Thursday, October 9, 2008

IT Wisdom

I have worked with some amazing people in my professional life. But few are more talented than one of our IT project directors. Her specialty is data management, pure and simple. She just knows her data. How it flows. Where it goes. Where it is. Where it should be. Having the privilege of working with her, I asked her to write a guest blog -with no rules (he he, little IT joke). And here is what she has to say.

From Wise IT director:
So the HR Maven asked me to be a guest blogger. I'm not much of a writer, but who can resist the HR Maven, not I.

I have worked with the HR Maven for many years, but I am not in HR. I'm an IT person and no I am not a geek. (The HR Maven is more of a geek than me). I am an analyst and project manager. I work with users on process re-engineering and along the way do a bit of low-level programming and reporting. I love to make things better, to improve work flows, to give people tools to do their jobs better. I work with people to understand their jobs, their processes, what works, what doesn't. I partner with them to improve their process flow, automate what can be automated, give them right reports to make better decisions, etc. Over the years, I think I have been successful. I have worked with some great people and we have made many improvements in their business processes.

I never considered myself unique or they way I do my job unique or special. But the more I talk with other IT people and other professionals, I start to wonder. I often talk to people who say they can't ask for help from their IT staff or IT staff that don't want to be bothered by users from business offices. I'm continually amazed by these comments. It amazes me that people do not partner with their IT departments and that IT departments try to do projects without input from user offices. How can you create a useful process/program, anything, without truly understanding the business process and the people doing the process. Working with people in business offices, learning what they do and understanding their day to day issues is what makes my job fun. It gives a "geeky" job personality. That is why I have stayed with it for over 10 years. When the HR Maven and I do a project together, we have fun but more importantly when we truly partner on the project our end product works better because we have worked together.

So if the HR Maven and I can work together, why can't others? What is special about our working relationship? I started to think about it and came up with a few thoughts.

First, it works because we respect each other and the strengths and knowledge each of us brings to the table. Secondly, we talk to each other, we ask questions. I ask - WHY - a lot. The HR Maven tells me the way it is. I don't judge what she does, I just try to understand it so I can offer alternative ideas. Thirdly, we brainstorm and dream (for awhile). Then we work together on figuring out what are reasonable options given our resources (software, money, time, etc). We compromise.

So what do you do if you want to work with your IT Staff
1. ASK - if you never asked for help, how do you know they won't help you?
2. Bribery with food is always good.
3. Invite them to come see what you do. Engage them. Explain your needs. Let them ask questions, be honest with your answers. Just because they are asking questions, does not mean they are judging, most likely they are fact gathering.
4. Ask them how they think they could help. Let them be a part of the solution. The best solutions are usually a compromise and a collection of lots of ideas.
5. Did I mention food and drinks?
6. Work with them. Be available for questions and work to get back to them with answers. Most IT people are busy and have lots of projects going, if they are working on yours, try to keep up with them. If they move on to something else, it may be a while before they come back to you.
7. Offer to help test or write the documentation. No one likes to test or write documentation, but you know your business scenarios better than anyone so write them down and be available for testing.
8. Give them lead time. Don't call the day before you need something expect them to turn it around. Give as much lead time as you can and give reasonable deadlines.
9. Know what you want, understand your needs, and if things are conditional - know the conditions. I joke that if they can't put in IF, THIS, THEN, THAT terms then it can't be done. I need to know the rules to automate something. I can't automate what isn't predictable. If sometimes you do this and sometimes when the sky is blue and your happy you do that - you are out of luck. And don't ever tell an IT person the data you need on your report is currently on a yellow legal pad. They will just roll their eyes. Instead ask them where you can enter the data on the system so that you can report on it.
10. Have fun!!!!!

Thanks Wise IT Director! What fabulous thoughts. And it's true, we have a blast. :)


1 comment:

Dan McCarthy said...

Maven –
What a cool idea, inviting one of your favorite business partners to guest post.
Over the years, I’ve learned more about HR and leadership development from savvy business leaders than I have from books or trade conferences.
You’ve got me thinking about some potential authors and topics... I’ll be sure to give you credit for the idea when I do the same!