PCs

Should you open your IT meetings to the whole company?


As a one-man Information Technology department for about two dozen professional engineers and designers, finding ways to answer any number of questions presents quite the challenge. Heck, even knowing the right question is not always obvious. Moreover, these are some very smart and creative people, ones who are very technologically savvy, and ones whose technology needs and demands are quite high. But they can also be an invaluable source of information themselves, a resource that I definitely don't overlook.

I was once one of those end users myself (and still am, to a large degree) which provides a unique perspective in supporting their needs. But being the one to take the early initiative and interest in trying to better understand our ever-growing technology needs, planning for future growth, and designing our technology infrastructure around our needs quickly became a second job -- indeed, a second career. Over those past 17 years, my individual experiences have run the gamut: building desktop computers myself, or buying them off the shelf; being the one-and-only in-house technology consultant, or seeking the advice of outside professionals; experiencing years of nearly 100 percent network up-time, or having been humbled when it all came crashing down. (Does anyone remember those Lantastic DOS days?)

The key, I believe, in solving technology issues is not necessarily knowing all the answers to all the problems yourself, but knowing how to find them. The three little words that do pop up on occasion are I don't know. But taking great efforts to find the answers to those nagging problems, some of which are more elusive than I sometimes care to admit, is what keeps things both interesting and challenging.

We have monthly IT meetings, and depending on the subject, I might facilitate the meeting myself or yield the floor to someone else better suited discuss a particular topic. The subject can run anywhere from discussing company standards, conducting training, how-to sessions, I wish we could discussions, sharing tips and tricks, and so on. They can get somewhat impassioned at times, especially when a couple of strong wills disagree on a particular issue. But on balance, they can be extremely informative and productive.

I really believe in empowering our users, letting them know they're being listened to. Their opinions do matter, and their ideas will not only be considered, but implemented if it can be shown that the whole organization can benefit. It's almost cliché to say, but making people part of the solution really is something that works. In these meetings, if someone puts forth a question or a problem for which I don't have an immediate answer, I'll throw it out to everyone. More times than not, something good will come back, often in the form of a real answer. The company springs for lunch, and very few people miss any of them. I've often wondered how many other offices (or departments) do this sort of thing. Does yours? If not, presented correctly, this idea could be sold to just about any company.

4 comments
Meesha
Meesha

Depending on the nature of the meeting absolutely. IT is already looked on as "black magic" and having "secret meetings doesn't help the image. Obviously not all meeting to-do's need to be communicated - common sense discretion is a good tool. When I first started working in my current situation, I instituted such a process. It was guardedly looked on at first but was later quite accepted especially as new technologies hit us daily. The organization in making some changes decided to create a CIO position which was hired from outside. Overall not too bad but at some cost. For example, after much discussion the CIO compromised and continued our communicating IT meetings to the organization, however, he decided to "edit" the meeting minutes. And this is where the problem now lies. This communication has become irrelevant since his edits have made the minutes useless - no one really gets anything of value from the communique. So at the end of the day it's all down to corporate culture. (And who gets hired.)

teoiling
teoiling

the excuse for not holding IT meetings with whole company is that it is felt to be a waste of time and MIS is a support service. Generally no one care until something breaks down. I always wonder how this scale for a large company and I had always been skeptical when the CIO/CTO is not in business meetings with the CFO, CEO and etc. It is worse when CIO/CTO is not having meetings with the people below. Functionally in the larger companies, the lines that separate departments can be tough to bridge.

Joe_R
Joe_R

I've discussed the "waste of time" issue, but the answer always falls back on the side of finding ways to make it productive. If it does end up being a waste of time, or it's perceived as such, then it's the presentation and delivery that needs to be addressed, not the concept of having the meetings.

MN_Tech
MN_Tech

In my company of 65 end users (and their related technology hardware), 2 support staff (including myself), 30 servers and constant change within the bounds of IT I have not the time to conduct these meetings. I attend the weekly executive meetings, and bi-weekly program manager meetings in an effort to get a pulse of what is expected of IT as well as inform the business of changes that will affect them globally. The low to mid level employees are expected to get the information from these meetings via their department heads. This proves to be successful about 33% of the time and the rest is just to much information for the end-user base to understand or care about. Not to mention the typical 'resistance to change' attitudes amongst the unwashed masses of our end users... :)