Leading IT Change
Key Accounts Manager
Talking the language of an IT director can sometimes be a challenging task, and having spent my career so far getting to grips with this fact has taught me a few things along the way.
People, and their opinions, come in all shapes and sizes, and having to deal with the challenges of supporting a business and its technology needs is no mean feat, especially at a time when companies can quite literally go out of business because they don’t have the right digital services in place. From managing an aging IT infrastructure to delivering the business benefits of cloud computing and big data, there is now huge pressure on what was once the humble IT department. Not that long ago, the IT department was a purely operational, often basement dwelling beast. You know, the guys you moaned at for implementing new policies and upgrades, the ones you’d charm in an effort to get a slightly bigger mail box. Now the IT team is responsible for shaping the business with every department dependent on the technology and data they provide.
So what is the difference between a great IT director and a bad one? Far be it from me to attempt to be an authority on the subject, but I do believe there are striking characteristics that make successful IT departments stand out: they challenge, they know their value and they prize people over technology. The most impressive are those working hard to pull their businesses out of recession thinking while looking to a more positive long term future. This isn’t the time for safety mode and the savviest operators know that. There are a number of reasons why start-ups and young businesses see exponential growth in their earliest years, but a big part of it is not being constrained by technology. They adopt the latest and greatest, challenge what has gone before and invest in and deploy easy to use technology that serves one simple purpose, to support growth.
The most impressive IT leads I’ve worked with (from CTOs to MDs, from CIOs to IT managers depending on the size of the business) aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo but always with the bottom line in mind. They challenge suppliers like me with problem solving as well as spec, time and budget. They challenge upwards with long term not quarterly thinking. And they challenge their own colleagues to change existing ways of working through education and creativity – not just technical upgrades.
My advice to these guys (and unfortunately it almost always is guys) is to know their value. Too many times I have seen talented IT teams with ambition and the aptitude to change the world by developing amazing new services for their business, only to be squashed by the fact they are too resource constrained. Talent is wasted managing and fixing services that don’t contribute to the overall progression of end users and therefore the capability of their business.
Ironically, the more an IT department can focus on the needs of its users rather than the technology it deploys, the better placed it is to facilitate growth. Those relationships always pay off – whether it’s with suppliers, customers or colleagues, there is no substitute for the ability to hold an open and honest conversation about what will get the best out of technology for your business. Trust is vital at all levels; it WILL deliver long term benefits and ensure best practice and ideas are used to deliver great results.
That kind of thinking turns the good into the great.