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.