I seldom find a CEO or business owner who is happy with the state of their company’s IT. I also find that most of the time it’s their own fault. How can this be? Aren’t IT problems the fault of the IT staff? Well, sometimes companies do indeed have incompetent IT, but usually the IT staff is doing the best they can do with the situation they are given. If you are a business owner, and you want your company to have smooth running IT, it is more often than not YOU who will have to change. Here are some basic concepts that will help you empower your IT staff to shine:
When getting technology to work for your business, whatever solutions you choose, they start broken. Nothing works “out of the box”. Computers and software are just dumb unaware tools that need an intelligent person to make them work with your business. Every little process and function won’t do anything “the right way” until it is setup, tested and refined. Business owners make their first mistake here complaining about “I paid [insert sum] for all this stuff, why isn’t it working?” This implies the IT staff is already failing, and their work has just started. It creates undo stress which leads to mistakes and poor communication.
2) If you don’t want to learn, don’t even try.
No technology is 100% intuitive. If you want something that you know how to use right away, then stick to a calculator (the simple ones). New technology means that you, your staff and your IT will all have to learn new tools and processes. Depending on the size of your technology change, you may need to brace yourself and your company for lost productivity and training. Many business owners want the newest tech, but don’t want the burden of adapting to it. They place that burden back on IT with unrealistic demands to make it work more “like it used to”.
3) You can say “just” all you want, it won’t make it cheaper or easier.
“Why is it so hard/expensive/taking so long, I just want....” this sentence is the bane of everyone who has to make technology work. For some reason, business owners think they can get something faster or cheaper by saying “just”. It is easy to think about something we want, it is easy to picture it in our heads, but it is usually very hard for someone to make it happen in real life. Do yourself a favor and ask your IT if something is easy to do or not, don’t try to imply it is easy by saying “I just want...”.
4) Simpler = More Expensive, More Time and More Difficult
The physics of IT is that simplicity and ease of use is inversely proportional to time, cost and effort. Think about Google, the most advanced search engine in the world... and it is just one text box and a search button. Getting that one little text box to do so much took thousands of man hours and millions of dollars. If you want simple and easy to use software that does everything with one-click (or as few as possible) you had better be willing to pay and wait for it. If you want something done fast and cheap... use a spreadsheet.
5) Bigger isn’t better.
When I rant about stupid technology choices businesses make, Todd always reminds me “no one gets fired for picking Microsoft or IBM”. That’s the saddest part; the big name companies have the absolute worst, expensive, bloated, buggy and impractical technology solutions around. However, if an IT manager picks Microsoft and it doesn’t work well they are less likely to take the full blame. However, it an IT manager goes out on a limb and recommends a lesser known solution and it fails to live up to expectations, they are going to take full blame. CEOs should be encouraging IT staff to look for new, more agile and more affordable solutions. While it may cause hiccups from time to time, large companies can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by not just defaulting to big names.
6) No one “has it right”.
Technology is a constantly evolving landscape. There is no “right way” to do anything. No one has it all figured out, period. Worst yet, with the growth of the Internet, all modern technology runs on a complex infrastructure of services run by hundreds of different companies and organizations. If you have the expectation that your IT can make everything work perfectly all the time, you might as well not be in business. The reality is that good IT people love making things work. The only thing you have to do is hire competent and enthusiastic IT people, and then get the @#$&%! out of their way.