There is one proviso on this: I am assuming that everyone reading this, and leading an IT team, wants to do their best. They do not come into work with the intent to completely sabotage their companies. Every single IT department I know, and I know a fair number, works long and hard, has dedicated people and is focused on success.
So it comes down to perception. Focus on improving, or better still transforming, perception and you will be popular, and you will become the supplier of choice in your organisation. Your business customers will want to use your services, rather than feel they are being forced to do so.
How can this be done quickly?
It is mission-critical to make friends in key areas of your business. This may not seem fair, but it is reality. The key is to making reality work to your advantage.
The most powerful way to do this and to alter and manage perception is through something I call hidden account management.
The success of this is linked to neuro linguistic programming (NLP), the science of human behaviour. NLP tells us how we think and feel is governed by association. In other words the meaning an event has to us will depend on what we associate that event to.
If you hear a piece of music on the radio that you heard on a special night out with your first love, it will immediately, and automatically, trigger you to feel as you did then.
Let's look at the IT context. When I started in IT, it didn't matter what our "internal customers" ("users" back then) thought of us, as they never saw us. Then there was a phase of hiding under our desks when a problem happened - "the system's down - quick, under a desk".
Now for the key phase in the history of IT. We had to become customer-focused. When anything went wrong, we put on our training shoes and ran around the building, saying, "We have a problem, I'm sorry." Often whole armies of people would do this.
The effect of this was to associate, in the people's minds, the appearance of anyone from IT with a problem, as the only time we would meet internal customers was when things went wrong.
Hidden account management takes these principles of NLP and combines them with lessons from history to powerful advantage, by making sure our companies consistently catch us doing something right!
Here is how it works. Draw up a list of the 10 most powerful decision makers in your company - the people in whose hands your future sits. Make sure you include personal assistants and the guy in underwriting who has been here 25 years and holds more power than his job title suggests. Then list the top 10 communicators in your department. (Numbers will depend on size of company).
Now for the magic - simply match these people with a member of your team. Your team has one aim: to make sure the person they are "managing" catches IT doing things right, time and again.
This is the most powerful and proven way to raise perception in your company. A few words of warning, it must be kept secret.
Rotate your people allocated every two months and don't use this to replace traditional account management, which still has a role. Account management focuses on areas and departments, hidden account management on people.
People, and what they think, are key. The active promotion of IT services, and results, is a growing priority on leaders' agendas. This should happen openly and behind closed doors.
This may sound manipulative. It is. However, it is the right reasons.
For years, we have suffered poor perception. Now, we have a way not only to reverse the trend, but see it soar. That will buy us time, and support to carry out our roles and achieve even more.
David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is published by ButterworthHeinemann. Tel: 01865-88180