The IT department is constantly under threat in most companies. When the economy is doing well, IT gets some leeway, a few projects get started. When the economy takes a down turn, IT spending is the first thing to get cut. Which is daft if you think about it. What system does every company rely on so much that when it fails people can’t work? That’ll be the computer network, it goes down, your entire staff sits on it’s collective ass while its fixed. That’s the reason management put up with support personnel: so they’ve got someone to yell at (or blame) when it all goes wrong. As far as management are concerned, they don’t bring any money to the business, all the want to do is spend it.
Most IT people are passionate about what they do, they’re the sort of people who switch off their PC at work, go home and switch on their own PC (or PCs). It means that they are usually on top of developments in their industry and are aware of better solutions to problems they face at work. This means that they often make suggestions on ways to overcome problems at work. IT departments are generally quite inventive (most of them have to be using the budgets they’ve got).
Unfortunately, the biggest problem IT departments face is communication, or rather, the lack of it. (Side note: Incidentally, our IT department has linked their only email address to the helpdesk system, so when you email them it automatically logs a call. All very good unless you simply want to ask them a question and not request help, dumbasses.) You see, they don’t really interact with the day-to-day business of a company, they’re more a bolt-on extra. Problems, requests for help, requests for new equipment, they all disappear into IT, usually via a helpdesk (which is rarely helpful), never to be seen or heard from until suddenly, unexpectedly, they’re resolved. The business have no clue what IT do and IT have no idea what the rest of the business do. They don’t work with the business, just receive requests and complaints from them. Likewise, the business rarely works with or consults IT about anything, so thinks it’s not important, a waste of money or completely useless.
And yet, the business has a lot of problems that IT could help with or solve, if only they knew about them and the business would be considerably more forgiving if they knew what IT were up to instead of (seemingly) randomly fixing or implementing new systems. This raised it’s head when a colleague of mine, an engineer, was pointing out that part of his job could be made much easier if there was little app that did a standard calculation for him. All he wanted was something where he plugged in the numbers, hit ‘Calculate’ and up it popped with the answer. At the moment, he does it all manually, but that’s something which could be knocked up in no time, hell, web enable it and you don’t even have to roll it out or change any profiles.
So, lack of knowledge is what’s holding back these ideas. IT don’t know the problems exist, users don’t know what IT can do. A suggestion box, that’s what you need. A simple web feedback form, a dedicated email address, a flipping drop box outside IT, all of these would be easy to create, maintain and use. IT could then get their people to comment on how easy it would be to implement, or suggest possible solutions. As for IT communicating with the rest of the business, well, they’re gaining in popularity: a blog. Just have something simple where you post the current list of upcoming projects with approximate dates and perhaps a running commentary on what you’re currently doing (e.g. The web team are currently investigating the feasibility of a CMS system instead of people having to publish using FrontPage). It isn’t hard, it needn’t be resource hungry, so come on IT, stop hiding in your cubicles and start communicating.