Quite often other areas of the business have a negative perception of the IT department and the staff who work within it, considering them to be inflexible, unhelpful, obstructive and rude.
The IT department can often suffer from what is known as an “outsider reputation” where the employees who work in this aspect of your company’s business see themselves as IT professionals, and not employees of the industry that your company operates in.
This in turn can lead people who work in other aspects of the business to view the IT department not as colleagues but as a service provider.
It can be quite frustrating to see that your hardworking team is taken for granted and even treated dismissively by their peers – and that they aren’t recognized for the valuable contribution they provide to ensuring the success of your company.
If this is the case, it might be time to prepare a strategy to build your IT department’s reputation within your company.
This can be achieved in the following ways:
1. Market the IT department to other departments in the company
Many departments are guilty of operating in “silos” where they don’t communicate efficiently and effectively with other teams and share knowledge.
How well do other parts of your organization understand the different services that your IT department is able to provide, as well as the skills, expertise and talent available from the members of your IT team?
It’s quite likely that your talents and abilities are severely underestimated by your peers. Marketing the IT department within your organization and ensuring other teams are aware of all your capabilities can help others to see your department in a new light.
2. Make communication with the organization a priority
Outside of the overall marketing of the IT department’s services, every single team member should commit to excellence in communication and improving how this is done at every opportunity.
This means that when jobs are allocated, the team member who is working on a task should keep the internal clients fully appraised of work in progress. People like to be reassured that their problem is being taken seriously and to know what the status is of any requests they have made.
When communication doesn’t flow well at this level it can lead to mistrust and for negative perceptions to take hold.
Other ways of improving communication include giving plenty of notice when there are scheduled outages. A great tool to communicate with all employees is DeskAlerts which sends pop-up notifications to computer screens and delivers information no matter what other software or application is in use at the time.
This is a great way of ensuring that important information is delivered. Quite often when messages are sent via email they can be ignored or missed in inboxes that are heaving with too many messages. Even if the IT department has sent a message this way, if it has been missed by an employee who was relying on the systems being available they can unjustifiably feel as though they have been inconvenienced and kept in the dark.
3. Take the time to really listen and understand your clients’ needs
IT departments are staffed by IT professionals who have skills that are transferable across different companies in different industries.
But every company is unique and has its own specific needs when it comes to information technology, and there really is no one-size-fits-all approach. Company A may rely much more on specific types of software than Company B, while Company C may have its own unique hardware requirements.
For your IT department to really flourish within the organization and to be seen as a bedrock, it’s essential that your team gets to know the company’s objectives and how IT is used to deliver them.
This includes understanding which software applications are the most critical, getting an understanding of how employees elsewhere in the company work on a day-to-day basis, what IT functions impact the most on customers and other stakeholders, which times of year are busiest, when project deadlines are and so on.
By getting a solid understanding of the organisation and its specific needs, the IT department can tailor appropriate solutions and be appropriately responsive when things go awry.
4. Participate in company activities
It might be a stereotype that IT departments are staffed by introverts who don’t like to participate in group activities. Whether there is truth to this stereotype in your company or not, you should endeavor to smash the stereotype by getting involved in organization-wide team activities.
This might be competitions where teams challenge other teams socially or to meet targets corporately. It may be lunches, dinners or other social functions, celebrations, rewards and recognition activities. Whatever the event, by participating you are showing the rest of the organization that your IT department is part of the team, not a separate entity.
5. Have a good attitude
It can feel downright painful when having to explain something that seems relatively straightforward to people who just don’t seem to “get it”. However being rude, condescending, belittling or even making jokes at that person’s expense is not a good way to improve the reputation of the IT department – all it will do is continue to paint the employees who work in that team in a negative light and perpetuate negative stereotypes.
Encourage your staff to be friendly, approachable and display empathy. After all your staff may know all there is to know about how IT works in your company, but they probably wouldn’t know other roles inside out. Imagine how they would feel if the shoe was on the other foot?
When you are recruiting to fill IT roles you should actually place just as much weight on these “soft skills” as you do on technical expertise. Having employees who display the right mix of both will help to win over other parts of your organization.