Three cheers for IT!

Traditionally tucked away in the depths of the organisation, IT departments must proactively seek recognition. Ross Bentley spoke...

Traditionally tucked away in the depths of the organisation, IT departments must proactively seek recognition. Ross Bentley spoke to three IT managers about how they have raised the profile of IT in their companies.

Don't let IT be undervalued
Jackie Skilbeck
IT manager, Martin Ward Anderson, London

I work for an international recruitment company and have built up a strong well-respected department. I have achieved the backing of the board and have raised the profile of IT within the company through the following areas:

Proactive Attitude
I make sure that I don't allow the IT department to become undervalued. We work too hard to allow this. If you do a good job and you have a successful department, people should know about it.

IT has to be at the core of business processes. All key people in the company should be involved in IT at one level or another. We have regular discussion forums and have identified super users to help with application queries. This develops other employees' interests in IT. I regularly update all directors on IT plans and developments. I make sure there is a strong focus on the proactive side of the IT department. I ensure I know the business priorities of the directors and then decide how IT can best help achieve these goals. Directors have to be convinced that there is value in IT involvement. Involving directors in what is perceived to be an IT project (but is really a business project), makes them aware of the challenges and achievements involved. Without this they only notice and judge the outcome.

Speaking at inductions I think it is important to get people on side early on and let them know what we're about as an IT department.

Make sure everyone takes IT seriously
Richard Hodkinson
IT director at Irwin Mitchell solicitors in Hartshead, Sheffield

The firm takes IT very seriously. I sit on the board and have done for several years and the profile of IT is very good.

Where it falls down is across other parts of the business at a managerial level, where people are detached from the strategic level. Getting the message across is always difficult. We've had debates within the IT department about how we should do this - we wanted to do something other than just knock on doors.

We have an in-house magazine, which features a column about the latest news from the IT department, and we also publish news from IT on the intranet.

However our main promotional drive is through open days where we invite people to our "intranet cafes" - so called because we originally used them to promote our intranet.

This is our roadshow - we have 1,500 employees spread across four sites in Birmingham, London, Leeds and Sheffield.

The roadshow is a very inexpensive affair and that is why it doesn't take long to organise and get sign off for. We take up a couple of board rooms for a couple of days at each location. We try and create an informal atmosphere.

There was total buy-in from senior managers so they made sure that most people attended. We want people to see what we do with the money we spend. There was a noticeable rise in the amount of activity on the network straight after the roadshows - people started to download e-learning tools and take faxes - applications they had seen demonstrated and liked the look of.

Open up to your users
Rob Bowra
Senior IT support analyst, LeasePlan UK, Slough, Berkshire

Last year we made a concerted effort to lift the image of the IT department within the company. We held an open day where users could see demonstrations of on-going projects, with many flashy graphics to keep them entertained. We had hardware such as web-cams running and various systems and tools to show the path of a Web site from server to viewer.

We gave guided tours of the computer room, emphasising the costs of the hardware, what their functions were etc. We also introduced the project management process.

We wanted people from other parts of the business to gain a better idea of what we do, the amount of money involved and the effort it takes to keep things up and running

The day was a success, with a third of the company visiting, and we enjoyed some positive feedback. Since then we have tried to improve communications within the department with things like an e-mail reply system that informs callers that their call has been logged and will be dealt with soon.

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