Time for IT to show its business credentials

David Taylor

Inside track

A CEO told me recently that he dare not venture again into his IT department. On his first visit, he...

David Taylor

Inside track

A CEO told me recently that he dare not venture again into his IT department. On his first visit, he asked what Linux was. The explanation was provided, but it was done so in such a jargon-ridden, patronising, "isn't this all rather too obvious" way that he made a quick exit.

This is so sad, as every encounter with other people in our organisations provides an opportunity to show how business-focused we are. There are still too many people in IT who work in their own way, speak their own language, and live on a different planet. We have to change that, through all of our people, with what we know, what we do and who we are.

If we do not, then we will never achieve our aims of becoming the provider of choice to our organisations, of taking our rightful place at the heart of its decision-making.

How interesting and sexy technology may, in itself, be is irrelevant. Organisations driving forward in this new business age must focus on what the technology does, not what the technology is. As I have written many times, whatever we want to do in our companies, the technology solution is available to us, so we must now focus, totally, on its application. It is the new electricity, the new artery.

This hands us enormous opportunities to change our perception from technical to business, spend to investment, cost to value.

Doing this at board level is relatively easy, and many IT leaders are taking their place on the board and using this new position to demonstrate their business credentials. However, it is at other levels throughout an organisation that our reputations will be won or lost.

Every single interaction between our teams, and others inside our companies, provides us an opportunity. We must ask are we:

  • Introducing ourselves in a warm and friendly way

  • Ensuring that we see the issue through the other person's eyes

  • Talking in English, with absolutely no jargon

  • Focusing on the business issue

  • Making the other person feel important

  • Following up with the next action that will happen

  • Leaving the person absolutely delighted?

    Service level agreements are a waste of time, and should be binned. They fail on two counts: measurement by statistics and boring terminology. The first are as meaningless to our customers as privatised train performance charts, the second is simply boring. If you don't believe me, next time your partner cooks you a meal, and they ask how it was, say "it was satisfactory, it met my expectations".

    It is the perception of what we do, and how we do it, that counts for everything. So replace service level agreements with service charters that provide a contract between a company and its IT service, that elusive balance between what a company wants, and what it can afford.

    Service charters should be active documents on your intranet.

    Our future is in our hands - most leaders I know thrive on the opportunities that we now have. It is useless just accepting it at a senior level, it has to be demonstrated each and every day, in every moment, by taking ownership of every level of interaction throughout our organisations.

    By doing this, from board level, through service charters, to each personal, e-mail and telephone call, we will literally transform how we are seen, valued, and most importantly, trusted.

    David Taylor's Inside Track, a provocative insight into the world of IT in business, is out now, published by ButterworthHeinemann Tel: 01865-88180

    Essentials for a service charter

    Key areas to include:

  • What your team does, your vision as an IT team and how that aligns with the company goals

  • Who owns each and every project and key areas in the company (this will include business champions of projects)

  • What you expect from people who use your services, including professional behaviour at all times

  • Clear lines of communication into your department.

  • Read more on Business applications