Enterprise Software

Overcome the 'it's IT's fault' perception and build good karma

In this blog, Jay Rollins shows how his team turned a situation around so that it didn't reflect badly on IT.

In this blog, Jay Rollins shows how his team turned a situation around so that it didn't reflect badly on IT.


So this week on the new job was interesting. As with many organizations, IT's arch nemesis, marketing, was having issues. They were trying to print these ginormous files on a teeny-tiny color printer and could not understand why they kept getting errors. Every time they would try to print to this printer the expected "belch...puke...putter" sound was heard and out would come a screwed-up rendition of what they were trying to print. And only one out of the 600 copies they requested.

The challenge in this day and age is that everyone and their grandmother expect to be able to click "print" on a file and it just magically happens. And because 99.999% of printing is just that, "magic," it becomes increasingly painful to listen to marketing complain to the CEO that they can't do something as easy as printing a file.

Now we all know that the phrase "it depends" comes into play here. My astute colleague at my new job reminded me that any PC has the potential to blow up any printer given the right opportunity.

So how do you react? They just attacked you in front of the CEO waving the "incompetent" banner! You can't come back and say that you can't print a 10GB PDF to a home office printer and not expect a buffer overflow. That just sounds lame and you can see everyone's eyes glazing over before you utter the words. Besides, we're IT. We don't look for quippy comebacks because we're solution oriented. We're all about customer service. Right?

Here comes Karma. I'm all about root cause. We don't have any desktop publishing expertise on staff, but one of our enterprising senior guys called up a graphic artist buddy of his to get some pointers. But before that happened, one of our other key guys already started looking at outsourcing solutions. Finding the experts in the field and making it their problem was a brilliant stroke of genius.

We looked at the volume of printing that marketing was doing and called up our IKON partner. They came to the table with a proposal that was about even with what marketing was spending on their newsletters and calendars. But I followed my own advice and reviewed the entire accounts payable for the company. I discovered a ton of other printing the company was doing outside of marketing that actually made the IKON solution stand out.

There were challenges. I was trying to keep marketing from chucking the problem over the wall to IT. I sent them the section of my spreadsheet of every vendor that I thought was a printing vendor. For anything that contained or referenced the words "print," "promotion," "publisher" or "press," I asked them to identify vendors. In order to make this proposal work, we needed to establish rules and controls to fully realize the benefits of the IKON solution.

All printing had to go through the centralized print shop. Accounting needed to be made aware that printing at Kinko's could no longer be expensed. If the teams could not plan a week ahead to schedule their printing, then the old adage of "Your lack of planning does not mean my crisis" comes into play and there are no excuses. Additionally, one of the top five issues in the helpdesk gets outsourced. We were both stakeholders. But marketing continued to push back.

I came to realize that this IT organization was all about customer service. They did everything for the business units even to their own detriment. I came from the school where you try to get the business unit to have some skin in the game, but we had our own customer service scores to attend to. So I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I needed to make the changes in the organization to start making the business units more accountable to their projects, but at the same time, ensure our internal customer service scores did not suffer. After all, this was no small sum of money we were talking about.

Then I started thinking about it. Sure, Marketing is the big customer for this, but we have the opportunity to save $300k per year if we include some of the other printing into this project. It calls for cross-functional coordination and involvement. This isn't a marketing project. It's an IT project. Marketing had the opportunity to pick up a huge win for the company, not just for marketing, but they kept pushing it back on IT. But IT can see the true value of the project because we're not looking within a silo. We are looking at this from an enterprise architecture standpoint. We're all about killing multiple birds with one stone.

Marketing got their dig in at the beginning of the issue, but IT turned that lump of coal into a diamond. Short-term claims of incompetence don't ring true in the eyes of management anymore. We rose from the ashes of adversity! We overcame the obstacles! We....are getting cornier as I continue, but you get the point.

Score: Marketing 0, IT 1.

So I have had my fun here. This is an illustrative example only. IT will never succeed if there is a scoreboard. The "us versus them" thing is so counter to "team" it isn't funny. When the time comes, I am not presenting this as an IT victory. I am presenting it as a marketing victory. Why? Because I need marketing on my side for long-term success. Marketing drives the business. They generate sales and revenue. I need to make them look good in the eyes of management. These little successes will give marketing courage to try new things and start thinking outside of the marketing silo. They start looking at the company in its entirety and truly start believing that their job makes a difference. They start believing that and great things start to happen. Sales increase, productivity increases, salaries increase, bonuses increase. Karma.

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