By Anthony Sutcliffe - IT Team Leader at Delphi Diesel Systems
At a recent IT Pro council meeting, one of the marketing staff was making a key presentation to the group; and once she finished, she asked the members of the council for any ideas that they might have. I’m sure she was more than a bit surprised at the lengthy silence that followed.
Most marketing people work in teams that are quite used to the concept of having "brain storming" sessions where each person throws out several suggestions at once; and then the group discusses these, just to get some fresh insight and to generate new ideas. In most cases, nothing will ever happen with these proposals; it's just a process of creative thinking that for marketing types is quite common and happens naturally, almost like breathing.
However, those of us that work in IT are wired up a bit differently. Rather than seeing the request as just part of a creative process to generate fresh ideas, most IT Pros would have seen it as a call for an actual strategy that would be put into operation at some stage. When this sort of request is made, most of us would want to make sure that we had the relevant background and parameters to create something fairly solid, along with an outline plan of action. It's not that we can't see it as "blue sky" thinking; we just don't normally think that way.
This is not to suggest that this is a failing on anyone's part; it is just an example of how the different types of people think. Unfortunately, many of the people working in IT are just not that good at understanding other people and their motivations. (That's why we like working with hardware and software!) It’s a bit like the concepts explained in the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”; we don’t always understand exactly what someone is telling us, even though we might think that we do.
But the problem then is how to address that disconnect between IT and the wider business community when we all think in such different ways. I would argue that when communicating with other people within the business, we should adjust the way that we talk to them ("Different strokes for different folks"). We need to understand that people in those different areas have completely different pressures on them; and therefore different ways of looking at things to the way someone working in IT might. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the marketing book?
And I think that this is really what we need to be doing; instead of waiting for business people to approach us and ask for help to do things that they cannot define (and possibly don’t know are possible) we should be looking at what their problems are and trying to see if we can help them find a resolution.
A friend of mine works in sales for a large pharmaceutical company; if you ask her, she’ll say that she doesn’t “sell” anything, she just helps her customers to buy. The majority of her work is ensuring that the doctors and nurses keep her name (and therefore the name of her company) in their minds. To do this she makes a high level of use of a CRM system; and this enables her to really stand out.
In her system, she naturally has the names of all the medical practitioners that are in her area; but she also has the names and important dates for all their families as well. Every day, her system will give her the details of the people that are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, so that she can send the appropriate card. Just a small gesture; but it means that she is the one that they remember.
Now I’m not suggesting that every IT department should be sending out cards to their users (that’s just a bit creepy!) But perhaps it might be appropriate for the HR department to do something like that; but they just don’t know how. They don’t think to ask IT staff if they could set that up, so it doesn’t happen. But if someone approached them and asked if they wanted to do that and showed them how to make it happen; well, it might just make you their hero.
This post was brought to you by Anthony Sutcliffe, an independent consultant – Anthony is an all round technologist with an active interest in security, strategy & planning, BC / DR, SharePoint (which he thinks is a massively under-utilised product), Exchange, SQL and DPM.