It’s been a year since I’ve provided an update so this is well overdue. Work gets in the way of blogging, but note to self, must try harder. I’m still very much in the intranet business, just too busy to blog about it.
I’m a subscriber to the paper version (how quaint) of the magazine aimed at IT professionals “Information Age“. Most months I have a cursory glance at it and on rare occasions I may read an article if it interests me.
But I didn’t think I was the magazines primary demographic reader. I’m not technical, am not interested in the kilowattage of an IBM server stack or attending an Enterprise Architecture Summit in the Spring of 2011. But obviously there are people who are interested in these things and thank goodness they are, otherwise I wouldn’t have a job and Information Age wouldn’t have a readership. But interestingly, Information Age’s editorial vision states “….magazine for all executives,regardless of job title involved in the application of technology.” So that’s me then?
IT departments are considered to be dour places where tecchies scour screens looking for bugs in darkened rooms. This may well be the case in some companies but this is usually a stereotypical view bandied around by some people who have seen “The IT Crowd”; like me. But this isn’t fair.
The technical people I know are intelligent professionals who know their stuff, live ordinary lives and merely choose to spend their work time doing technical things that are simply beyond me. And that’s the way it should be. I shouldn’t need to understand the intricacies of how networks work. They should just work. Network managers? You do your gig and I’ll do mine; without each other we’d be lost. Sorted.
But, and it’s a BIG but……very few companies these days have no IT presence, so it’s vital the people responsible for IT solutions are fully aware of why a business does what it does and more importantly how it goes about doing it. It’s also just as important that the business managers also understand how IT helps achieve the aims of the company.
Whilst this is the nirvana a company can aim toward, the reality is usually very different. As I said at the start of this piece, work gets in the way; and we normally get judged on whether we actually deliver our objectives. It’s normally unusual to be judged on how we’ve actually gone about doing so and stating “after spending three days, I learned how finance balance the books and we need to reduce IT spend” doesn’t garner brownie points at appraisal time. Well not in my experience anyway. Unless your appraisal system acknowledges your behaviour and you receive recognition (or otherwise) for how you go about achieving what you achieve, IT folks behaviour won’t change. We’ll just continue to blindly deliver what we think is right irrespective of what the business needs actually are.
I have a reputation for challenging existing behaviour, which includes my own. I also have a reputation for trying to simplify things. I’ve lost count of the amount of responses I’ve received from IT folks to a suggestion that I didn’t consider to be particularly radical, and which will ultimately benefit the business, which were along the lines of surprise, denial or just plainly ignored seemingly because they’re “off the wall”, like the most recent example which includes implementing a common approach to delivering internet (yes, not “intranet”. I now have additional responsibilities for the BBC’s corporate internet and they offer similar opportunities to rationalise our approach even further) development solutions which will reduce overall spend on both design activities and ongoing daily support. My stakeholder stated that she was very supportive of such an approach but also said “we’re different to the rest of the business, so have different needs.” Errr, no you aren’t and no you don’t.
Some people seem to enjoy hanging onto outdated systems to meet localised needs, with little thought to pan company requirements, encumbered by bureaucratic processes that simply don’t meet the needs of the user and therefore hinder the business’ objectives. This is an outdated view. A very outdated view.
All companies should ensure at least one of each of their employees’ objectives, and against which they should all be measured, should include innovation, which will improve a business’ success rate. The innovative ideas don’t necessarily need to be big or particularly ground breaking (though if they are then great) but they should demonstrate how things will be “better” as a result of delivering them, and they should clearly demonstrate how they contribute to a business’ success. And managers should have an additional objective to make sure their people meet this objective. This doesn’t mean it needs to be an onerous bureaucratic process, but it should encourage employees to think differently. The best ideas come from opportunities that break the established model.
People should be acknowledged for innovation, taking measured risks, challenging the status quo and implementing change (no matter how small). If they choose not to, then they should should be mandated to contribute or encouraged to go and work elsewhere. Maybe for themselves, and then they would understand how important change is.