Would you like an increased level of collaboration between IT and the rest of your organisation? Do you need to improve your ability to communicate the value that IT is bringing to the table? If you have answered yes to these questions, it might be the time to develop an organisational engagement strategy.
Some common signs that you need to increase your level of engagement include:
- If you are hearing “I brought in an external provider because IT couldn’t……”
- Or, “I don’t have much money or time to work with you, but I want all the options.”
Or if your clients are asking:
- “What does IT do? What don’t you do?”
- “How do we work with IT?”
- “How do we leverage IT services?”
Here are the 6 ways to create an effective organisational engagement strategy:
1. Know your audience
To engage someone you must first understand them. It is important that you can think from their point of view. It is critical that you begin to think from their perspective and not from the viewpoint of technology. If you were to select one of your major clients, how much do you know about them above and beyond their technology requirements?
If you want to remain at the level of an “IT supplier” this is probably enough, but if you desire to move up the IT Maturity Curve to the level of “partner” or “innovative anticipator”, your knowledge of your client must be much deeper.
Do you know their strategic plan, their goals, organisation objectives, business strategy, current pain points, etc? A simple way to approach this is to consider what your client might be thinking about on the way to the office in the morning.
2. Know how your audience views you
In addition to knowing your audience, you must also learn how your audience views you! This will have a significant impact on their willingness to engage with you. How is the past performance of IT impacting the organisation’s view of IT? What is the current level of trust of IT from the organisation?
If a third party was going to ask the organisation what they thought of IT, how would they answer? The answers to these questions will let you know your starting point in working to achieve a relationship of collaboration and understanding.
3. Include everyone
Organisational engagement is the responsibility of everyone in the IT organisation. If you want a consistent message that communicates the value of IT, builds your image, and creates a professional and competent impression, include everyone – IT staff, relationship and project managers, senior IT leadership and the CIO – in the plan.
4. Avoid common justifications
Beware the common excuses that IT makes for not engaging the organisation. The most common ones include: our accomplishments are self-evident; we already have enough work; it’s the CIO or marketing’s job; I can’t justify the time or money; or we’re just too busy fighting day-to-day fires. This type of thinking is exactly what will create or even worsen a lack of engagement and relationship between IT and the organisation.
5. Use formal and informal engagement efforts
As you develop your strategy, it will have two parts. The formal segment will be for announcements of new projects, upgrades, notifications of outages, etc. These will be official communications that are sent out from IT to the organisation.
The informal segment will consist of making sure everyone in IT is prepared with a common message when asked a question by someone outside IT. Most often those outside IT see IT as one unit; they don’t distinguish architecture from network from service desk.
So for example, if the network is down and someone from the organisation sees someone from IT in the lift and they have nothing to do with managing the network, a consistent message should be provided across all of IT as to what to say in this situation. This helps to maintain an image of competence and professionalism of IT to the rest of the organisation.
6. Develop outcome based messages
When constructing messages, whether they be formal, informal or in day-to-day interactions, the most effective communication starts from first talking about what is the desired outcome for the audience you’re speaking to. Avoid the common error of talking about the technology and all its features. As IT, we may love all these bells and whistles but to those outside IT we’d better answer the question of what’s in it for them and give them a reason to care!
Lou Markstrom is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together, published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. Lou is currently the Practice Leader, IT Culture and Talent Development, at DDLS.
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