In the digital age, a business will only be successful when it is effectively supported with technology. Kevin Baker explains why IT professionals must temper their egos and rethink their approach to deliver what every organisation needs: IT with Purpose.
Why does IT struggle to prove and deliver value? After all, we’ve known for some time that IT is critical to the success or failure of an organisation. Yet IT struggles to connect its actions to the needs of the business at a time when it should be delivering IT with Purpose.
In broad terms, IT fails to deliver IT with Purpose because it is too far removed from the operational and strategic heart of the business. And IT continues in all too-many-cases to act as an elitist, siloed department because of one very good reason: because it chooses to.
I’m sorry to state this fact, but IT has in very broad terms always had an overinflated opinion of itself. It is also easy to see where this elitism has come from. IT is a very specialised, technical subject, and until recently, few people outside of the IT department understood much about it.
There are two problems with this mindset now:
1) The knowledge gap has narrowed
Consumerisation means that very few people within the business are Luddites. Yes, the average staff member can’t configure a server, but they do understand the power and limitations of technology. Failing to recognise that the knowledge gap has closed exacerbates a ‘them/us’ mindset which makes it very difficult for IT to understand what the business needs. Empathy is critical to IT with Purpose.
2) Elitism is stopping IT with Purpose
Endless articles have been written about aligning IT & business, and forging better relationships. But it will never work until IT professionals stop assuming they know everything about technology and the best ways to harness it within the business.
Here’s an example of a behaviour which illustrates IT elitism.
Calling business colleagues ‘users’ or even ‘customers’ is symptomatic of this elitist mindset. A barrier is created as soon as IT professionals refer to their fellow employees as something distinctly different to themselves. IT and ‘business’ staff are all employed by the business. They are colleagues.
Addressing the user/customer/colleague issue is one of the best ways to change a mindset and break the pedestal that IT all too often inhabits. When IT sits on a pedestal, it alienates the rest of the business. This means that efforts to unite IT with business outcomes are almost impossible.
On a very human level, it makes the job of the IT professional even harder because no one wants to collaborate or promote someone who thinks themselves as superior. All businesses need IT to help them work more efficiently and to deliver competitive differentiation. Because they HAVE to achieve this, they have a very simple choice. They either work with the resources they currently have or seek an alternative. The latter could mean employing different personnel or in extreme cases, outsourcing IT functions.
Therefore, successful IT professionals – those who will drive IT with Purpose – must be mindful of relationships and how they are perceived within the business. IT is critical to any successful business and is, therefore, moving closer to the heart of the organisation. These roles must be inhabited by team players who demonstrate empathy and willingness to listen, not close-minded egotists.
Smashing the IT pedestal isn’t about taking a reductive view of the importance of technical knowledge. This technical knowledge is critical to the success of the business. Smashing the IT pedestal is about dampening any tendency for IT people to consider themselves inherently superior. You may have superior knowledge, but effectively applying that knowledge is a team initiative. It therefore goes without saying that the IT professionals who will thrive in future will be the team players.