IT Pros: Get Close to the Business

Technology is changing constantly but it is a question whether the IT departments can adapt the same. A long standing problem of the IT department is establishing great relationships with the other departments. The fundamental reason is that both parties view systems differently: users want to go online, chat, use some apps, where IT thinks about security, backup, compatibility, integration. Despite all these, there are many things that IT pros can make to work productively and collaboratively with the end users.

IT pros must know the business. Above anything else, IT is the department that serves the business achieve its goals. I have pushed this to my department, to my clients and everyone I spoke for years: IT is a service; it serves the business. To serve the business and to make sure that the business can achieve its goals, IT has to know what the business is. Only then IT can understand the pain points and can empathize with the end users to overcome the business challenges.

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Listening is the key element in any healthy communication. Many end users complained to me about the IT pros not listening to them and pushing what they know should be. Since IT is strictly a service business, it should listen to its clients, understand what they want, and then respond according to what people want to do. IT should act to meet the users’ requirements, because the end users are the ones who know their business best.

The next thing to do is to stop arrogance. End users love technology and all the possibilities that it brings. But they don’t and don’t need to know how technology works. And of course the jargon. Using the jargon, the acronyms and the knowledge of how things work intimidates the end users and makes them think the IT pros are talking down on them. Leaving the jargon aside, placing the business and the collaborative skills in front, IT pros will definitely take down one of the most important barriers to end user communication.

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In terms of enterprise application development, IT pros need to spend more time with the end users and understand the logic behind the requested application. I recommend the application developers to sit down with the end users and observe what they doing, preferably actually participating themselves. Observing the workflow and having the hands-on experience will guide the developers on how the app will contribute to the workflow and how it will solve the business problems. Such will not only directly improve the effectiveness of the application but also will reinforce the position of the IT department.

In a service department setting, IT should not simply develop, train and deploy  an application and do away with it. With a service oriented mindset, they should follow up with their users – their internal clients, and check if everything is working as expected, if there are any problems and if there is anything there should be further done.

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From a business perspective, IT pros need to understand the financial statements. This will help the IT pros understand how the company is doing, better see how the business is run and how the technology can help to deliver more value. Failing to see the overall picture may drift the IT from the core of the business where it is expected to serve.

Knowledge of business and healthy communications are the foundations to build a strong relationship. In the business, this foundation makes people share their pain points, their ideas for further development and make them more open to further communications. In terms of IT management, all these put IT in a strategic place and allow the IT managers to correctly manage expectations.

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