3 Ways to Improve Communication Between IT and Other Departments
It’s no secret that the communication between the IT department and other areas within an organization isn’t the greatest. In fact, it’s fair to say, in some cases, that such communication is practically non-existent. That which does occur is often stilted, misunderstood, or otherwise ineffective.
The problem is a compound one. Different teams often lack adequate communication in the office – that’s what work functions, holiday parties and common break rooms are for. But the gap that exists between the IT department and the rest is more than a matter of proximity. In many instances, there is a level of disdain between these groups and it’s one of the worst things that can happen to an office.
Managers can’t have an IT team and the rest of the office think one is more important than the other. It creates an unpleasant workplace, because the two teams must interact at various points. But it’s more than that—each part of the office should be able to understand and appreciate what the others do to facilitate operations and efficiency. As such, it’s crucial for managers to cross-pollinate. The best companies have a workforce with open channels of communication, that is happy to work with other teams and that understands each division’s importance. To accomplish this result, there are a few strategies managers should consider:
1. Bring Your Teams Together
As previously mentioned, improving communication between IT and the rest of the business is not just about providing ways for the teams to interact outside the realm of computer trouble. After all, the IT department is no longer just for computer servicing. Now, it’s a driving aspect of business, according to APM Digest.
“As an IT industry, we should force bridging the IT and Business gap,” Jimmy Augustine, Product Marketing Lead for HP Application Performance Management, explained to APM Digest. “Why? The two should be one, like peanut butter and jelly. The right hand should know what the left hand is thinking and vice versa.”
That means, now more than ever, everyone in the office is pulling for the same goal. The success of the IT team has a direct impact on business operations, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to get along and work together. By providing more cross-departmental functions like company parties and work-related contests, managers can break down the barriers that exist between teams.
2. Focus on Cross-Education
Nothing provides a better appreciation of the work someone else does like doing it yourself. That’s why managers may want to provide some IT training for the rest of the office and business training for the IT team. They shouldn’t spend too much time or too many resources, but going over the basics could go a long way in improving the team dynamics.
Basic computer training is something everyone in the office should have, regardless of their team. In some cases, advanced excel training, CCSP certification or other courses may also be helpful. Not only will this strategy allow non-IT staff to understand what the IT team does, it will allow them to troubleshoot their own computers, freeing up the IT team to focus on more pressing issues.
Similarly, IT staff should be aware of business goals and be able to take steps to help the organization achieve them. Savvy companies leverage the IT department’s software, web and engineering expertise to provide better metrics and more pertinent information for their clients.
“IT needs to focus and prioritize on what matters for the business,” Steve Burton of AppDynamics explained to APM Digest, “specifically the monitoring and management of business activity (transactions) that flow through mission-critical applications and impact end users.”
3. Learn from Others
This is a redundant piece of advice but bears emphasizing: Managers need to do their job. That means understanding their employees and their clients, knowing what the business needs and having the wherewithal and insight to devise solutions. If that means bringing the IT department into a meeting with business analysts and have an open discussion, then that’s what they should do.
Managers could take a lesson from higher education—every bit as business-oriented as many corporations, in some cases. These IT teams need more than a single group leader’s approval to implement wide changes within an organization, according to Campus Technology. Instead, they must take into account the views of a number of individuals within the school, each with a different rank and a different level of authority. This requires more than a stamp of approval—it takes a high degree of emotional intelligence.
“By our very nature, we have a more open, shared governance of the user community,” Bill Balint, CIO of Indiana University, told Campus Technology. “You have to be ready to explain how and why you’re doing what you’re doing, especially when you’re making changes.”
Higher education has a less centralized or organized architecture – individuals often act autonomously. As such, the IT team must help them to understand how and why their technology fits into the broader needs of the campus. This kind of structure is not an exact fit for the business, but it is something to consider. The IT department will be better understood if it makes an effort to provide insight as to why something must be done.
IT teams provide an element to an organization that it not only more valuable than many realize – it’s actually crucial for the survival of the company. As a result, it is important to make sure the IT department can communicate well with the other teams in order to minimize confusion and distrust and maximize efficiency and productivity. Providing corporate computer training can help the other divisions within the company to have a better appreciation for the job IT teams perform, along with helping the organization run more optimally.
“Dialog is key,” Dennis Drogseth of Enterprise Management Associates told APM Digest. “Once IT has found a more effective way to communicate and plan with their business peers, they are already halfway there.”
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