For all sorts of reasons -- some of them justified, some not -- IT has earned a reputation as the place where good ideas go to die. It's time to change that thinking!
This is the third (and final) installment in a series focused on the rebranding of the IT department. Let's turn our attention to launching the rebranded IT organization.
For all sorts of reasons -- some of them justified, some not -- IT has earned a reputation as the place where good ideas go to die. Sometimes there’s a delay of months before IT can get to a development request; sometimes, people are even told, “Nope, we won’t take that project.” Other times, IT’s requirements and standards seem ridiculous to people who don’t do that job every day.
Whether it’s because of understaffing or legitimate, thoughtful internal processes, a lot of people are more used to seeing IT as an impediment rather than as a resource (and why they sometimes seek other solutions, only to have to go back to IT when there are problems).
Having begun my career in the years when IT was seen as being so focused on the control that it kept other people from doing their jobs, I can’t really blame anyone for thinking that way. It’s why the change management part of rebranding IT is so important. Here are a few recommendations.
Step 1: Meeting with functional area leaders
Start by meeting individually with the leaders of other functional areas (it would be ideal if the CEO could join you) to explain what’s going on, answer their questions, and ask for their input.
Since you met with functional leaders on the front end to determine their needs, you should get little, if any, pushback on your plans for working together. But I strongly suggest asking for their input on how to present it to the people they work with, and even offer them a role in doing so. They’ll probably have some insights that can make your “launch tour” a lot easier.
Step 2: Spreading the news to the general employee population
While it’s largely undeserved, CIOs don’t have a reputation for being the best speakers. That means you’ll have an opportunity to blow the audience away with your presentation. Here are a few tips to help you do that.
Use the power of storytelling
Throughout human history, storytelling has been a powerful force for everything from entertainment to passing on a particular group’s history. So take a lesson from marketers: Storytelling works far better than lectures or dry, long-winded explanations. Storytelling draws people in and makes them part of the action (which is exactly what you want) rather than putting them to sleep.
Here are a few elements of good storytelling that marketers are using with great success:
- Setting and context
- Emotional connection
Including these elements in your presentation is easier than you might think:
- Characters, setting, and emotional connection: I’d recommend starting with some self-deprecating humor. I’m sure you’ve heard more than your share of complaints and pointed jokes (maybe even a few memes?) about how IT makes everybody’s jobs harder. So tell a few stories users can relate to -- maybe even one about how you felt waiting for the cable guy to show up only to have him get there in the last 10 minutes of your four-hour time slot and then have to go back to his office for the right parts. Get them laughing and let them see that you’ve felt the same kind of frustration. If you can do that, you’ve established your characters, the setting, and environment and made an emotional connection.
- Challenge: Explain what’s going on in the world of technology and why the old way of doing business won’t work for the organization going forward. Talk about things the audience can relate to, like wearables and connected devices in their homes and cars. Then you can extrapolate to how these and other types of technology are being used by businesses (don’t assume everyone is tuned in to how quickly technology is evolving).
Next, tell the story of how you solved the problem. It’s important to keep the emotional connection you’ve established, so you’ll want to make it clear that this wasn’t just another random “Let’s try it this way!” idea. Your audience needs to understand the lengths you went to to get this right and that it was in no way haphazard.
- Conclusion/resolution: Finally, explain the new ways of working with IT. This part can (and should) vary by audience, but it could include things like:
* Consulting with functional-area users to determine their needs and inform them of existing solutions that might work. And this means acting as a real consultant by digging deep to find out what the users are really trying to accomplish rather than just answering questions about particular tools.
* Helping vet cloud vendors and, upon selection, write contracts that cover everything from service-level agreements (to make sure users get what they need) to security (protecting the organization and its users) to crisis resolution (mitigation, continuity of business, breach notification, etc.)
* Taking the initiative by approaching various functional areas to keep them up to speed with technological developments that might help them do their jobs and perhaps even take advantage of new opportunities.
* Making sure all third-party vendors, cloud providers, etc., can integrate with the organization’s infrastructure, and, if not, figuring out how to make that happen.
* Helping users come into compliance with existing laws and regulations, updating them as to any changes, and providing any support they may need.
Move on to the logistics
Talking the talk is great, but your audience also has to see that you’re ready to walk the walk. Leave them with a takeaway that explains things like:
- What they can do without involving IT
- When they must involve IT
- When they don’t have to involve IT but are encouraged to do so for guidance
- Who their contact person is
- What to do if things aren’t working as they should
Ask for questions
Users will undoubtedly have questions and don’t be surprised if they center around specific problems they’re currently struggling with. Take that as a gift: an opportunity to illustrate how the new IT will work with users to get work done together. You may or may not have time to talk through more than one or two real-life scenarios, but doing so will certainly help you get your point across.
Other than that, be prepared for lots of questions about how the process will work, and be prepared to defuse objections or disbelief that anything will change. The best way to do this is to avoid anything that sounds like a canned response; just speak to them as a person who has experienced some of their same frustrations and who is both hopeful and confident in this new approach.
Step 3: Following up
Remember earlier when we talked about management by walking around? That advice applies here, too, and it’s very important. One of the worst things you could do is deliver a big, rousing speech about IT’s new role as a group of in-house consultants and then ride off into the sunset, never to be seen again.
So set aside some time in your schedule to visit the different functional areas -- MBWA in action. And don’t just stroll through work areas, patting people on the shoulder and offering a random greeting. Instead, sit down beside them, and watch how they work. Even better, switch seats for a while, and have them talk you through the steps of doing their job. Look for logjams and other places where friction slows things down. Talk with employees about things you could do to ease or simplify the process, and listen to their feedback.
And no matter what crisis may befall you on the way out of the department, follow up! Get back with them about a fix or workaround you discussed, and let them know the status. If you’ve discovered that it really can’t be done, discuss other options. But whatever else you do, never, ever offer help -- or hope -- and then disappear. You’ll end up with a situation that’s ten times worse than before because you put a lot of time and work into raising their expectations.
Just like creating digital policies, it’s only this hard the first time. From now on, you’ll be in maintenance mode -- keeping the new organization and the new relationships you created running along smoothly while keeping one eye firmly on the future. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that technology will continue to evolve, and your organization will need to evolve with it. Those changes will be much easier if you see them coming in advance so you can plan ahead rather than playing catch-up.
There’s never been a more exciting -- or more challenging -- time to work in IT.
Remember that you’re one of the people shaping the future, and enjoy every minute of it. And feel free to get in touch if you have questions or need help, especially when it comes to creating the digital policies needed to support your new endeavors.
This insight is the third one in a series of articles around rebranding, redesigning and reestablishing IT within the enterprise.
Part 1: The rebranding of the CIO
Part 2: Redesigning the structure of the IT organization and the role it plays in the company
Part 3: Launching your rebranded IT organization to the rest of the company
Photo by Steve Harvey