Stop acting like you work in IT
Are you still working in an IT department that is physically and culturally separated from the “real” business? Does the business develop their strategy in one room, while you work on the IT capabilities to support that in another, hoping that the two parts will be able to marry up successfully at the end of the day?
I wrote a blog on this issue some four years ago, and things just do not seem to have changed in that time. I had thought that talking business – IT Integration was something we didn’t need to do any more, that IT is now seen as a critical and integral part of any business. Sadly, recent experience has shown me that, in reality, this is still not happening in many ‘non-unicorn’ enterprises.
Technology workers still have a habit of seeing themselves as being somewhat removed from the day-to-day functioning of the business. They still think they are just that little bit special. Try asking an IT worker where they work, it is quite likely that they will simply tell you that they work in IT. If you ask a receptionist, an administrator or a company accountant where they work the answer is different. They will tell you they work in health, they work in a hotel, they work in banking. They understand that they are a part of the business that pays their wages.
Get out of the basement
IT tends to sit in its little ivory tower and think they are controlling the business, after all they cannot do anything without us. The business, on the other hand looks at IT as a necessary evil, a cost of doing business. This delineation is outdated and counterproductive, and ultimately damaging to the entire organization.
Silos are destructive, they dilute the value of all the work that is done by each disparate team. Every bit of best practice guidance out there stresses the importance of integrating IT into the business and now, when virtually everything that is done in any business depends, to a greater or lesser extent, on its IT components, this is a no-brainer.
IT needs to get out of its server rooms, step out from the cubicles, leave the basement and get into the business. It is well past time to be an enabler and an innovator, not just a supplier of services.
Time for a story
If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know that I like to use analogies from other parts of my life to illustrate my ITSM musings…this is not going to be any different.
I am (or more accurately was, until a sudden loss of hearing hit me a few years ago) a brass musician. I played in brass bands for more years than I want to admit to, and I was pretty good at it. I played in championship bands in New Zealand and held my head up high – as long as we weren’t doing marching displays, somehow my coordination went right out the window at that point! When you play in a brass band you have this thing called the percussion section…you need them there, but really you don’t consider them to be part of your core business, but just try playing a piece of music without them, you soon know that something very important is missing! Nobody else in the band can do their job properly without the percussion section.
More than a necessary evil
IT in the business is treated with much the same attitude, the business knows that they need them, but they don’t really want to bring them into the family and embrace them as being as important as the trombone or the cornet section. They are not the stars of the business, we like to keep them hidden away in the background. Like the percussion section, IT provides the glue that keeps things running in an orderly fashion, but the audience, in our case – the business, only rarely gets to see them shine.
In bands, as in business, things have been changing. Modern composers have realised that the percussion section really can shine and it has a lot more to offer the band than just keeping the beat. Compositions are now being written that highlight the many and varied skills of the timpani, xylophones, drums and the multitude of other innovative bits of kit that you find haunting the ranks at the back of the band…they are being encouraged to shine and to add their own unique flavor to the music. The audience loves the new complexities that this brings to their listening pleasure.
Bring your innovations to the table
It is well past time for IT to be recognized as an integral and exciting part of the business, not just that piece in the background that keeps things running…we can be much more than that! IT needs to start proactively bringing innovation to the table. Stop waiting for the business to come to you and get you to enable their ideas, go to them with new technologies that have the ability to boost and change their bottom line.
If you are reading this from the business point of view, go and talk to your “percussion section”, I am certain that you will find people hiding in the background who have the ability and the knowledge to help you become market leaders in your business sphere. They just need to be brought out of the shadows and given the opportunity to create and explore the opportunities that the constant barrage of new technology presents to them every day. Develop a fully inclusive team culture that does not discount the importance of any part of your business.
IT, it is well past time for you to become innovators rather than just enablers for the business, bring your ideas to the table and make yourself heard. You really do have opportunities, that few other parts of the business have, to change the game!
Be the first and be the best
Brass Bands are very competitive, there are national and international band contests where we pit our skills against other bands. The band I was in beat out the competition one year by showcasing our percussion team and, when given their chance to shine, they were truly spectacular, getting a standing ovation halfway through our performance. Because of the innovation that they bought to our performance we won the contest that year. Other bands followed suit in the years that followed, but we were always the first, and usually the best. In business that is what you need to aim for, bring innovations to the market first and be the best at delivering them – you will only do that if you give all the sections of your band the chance to shine and show exactly what they are capable of.