Conversation Between IT and the Business – Is It Really that Difficult?
I’m very fortunate to work for a company that excels when it comes to internal communications, however I know that not everybody is as lucky as I am. That said, I don’t think I had ever truly appreciated how much communication is still an issue in many organizations until I visited the itSMF UK Conference earlier this month.
I networked with many practitioners working on the Service Desk and the picture I received from them was clear – there is still (generally) a barrier and disconnect between the IT department and the rest of the business.
When I explained the positive environment that I worked in (everybody loves me for starters – yes, that’s me being modest there) people automatically asked that I hand over my magical secret to them so that they could create the same kind of environment within their own business.
So, what is my magical secret?
Well, the answer isn’t a secret, and nor is it magical. It is in actual fact COMMON SENSE (and as the saying goes common sense isn’t so common right?) – the answer is: talk to the business.
And to be clear I don’t just mean talking to management. I do mean everyone. And where possible do it face to face; do your best to banish the stereotype that IT admins work in the basement and never see any of their end-users.
Where do I start?
Start simple, by asking two key questions:
- What information does the business / my end-users need from me?
- What is the best way to communicate with them?
If you don’t know the answer (and hell even if you do think you know the answer) go and ask your end-users what their answers to those two questions are. Strike up a conversation by the coffee machine, or ask a member of management if you can have 5 minutes in their next team meeting to ask the group a couple of questions.
Remember that conversation is a two-way thing, you can’t just push information out you need to receive it too.
Build a simple communication plan. Importantly build a communication plan that you can actually stick to. It’s all well and good having fancy ideas and pretty spreadsheets full of what you want to do, but what can you actually deliver? Working on a Service Desk is no easy job, we are forever fire-fighting and dealing with ‘critical incidents’ and fancy plans can soon get forgotten about when you’re working day-to-day. Create something simple that you will always be able to deliver on (even if it’s just an email update once a month, it’s better than nothing).
Make your work visible wherever possible. Many people have no idea what it is that IT do (“they just reset my password when I forget it right?”)
- Ask for feedback on a regular basis (whether it’s once a month, once a quarter, or after each interaction they have with you)
- Act upon the feedback, ensure that the business can see you utilizing it. If you receive feedback that you cannot possibly act on (perhaps for budget reasons for example) then let them know the reasons, otherwise they will just presume you ignored what they had to say and will probably not bother providing feedback again in the future
All of these are relatively small things that YOU the IT Admin can make happen. They’re not going to work miracles over night, but they will help you build trust with the business and educate them on what it is that you actually do. Couple this with delivering exceptional customer service and you’re sure to have your end-users adorning you with flowers, chocolates and lots of wonderful praise on a daily basis… like mine do me… (Ok so maybe that just happens in my head). Joking aside, these small changes can have a great impact, so surely it’s worth a try?
Something a little more advanced…
I am only looking at this at a very basic level. You don’t need additional resource or budget to be able to implement the advice I have given above, and I confess that I’m no expert on this topic. I really am only touching the surface of how you can improve communication between the business and IT. You aren’t necessarily going to solve all of your problems by acting on my advice alone, but everyone has to start somewhere. Remember that there is so much more that you can do and so much more value to be gained from opening up channels of communication with the business.
For example, the role of the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) is becoming increasingly popular. Whilst it needs buy-in at a higher management level, I highly recommend that you take a look at some of the following resources to learn more about the role, it’s responsibilities and value to IT and the business:
- Empower Your Service Desk to Practice Business Relationship Management (Webinar – Andrea Kis)
- Customer relationship management vs business relationship management (Article – Matthew Burrows)
- The Business and IT Love Requires Lubrication (Article – Peter Lijnse)
Perhaps you might even be inspired to create a business case for the role?
What about you?
How does communication between IT and the business fair in your organization? Do you take an active role in helping facilitate conversations between yourself and all the other departments? Perhaps do you have a Business Relationship Manager?
If you plan to take my advice and get started with some simple steps, let me know how you get on I’d love to know if the advice works for you!
Conversations between IT and the business really shouldn’t be difficult, and I truly believe that leaps and bounds can be made (as it can in many situations within IT and outside of IT) if you just apply a little common sense and follow through on the basics. Good luck!
Posted by Joe the IT Guy