CXO

Improve the image of your IT department

Sometimes the stereotypical image of your department keeps you from getting the job done. Learn how to fight this image to benefit your employees and the company as a whole.

For those of us that have worked in the IT industry, we are well aware of the image of the IT department at most businesses. Arrogant, rude, obstructive; these are just a few words that have typically been associated with IT. Stereotypes likes these can limit effectiveness and make it difficult for your IT department to do its job. Improving the image of your IT department is something that is not only beneficial to your employees, but also the company as a whole.

Demonstrate that you're human beings

The most common mistake made by IT departments is that they forget that the majority of their work is customer-service based. This means that there is a great deal of human interaction required and you must learn to deal with other people.

Too often, because most IT problems can be solved remotely, members of the IT department will spend almost all of their time in their respective office. It is important to get involved around the office and not hide out in the IT department.

Getting out of the IT department every now and again will give you the chance to meet the users and establish relationships with them. This also gives them a chance to put a face and name to the IT department which is much harder to put a negative connotation on. It may be a good idea to occasionally go help a user face to face even when it's unnecessary as this will help them understand what goes into fixing an IT problem. This will help users remember that the IT department is made up of human beings and not a group of robots who can magically solve all their problems instantly.

Establishing a good rapport with the users will make things easier for everybody. You will be less frustrated with their requests and they will be more patient and appreciative of your efforts to find them solutions.

Communicate and educate

Maintaining communication with users as well as continuously educating them will improve your IT department's image and efficiency.

Communication is something that is important throughout the entire company, but it may be most important between users and the IT department. By keeping open lanes of communication with users you can show that your department is accessible and easy to get in touch with. This will improve your image within the company as well as increase efficiency as users will be more comfortable coming to you with issues early, rather than waiting until a major problem develops.

Education is equally essential to improving your department's image. Informing users on basic IT solutions is beneficial to both parties and can be done in a number of ways. One way to do this is by organizing meetings or workshops with employees from every department where you can work hands-on with users to help them better understand IT processes.

Games/competitions can be incorporated into these workshops and prizes can be given away to add some excitement. Providing those who attend the opportunity to win a raffle prize could also be used as an incentive. Another way to keep users informed is by including a monthly IT column in the company newsletter that offers tips and advice for basic IT issues. This will improve the department's image as users will see you as being genuinely helpful and it could also save you some time as users may be able to fix a problem themselves rather than by contacting IT.

Be personable and avoid jargon

Finally, the simplest thing you can do to improve you IT department's image is to just be personable. If you are friendly and patient with users, then they will give you the same courtesy. The "golden rule" applies well here and it is important to remember that if you are rude and short with users they are unlikely to listen to your suggestions which could lead to the frustration of fixing the same problem over and over again.

Also, remind yourself that you are interacting with a person who more likely than not doesn't know as much about technology as you do (otherwise they would probably be in the IT department). It is important to avoid jargon and terms that those unfamiliar with IT may not understand. This needs to be done without talking down to the person, as doing so will only cause resentment. It is incredible how beneficial simply being polite can be to your department's overall success.

Improving the image of your IT department within your company can contribute directly to a more successful and effective department. An improved reputation for your department will make it much easier (and less stressful) to do your job. Although there are some negative views and stereotypes associated with IT, it is possible to take actionable steps towards abolishing these stereotypes and improving your image into one that is held in high regard.

Ilya Elbert is an IT Support Specialist with years of experience in the IT field. When he's not offering advice and insight on various issues related to the IT industry, he enjoys managing Geeks Mobile USA of which he is a Co-Owner.

24 comments
killiney
killiney

'IT staff must be the most hated people in the office'. There is a large gap in understanding here. Very little compassion and empathy. Non-tech staff in general don't have time or even want to educate themselves on technology as they would other elements of their jobs. But without this knowledge their productivity will slow down when something happens. I'm not talking about learning how to use a program, its more 'Im to busy to remember how to contact IT support and there for they are inefficient and useless'. If it is not Facebook, tweet deck or some other marketing tool, people don't want to be bothered. I've seen this for over 15 years and its getting worse. Dept managers, e.g. unless in banks with serious KPIs, don't read the IT/Admin processes that the CEO has hand picked for them. It seems that the gap is getting bigger even if there is management buy-in. How about improving the quality if the business owners communication skills and ability of staff to listen and take ownership of their own companies administration processes? How about motivating IT staff in the same way as other staff? These days, supporting people and the ever increasing expectations in this negative IT support environment doesn't make for a pleasant place to work. Its the non-IT staff and how they react to their computer that makes the environment negative. Folks need to remember that even though we may not generate revenue, we are running the modern company. Many of the poor experiences or productivity problems they have with IT can be attributed to their own lack of willingness to take ownership of simple company processes and policies chosen by the CEO.

