Too often IT professionals are almost viewed as outsiders by others in the company.  Oh sure, everyone knows that you are on the same payroll, but there’s just something…well, different.Outsiders

Perhaps it is because IT is often behind closed doors.  Or it could be that they view IT as simply a service that could be purchased rather than as a true partner motivated to help drive the business forward.  The issue could possibly be that some of the IT processes make it difficult for others to do business with us.  Perhaps they are picking up on the vibe that many see themselves as IT professionals rather than as bankers, manufacturers, retailers or distributors (see “What Business Are You In?”).

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. – Henry Ford

The silo mentality needs to be eliminated.  Business is difficult enough, and competition is fierce.  Your company needs everyone on the same team moving forward together.

But let’s face it.  Even if IT suddenly announced that they were changing jerseys so that they could play on the same team as the rest of the company, that doesn’t mean they would be readily accepted.  Others may not be used to looking at you that way.  They could have preconceived notions about what IT can and should be.  There could be years of history to overcome.  Mindsets need to change both within and outside IT.  And actions need to follow words.

So what are some actions IT could take to help others in the company recognize that they want to be on the same team? 

  • Show your appreciation.  Did Sales just land a new account?  Did the folks in the warehouse have to work overtime to get out an important shipment?  Did you hear about a Customer Service representative who was cited by a customer for providing outstanding service?  Take some action to show them that their efforts are appreciated…and try to involve others in the IT department in doing this.  It could be as simple as a card signed by everyone in IT or displaying a poster recognizing their efforts.  At one company we had a large cookie decorated and then marched around their department playing kazoos to draw attention to the presentation.  And realize that it doesn’t require a record-setting event to warrant your appreciation.  Every day people in your company are working hard to make it a success.  It could be the administrative assistants, the maintenance staff or the janitorial crew.  Everyone has a part to play.  Help them realize that IT appreciates what they are doing.

A group becomes a team when each member is sure enough of himself and his contribution to praise the skills of the others. – Norman Shidle

  •  Share the credit.  Help others in the company realize all that IT is doing for them.  For example, publicize the projects and anticipated benefits.  But be sure to laud those outside IT when doing so.  Quote them in written publicity.  You could even ask them to author an article.  In public meetings, ask the project sponsor or a stakeholder to make the presentation while IT simply provides support.
  • Make it easy to do business with IT.  Ask your fellow IT colleagues to identify processes that make it difficult on them to do their best work for others.  Take the time to ask others at all levels within the company what frustrates them when they try to do business with IT.  You will likely find areas that need improvement.  Take swift action on those.  Some may mention policies that are truly necessary and should not be changed.  In those cases, perhaps what is needed is some publicity to help people understand the importance of the policy and the benefit the company gains from it.
  • Participate in company activities.  Most companies have various activities to try to draw people together.  These could include things like a company picnic, anniversary celebration, holiday luncheon, Corporate Challenge competition, or an activity to support a nonprofit organization or charitable event.  Some IT personnel seem uncomfortable participating in such events.  And those that do often seem to surround themselves with others from IT.  Encourage everyone to step away from their desks and join in the activities.  And challenge them to use this as an opportunity to get to know others in the company rather than simply sitting with those they already know.  Be sure to set the example yourself.  At your next team meeting, you might even ask team members to relate something they learned about someone else at the event.
  • Help them improve.  Actively look for ways to help other areas improve in their work.  Initiating a shadow program can bring great benefits.  In this, each IT colleague will spend time watching someone working in another area of the company.  This can build camaraderie, help IT learn the business, and often uncover ways in which IT can help them in doing their jobs.  At one company we simply hosted a regular luncheon for all the administrative assistants.  There we encouraged them to talk about how they did their jobs, what they found worked well, and what didn’t.  At times we were able to identify technology solutions to help, but much more frequently they gained a great deal from sharing techniques and approaches with one another.  At another company we hosted lunch and learn sessions.  At one, for example, we demonstrated various PC keyboard shortcuts.  At another we used an example of developing a personal budget in Microsoft Excel to help others learn how to use formulas and other spreadsheet features.

Some of these actions are relatively easy.  Others may take some effort.  What do you think?  What additional actions would help eliminate the mindset within the rest of the business that IT people are outsiders?

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