This is a series of guest posts by author and industry-insider Jim Crompton. Crompton is an Energy Advisor for Rocky Mountain Innosphere and an independent consultant through Reflections Data Consulting LLC.
Getting to know IT
I hope that I am catching you before you have formed too critical of an opinion of your IT department. I know that the coffee pot conversations can sometime get pretty tough on IT. I can still remember when I was first transferred into the IT department (with a considerable promotion), and all I got from my former peers from earth science was skepticism, condolences and criticism. “What did you do wrong to get that job?,” they asked me. But IT is not that bad and the work they do is critical to the running of your company. So let’s talk about why they are not always on your side.
IT has an important job to do. Thier focus is usually around corporate IT assets, such as the data center, company network, enterprise applications (usually around finance and HR) and the standard desktop support (including the help desk). Add to that list a trusted data foundation and an architecture that is both flexible and consistent to accept the deployment of new technology, while keeping traditional process working, and you see what they are up against. Everyone wants internal systems to work reliably and securely at modest costs, but most of the business would like to think of these responsibilities as happening invisibly in the background, just like the supply of electricity to the outlet in the wall.
So the view becomes this: Good IT is Invisible IT. IT folks are used to this perspective and often seek solace among themselves by focusing on technology and not very much on communications with you. For them to accomplish the objectives they are given by senior management, they need standardization and consistent governance to leverage economies of scale and consistency of operations. But their view of standards just might conflict with your idea of innovation, and there lies the rub. You probably think the standard answer to your requests for new tech gear or an alternate way of doing things is NO, even before you make your pitch, so consider the following before making your pitch:
- Work to understand how the new technology actually works, not just the buzzwords
- Learn about the software development lifecycle and the role that business plays in project delivery – the ability to discuss and convey technical implications of business requirements with development team members early on will earn respect
- Identify the risks and uncertainties IT will need to deal with: Security risks, intellectual property issues, individual privacy, IT project delivery performance, data quality and data access are all good examples
- Be ready to communicate the business value and reasons behind needing a change of process or technology
Just as you would like the IT department to understand your engineering concepts, understanding these project prerequisites can set you up for success in your relationship with IT. As is the case in many parts of the world, the real challenge is to find a way to work together. Up next, I’ll introduce the IT department to the modern digital engineer.