user530717
user530717

I have created an environment wherein the focus is SERVICE and tolerate nothing less than the best from my employees. We adhere to the golden rule, and we go out of our way to problem solve. The technicians are never allowed to say, "No, we can't do that," without offering at least one alternate solution. I've made it clear our customers are interested in what we CAN do. It's all about the leadership and expectations. I have an incredible crew of employees I've empowered to serve customers on twelve different campuses and are happy to do it, and therein lies the strength of our technical support. It IS possible for IT to be the most popular kids on the block, but it takes a commitment to excellence that I've found lacking in many other organizations that comes from the top down.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If it was ours. things would be a lot different. So if you want the image improving, maybe you should get off your arse and do something about it, or get the heck out of the way and stop screwing up the job. Do you know why I don't like talking to customers much? Because I can't do anything about the real problem, it would cost too much.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

that IT's "image" is a reflection of how it's treated: valuable and important part of the company's success vs unavoidable cost

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

My customers loved me: I cared about their welfare -- and they knew that I was right down there with them in the trenches; they knew that I would fix their problem as soon as it could be fixed and I wouldn't quit until the problems were resolved. I even solved problems that weren't mine to solve, but if I knew and could apply the solution, why should I make them go to someone else? They knew that I even worked to prevent problems and came out months in advance with solutions for the problems that I could foresee. At the same time, I got to know them and fit in with their interests and personality. I learned their inherited talents through "Be Yourself" by Margaret Broadley and the 7 points of view. I adapted to their humor. Unfortunately, it's often the case that management takes umbrage at these things because they have their own hidden agendas and, at best, will tolerate such behavior until they can transform the customer's world into chaos according to their selfish plans and hubris. It's a worthy effort though and as long as you can keep it up without getting caught at it, it's all good.

dcmuler
dcmuler

Employees are more likely to come to you if there's a problem, if you treat them with common courtesy. Solving problems at their desks, gives them a higher sense of importance.

catfish182
catfish182

when i tell people the solution or what is going on i have started asking > geeky or non geeky? i then try to relate the problem to a common issue that a lot of people encounter. also if i am showing them something i almost always say 'i dont mean to talk down to you if it seems that way. let me know if i am doing it' i have been told before i am doing it and i change my approach

phlcidrolin
phlcidrolin

Consumerization of IT has been one factor in the degradation of the image of IT departments in business. As the so-called home or personal computer has increasingly been seen by each and everyone as an appliance, most consumers have come to think that mastering the technology wherein is no more a challenge than that of a microwave oven or a CD player. Which just may be true as far as home use is concerned. Trouble is, office computers are tools, whereas home computers are toys. And the role of IT in business is to some extent to make sure that the resources deployed in a business environment are fit to fulfill the employer's needs, not the employee's wishes. Inevitably this results in some frustration, aggravated by the fact that consumers (= office computers users when at work) do bring at work their conviction that using a toy computer makes them IT experts... Well, not always. But often enough.

rivernidd
rivernidd

Sadly the comments on this board reflect the fact that although social skills and customer service are required and indeed absolutely key to the role, the majority of IT staff have neither. I speak from experience as a Manager (and ex IT engineer) having to explain away my team's behaviour to users when they were rude and made them feel stupid. One key difference was Cisco CCIE accredited engineers who were trained to provide documentation (scope of works, network diagrams etc). These guys were the value we sold to our customers and had to be customer facing. As it is rare to find technical and soft skills in an IT person this guy was in demand. Be warned technical skills are all well and good but attitude is more important. Business is all about building and maintaining relationships and there is no room for a workforce who don't realise this and adapt accordingly.

andriesjb
andriesjb

Look the issues is as stated earlier, there is not enough time, or money to function properly, here in Sunny South Africa I am the only IT Manager/Systems Admin/Techie/if it has lights and blinks I fix it, person for 150+ people spread nationally. Asking for some assistance I get there is no money, but let the fleet department as for ten new cars they jump and spend millions on that!

simon.reeve@baesystems.
simon.reeve@baesystems.

