneeded in the near future. If the people performing these roles are the ones influencing IT strategy, then you must prepare for the fact that their self-interest will factor heavily into their recommendations. Not addressing this challenge head-on means that your progressive IT strategy is unlikely to gain real traction.
    • Flatten the learning curve.  Employees want systems that work all the time. And when they finally know how to use all of the features of a system, the last thing they want is to be told that a “new” system is replacing the one they’ve finally gotten used to using. There is nothing wrong with using old technology so long as it is reliable, stable, and secure. Don’t force new applications and systems on other people needlessly. In the event that you do introduce something new to colleagues, make sure you have a plan that clearly demonstrates the benefits and advantages of the new system AND provides proper training and support.
    • Give up some control.  Ignoring the BYOD movement is risky. Limiting the tools employees can use is a similarly bad idea. Embrace the idea that your job is to help others do a good job. From different hardware preferences to SaaS apps that employees use on their own, there is very little danger in allowing versatility in the tools employees use, so long as you are proactive in accommodating these needs and wants.

As counterintuitive as it seems at first glance, these three suggestions actually make the IT department more important to the success of an organization. Instead of being thought of (rightly or wrongly) as an impediment to the productivity of the organization, your team will be viewed as a key component of everyone’s success.

In Donald’s case, his employer’s IT department insisted on allocating budget dollars to fancy enterprise grade software systems to replace an older system that was working perfectly. In doing so, the CIO ignored the more pressing need of a hardware refresh. As a result, a large amount of money was spent on an unnecessary software solution that the company is ill-equipped to run on existing hardware.

If you are a CIO or IT decision-maker, then it is vital that you understand the changing function of your department and plan accordingly. Your role and the role of your technicians and engineers is to think outside of the box and find ways to make technology a competitive advantage, rather than source of frustration. If you want a partner that’s creating technical solutions that do just that, contact us today at Mosaic NetworX!