I am always amazed that the IT people operate in a very disciplined, task-oriented manner but fail to understand how people think and work, let alone working in harmony with the users or customers most of the time. Even the fact that the IT people themselves are already users do not help make their relationships any better: they want prime support from the call center or the support personnel from whom they are receiving services -say their mobile carrier- but they fail to provide the same to their non-IT colleagues. Of course not everyone is the same, but the majority of the IT people share similar behaviors. I will hit my colleagues hard throughout this article. No offense please.
The first one I will talk about is the root of all things in the universe: us vs. you. What IT people fail to realize is there is no you or no us. As long as the people share the same set of goals, they are one. If the business is about selling socks, the sales people try to sell more socks, the marketing people try to convince customers that their socks are better, the accounting people keep the record of the socks sold, the warehouse people keep the inventory of the socks and the IT people provide the behind-the-scenes environment (servers, networks, connections, whatever you name it) for all the people to be the best socks company. No department or division is more important or more knowledgeable than the other, and so is the IT.
Most of the time the IT people fail to understand that they are part of the overall business: there is no such thing as IT and non-IT.
Realizing that there is no difference between the departments, IT staff has to understand that requiring people to have the same level of IT knowledge as they do is downward nonsense (ah, by the way, IT staff also has a tendency to label the enthusiastic, a little bit knowledgeable users). Personally I believe that company policies should be in place for people’s level of knowledge to use the IT equipment and the applications (such as working with Outlook to send, receive, forward e-mail, contact and distribution group management, calendar, tasks, working with Excel etc.) and the policies for the IT department to provide the necessary training together with or immediately after the employee orientation. However, I do not believe that people should be required to know more about IT things other than they use for their daily business. For an administrative secretary who works with Outlook everyday can know the ins and outs, and it is reasonable to expect some higher knowledge with Outlook but you cannot expect her to provide you with the IP address configuration details or to check the processor and memory use of the processes in her slow computer and let you know about the diagnostics data. What IT people tend to do is to say “the users even don’t know how to open up a command and run ipconfig” in a somehow overlooking voice tone. This is the same thing if an accountant says “the IT people even don’t know how to calculate the accrued taxes.”
Typically in an enterprise a department feeds the other departments (internal and external) with their working statuses and other relevant information, such as the warehouse operators informing sales that the packaging and shipments would take some hours later, to let them inform the customers or to inform the transportation company about the delays to let them reschedule the trucks to arrive later in the warehouse. IT is no different. IT has to inform the users (or the customers) beforehand of any maintenance beforehand with the relevant details. If the downtime is not related to the maintenance but an unexpected incident, then the IT has to take the initiative to announce people that they know about the situation and they are working on it for the resolution.
Plus, the given rights to restart a server do not let the administrators exercise it whenever they feel so. Administrators cannot go for a -say- file server restart in the middle of the day if they can postpone it to after office hours or do it after an announcement. If the latest backup is yesterday night’s, it is 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the user is working on a document that she did not save and if the administrator just restart the server without any information, he can corrupt the user’s data or make her lose it, which is a misuse of his rights and an intolerable action.
The way that IT changes its perspective from the us vs. you, it approaches the other departments as an “enabler”, “assister” rather than the “preventer” or “overlooker.” This small step will radically change the perception of IT and will bring everyone in and out of the comany together. In a fast changing business environment, especially with the cloud transformation, this perception will help the IT staff a lot in the future.
Bringing everything I discussed in this series together: careful planning, careful operations and careful behaviors, the IT and the business will have more returns from its data center investment. And it will take a very short time to feel the effects of these returns everywhere in the business.