A large portion of the IT department do not have people skills, especially those who prefer to hide in the VDU. I am working to encourage 'expert users' in the company to become 'Champions' or 'Buddies' to help expand the human face of IT. The idea being that these users can help improve communication between IT and the user community. They are known by their piers, speak the same language and with a proper part time role as an IT Buddy, the scheme gains respect from the user community. Least that's the theory.

Imprecator
Imprecator

Sure, have the everyone in the department do the work of three people because OPEX has been cut to the bone, have your infrastructure fail every day because CAPEX is non existant, Demand the latest and greatest of everything but refuse to pay for it. And on top of that demand that everyone smile and say "thank you sir, may I have another?". "the clergy of the computer priesthood"? HAH!, maybe in 1955.

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

At many companies, IT is used to force ill-advised rules and lousy software onto employees. For the CS rep, smile and remind folks that you're just the messenger. You don't get a say-so in what software is loaded onto what hardware. That puts you in the same boat as the rest of the employees. And of course, some IT managers like the status of being in a department everyone is scared of, the clergy of the computer priesthood. It gives them more political power in the board room (they think). Different strokes for different folks.

Business budgeting software
Business budgeting software

Funny, and all too true. The IT department definitely has a reputation for being removed from the customer service realm a bit too much, and too wrapped up in their own technie things. The thing is, often IT people are okay with zero visibility. As someone who develops business financial planning software I also operate under stereotypes that I try to escape. But hey, I just do a lot of coding, and that's what I'm good at - I don't necessarily want to socialize all the time. You make good tips about explaining technological jargon, getting out and having "face time," and being personable. The IT people could become the most popular in the office if they wanted to! And the employees/clients who deal with them and receive their help will be more prone to coming to them with issues.

Imprecator
Imprecator

Of course if IT has a bad image and doesn't work it's because management finds that ACCEPTABLE, after all they can always blame IT for their own bad decisions and hidden agendas

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Some points. You don't have to explain away such behaviour, you need to aplogise for it, and then go back to your people and manage better. Either they need training, or they need sacking. These people trained to provide documentation, did you apportion enough resources for them to actually do it? If you continually tell someone they are a failure, continue to tolerate the failure, continue to do naff all about it except whine how it's all their fault. What is going to change. Don't know how good you were at IT, but your management and leadership skills appear to be lacking... We are all speaking from experience, some of us lots of it. Signed rare IT person with people skills, mainly gained to talk to management...

Imprecator
Imprecator

If you treat and pay CCIE engineers as janitors they'll be rude and make you feel stupid. More management bullcrap.

hug.login
hug.login

For every improvement on an IT system, which doesn't bring immediate business value, but would make our daily work more efficient, the system more robust and less cumbersome, we have to write 20 pages of justifications and go through several approval steps without getting any approvals at the end. If business asks for something, and they claim we can write more business and make more money, it becomes the highest priority even everybody can see that it's not realistic what business is claiming the return will be.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Does it work both ways? I commend your efforts, but if your buddies aren't learning some IT along the way, theory is going to fail in practice...

Imprecator
Imprecator

While you're at it have them all hold hands and chant "We're the World, We're the Children". The most irritating part of IT is that once has to deal with extremely concrete problems and all consultants and assorted Management types do is spout usesless platitudes, maybe that's why most IT people "don't have people skills".

oderayi
oderayi

Sure, have the everyone in the department do the work of three people because OPEX has been cut to the bone, have your infrastructure fail every day because CAPEX is non existant, Demand the latest and greatest of everything but refuse to pay for it. And on top of that demand that everyone smile and say "thank you sir, may I have another?".

ITassasin
ITassasin

"The IT department definitely has a reputation for being removed from the customer service" and personally we all like it that way because, "The IT people could become the most popular in the office if they wanted to! And the employees/clients who deal with them and receive their help will be more prone to coming to them with issues." They wouldn't go to the I.T. dept. but they to go directly to that lovable sociable individual. Like you said, the fact is that "often IT people are okay with zero visibility." and they (me) like it that way.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

If management thought they could get rid of IT, there would be no IT. They try all sorts of things like outsourcing. Management understands neither technology nor technologists, so they don't have any used for them and view IT as a necessary evil. Meanwhile, they go on and make terrible decisions that sort of work, since there's so much slop in the system they can afford to be incompetent, lazy and sloppy.

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