The challenge for today’s IT boss is that your job is less and less about IT. But at the same time just about everyone else’s job is more and more about IT.
If you rely on cloud providers for more and more key functions so your job changes from running physical technology infrastructure to running and maintaining a series of supplier relationships. You need to know as much about service level agreements as you do about desktop architectures.
Meanwhile other parts of the business are probably getting more reliant on technology – whether it is customer relationship software, sales pipeline products, project management or logistics software.
So today’s IT director needs to know more about the business than ever before. There are lots of types of software to help you do this of course – and some sort of Enterprise Resource Planning system is standard for most companies now.
But it really means knowing the people who run the different parts of the firm as well as the technology they rely on. The old adage of software only being as good as what gets put in remains true.
A quicker answer is usually available by phoning the person responsible.
A better answer is usually available by sitting down for a coffee and longer chat – that way you get to hear what isn’t even put into the ERP system.
There are plenty of horror stories about botched ERP systems that have taken years to implement and done nothing but tie up executives and actually restrict information flow and slow down decision making.
It is only by getting the very best information that you’ll be able to do the rest of your job properly – putting in place the technology to make best use of the people and the information to get the business done.
And you shouldn’t depend on a piece of technology to select that information for you.
Approached in the right way people love to talk about their work and what the challenges are. Look how hard it is to go out with colleagues for an informal drink and not end up talking about work.
The other thing to remember is that good information can come from anywhere, not just the boss. The person using the software is likely to have a clearer view of its benefits and shortcomings than the person who took the decision to install it.
Random conversations within an organisation can give you access to information that would be all but impossible to find using more formal routes.
As a reporter I’ve been at several events where two people from the same large company, who had never previously met, found out for the first time what the other was doing, and how they could, and should, be working together.
There’s a reason all those Silicon Valley firms insist on a communal break-out area in their offices – any way to encourage serendipity is a good way to spread information.