Why Every Manager Should Have a Great Relationship with the IT Department
In recent years, technology has steadily infiltrated society and the workspace to the point where we quite literally cannot function without it. Nowadays, even the tiniest corner shops and obscure restaurants have their own web pages, social media presence and personal email domains; to forego these trends means being utterly left behind in the business world.
This makes the oft-seen trend and assumption of the IT department being relegated to the basement and generally being ignored until something goes wrong even more baffling.
In this day and age, Information Technology is everything, which makes people who know the trade invaluable. There is simply too much information in the world for the average person to be able to fix every computer issue they encounter, install an operating system or any of the myriad tasks that IT specialists must undertake. They are often the crutch of an organization; after all, a 21st century office without computers is not an office at all, which makes it all the more important to maintain good relations.
The Importance of ‘the IT Guys’
‘The IT Department’ is, of course, a nebulous term. For some offices, it consists of a single harried person forced to be a jack-of-all IT trades, whereas larger companies may employ scores of specialists in different areas. In both of these cases, however, good relationships are key to ensuring the business functions as it should.
Try to see if you can name a single action taken within a business that does not rely on any kind of technology.
Meetings require computers, power-point presentations and projectors. Often, the simple act of an employee entering the building requires their details to be entered into a system and their key-card being programmed to allow certain privileges. There is very little that can be done, certainly in the way of communication, without technology.
The inevitable view of many companies is that the IT department represents a delay in productivity. It certainly doesn’t help that IT is a misunderstood field, as this encourages segregation and mistrust.
Bridging the Divide
Nevertheless, two vital steps can be taken to ensure healthy cooperation between the IT department and the rest of the company.
The first of these is simple understanding. It would be unfair to suggest that all employees gain a certain level of IT expertise, but this responsibility does lie with the person in charge. A tertiary degree in IT isn’t necessary, only a deeper comprehension of key terms and processes. Bosses should take it upon themselves to learn what systems and functions are relevant to their business and research them to the point where conversations with the IT guy don’t end in frustration. This will have a positive effect in the entire workspace, as the boss will have the ability to be the ‘middle-man’ in IT discussions. This may mean keeping up with the conversation when used Juniper switches are the topic of the day, or (heaven-forbid) getting a basic grasp on the subtleties of HTML.
The second is positive association. Shows like The IT Crowd certainly present a poignant image of what can happen in the industry, but they also engender the stereotype of the beleaguered IT department slaving away in the basement, utterly unappreciated. Avoiding this mindset may be as simple as a change in location and closer to the main workforce and therefore not as segregated.
If this is not possible (the common association of IT guys and basements is simply due to the fact that the latter is the common location for servers), it is again the boss’ responsibility to engender good relations with the IT staff, possibly by descending from the ivory tower of the upper levels for a visit; the simple act of being seen to have an interest could speak volumes. Look up some technology related companies, such as BrightStar Systems and bring them up in a conversation. It very well may be that easy.
The First Step
The stereotype of the downtrodden IT Department, full of their own importance and generally looked down upon by ‘normal’ employees, is one that has been engendered by both sides.
It is therefore the responsibility of those in charge to change attitudes, promote teamwork and ensure that a company runs as efficiently as it could. Stereotypes are by no means set in stone, and a friendly conversation with your head of IT is the first step to genuine and positive change.
Lilly Sheperd is a freelance blogger with an interest in business and technology.