I recently read in a well-known IT magazine that the best IT department is one which is invisible and everything just works. If laptops, servers, cables, networks, storage devices, and apps make the techno-centric world tick, who cares whether IT department is managing a 15,000 square foot data center or none at all. Only when IT systems go down or experience technical glitches, do IT departments suddenly become visible. When technical chaos occurs, employees and customers wage their wrath on IT—phones start ringing endlessly and every IT employee in the company leaps in to fire-fighting mode. Technology is embedded in and central to, every aspect of our work, society, and life, so even 0.1% (43 minutes and 50 seconds) of downtime can have an earth-shaking effect on many users. However, despite this fact, many IT departments constantly have to justify their existence and defend their IT spending—not easy tasks when you’re invisible.
So, why not turn this notion of invisible IT department on its head? IT teams aren’t algorithms performing their magic in the background. In fact, I argue that IT departments always need to be visible and should make themselves known both when IT systems are running fine and during downtime disasters. Being present on good days will elevate IT’s value, ultimately gaining greater trust from employees, partners and customers. Here are some tips for making your IT department more visible:
- Hire a communications professional. Sales and marketing are front-end, while IT is viewed as back-end. However, when technology is deeply ingrained in business, IT must be at the forefront. Unfortunately, IT departments prefer working quietly in the background and often avoid announcing their achievements. But when your network systems are performing at 100% and your IT teams are working late to ensure a key system performs during critical times, everyone should know about it. Considering this, experienced communications professionals can help you communicate your “Aha!" moments. Besides IT, no other teams have the necessary expertise—or even interest—to do more with less and for this reason, it’s time to celebrate IT successes.
- Make data a key factor for IT visibility. Today, numerous media articles and expert commentaries proclaim that “Data is the new oil.” Undoubtedly, ‘winning with data’ is the number-one competitive game in nearly every industry. But for leaders that find themselves between a rock and a hard place with torrents of data, data itself is a liability. With so much at stake, IT teams must become data heroes by establishing and managing a “data supply chain” across the business to address data silos. By accelerating the speed of insights and improving the time-to-market through the creation of new products and services built purely on data, the value of IT will increase far into the future. While it will not be easy to change this mindset within IT and then sell the idea to the rest of the company, putting in the effort will pay off huge in the end.
- Envision new IT roles. Hardly a week goes by without distressing news about automated machines displacing humans from the workforce. Everyone is trying to make sense of the impact AI and automation will have on work and jobs. Its time chalk up our fears of automation to needless paranoia. While automation will eliminate some jobs, many more will be created or changed. For instance, welders, joiners and mechanics at German auto-parts maker, Bosch, have been trained in basic coding skills, so they can use robots to assist them in their work. In fact, bring your own IT facilitator, man-machine teaming manager and master of edge computing are some of the jobs we envision for IT in the future. Imagine your CEO proudly announcing how IT drives the future of jobs in your company. By exploring new jobs, new roles, new passions and even new ways of thinking, IT leaders can guide their companies to successfully transition to the age of AI.
Next time you read a news article about invisible IT department, stay calm, ignore it and ask yourself: Is my company known for the trouble our IT department gets us out of or the trouble they keep us from getting into? Either way, focusing on making IT visible for good reasons is the best way to guarantee your team and yourself a better future.