Everyone knows that technology is important in business. Technology gives many companies their competitive edge, drives costs down, and enables exceptional customer service. When working in the information technology field, it is sometimes easy to forget that what we do is for the greater good of the business. Sometimes, we may find ourselves keeping the way we do things an unnecessary secret in order to feel powerful in our roles at work. However, we have to remember that the IT department is not in business for itself. Its job is to support the organization it is apart of. IT teams exist to develop solutions so that employees and customers using the technology can complete their jobs efficiently and competitively. Yet, many IT departments lose site of this aspect and instead, focus on customizing the code and building their own applications without a business use case.
Business leaders should use information technology to drive their business. They should look to their IT leaders to show them how to make money using technology. A good IT leader, such as the CIO, can show the connection between finance and IT as to how well the company is doing. IT leaders need to understand what the business is delivering so that they can leverage their department to build technology to keep the business making money.
Knowledge is Power in IT
The trouble many businesses have is that their developers working in the IT department hoard knowledge. They keep the ins and outs of the apps they build a secret and groan at the thought of having to share what they have built because knowledge is power in IT. Many think they have job security if they are the only ones who know how to update a code base. However, by sharing your knowledge you create trust and respect within the company. The more you share the more important your information becomes. Others in the organization will in turn model this behavior, creating a culture of transparency, openness, and trust.
Internal IT departments have to build trust within the company so that the business does not go to an outside vendor. Once businesses turn to vendors because they cannot trust their internal IT department, they become stuck as vendors know it is painful for companies to leave once they have started doing business with them. If companies do decide to use a vendor they need to watch out for the “implement and walk away” effect where a vendor will come in, install the solution, support for a few weeks and then leave. The internal IT department needs to work hand in hand with the vendor not only to be able to support the solution but to fully understand the business reasoning for it, making it a positive, long-term investment.
Time and time again I see team leaders and key knowledge stakeholders touting the importance of “sharing is caring” yet they hold out on information from their development team members. They state that the developers should know that piece of information or should be able to understand the business process. Our team leaders can’t claim to share knowledge while actively shutting people down. This only breeds a culture of silence. Developers and BAs become afraid to ask questions or speak their minds because of fear of being criticized.
Knowledge is power and with great power comes great responsibility. That responsibility is to lift your teams up, encourage discourse and communication, and understand the fine line between pushing someone to think and learn vs. knowing when to share knowledge.
The IT Department / Vendor Relationship
Businesses should look for consultants and vendors who leave an account team or pre-sales team on the ground as initial implementations lay the road work for future work. Implementations need buy-in from CIO, IT department leaders, or the manager of the department the software is being implemented in. Management itself needs to understand the full value of the IT implementation as it applies to the business as a whole. If management understands the big picture and supports it, this leaves the people on the ground floor free to drive it forward, therefore driving the business forward.
As a consultant, I have worked with vendors and internal IT departments. I have been considered a vendor myself. A special bond exists between outside consultants, vendors and IT departments. Success to us is sharing the technology we developed and knowing that who we’re handing it off to understands it and is excited about what it can bring. We both want to see the implementation work as this achievement means department success and improvements to the business that makes everyone look good.
Business is a living, breathing thing. It will grow and change. Information technology needs to grow and change with it.