I’ve been in IT since I started full time employment. I’ve been consulting for almost as long, and as you might imagine, in almost twenty years of IT work I’ve observed a lot of different IT departments – how they work, what they do well, and what they could improve on.
Over the last few years my partner has shifted from working from a very small company where he was the IT department, to more corporate environments with full time dedicated IT staff.
His stories of corporate IT reflect exactly what I’ve found to be the primary deficiency: incorrect use of the word ‘no’.
Somewhere along the line IT forgot that the job of standing at a door was to open the door, rather than say “no entrance”. IT’s function is to enable a business to work more productively – to make better use of the existing tools and be on the look out for areas where new tools can win increased optimisation.
Saying ‘no’ doesn’t achieve this. In fact, IT departments saying ‘no’ is exactly why Cloud gets such mindshare in senior business executives. Forget talk about costs, elasticity, scaleability or flexibility, I’d bet that nine times out of ten someone in core business starts thinking about the Cloud when they finally snap over being told ‘no’ by IT.
IT could actually learn a lot from the service industry. Ironically, it’s going to need to in order to survive, but it should have been watching and learning for at least the last decade, if not longer. Consider a customer in a café trying to order something that isn’t on the menu, for instance. There’s two potential responses:
- We can’t do that, or
- Let me see what I can do
The end result of both might be no, but the second indicates a willingness to help. Not only that, it indicates innovation – you might not get exactly what you want, but there’s a chance you’ll get something approximating it. The first response is less likely to engender a return visit – and in fact the customer may even leave to go elsewhere. The second response will probably start to create a relationship with the customer.
There are efficiencies to be had in conformity – that’s for sure. Equally though, BYOD is proving that there’s other efficiencies to be had in allowing users greater flexibility. Sure, it creates a bit more work for IT, but IT isn’t there to wag the dog.
This is something everyone in IT can work to address – stop saying no. That doesn’t mean that you have to say yes, but it does mean you have to do one of the following two things:
- Say how, or
- Say when.
That is, ‘no’ isn’t the answer. The answer is either ‘not this way’, or ‘not now’. If an IT support technician is solving an issue with Word at a user’s desktop and they ask for a second monitor, the answer isn’t no, it’s you request this from <role>, or you need to ask <at this time>.
Neither is a ‘yes’, but equally, neither answer is ‘no’. Of course, there’s a myriad of other potential responses, but they all boil down to one thing: giving the user other options.
It’s time everyone in IT realised that ‘no’ is the most toxic word in our vocabulary.
I’ve now formalised this article and it forms a small part of a brief eBook I’ve published, Stop, Collaborate and Listen: Aligning IT to Business.