People have probably heard this a lot from me in recent weeks. It’s a rant that’s really grinding my gears for a while and really my biggest bugbear of what IT has become.
When I try and articulate what we do, my thoughts always go back to the good old days of IT. Where the IT department and its suppliers were a problem solving, business improving function. We as a business do that and consult on helping companies find a new passion for Information Technology and the benefits it brings.
But the thing I think everyone forgets is that IT evolved beyond the Computer Scientists, it’s something that got applied to businesses for its ability to automate, increase accuracy and most of all make businesses more efficient. Through out the 60s, 70s and even up until the 90s the IT profession was a revered and useful one…
When Technology was used to make businesses better
Most IT pros that I know, spend money to save money (despite what their ‘leaders’ may think!). An investment in a new piece of kit should have a payback period plus any software purchases made should be making business processes more efficient.
These days the IT department, is probably more thought of as the TV Show, the IT Crowd. The comedy of break-fix IT support and constant requests to ‘turn it off and on again’ is all too real, but makes me die a little inside every-time I have to ask someone to do it.
Call me old school, but I love technology but the satisfaction in any project for me is to be able to say that I’ve implemented something that has ultimately made a positive impact on an organisation. I started working in business IT when I was 14, I remember being dragged into work with my dad for a whole summer when he’d been given a computer by the corporate IT department and he didn’t really know what to do with it. It had Lotus SmartSuite on it.
I still remember coding a database in Lotus Approach, producing management reports and doing all the associated macros with it. Turns out, with the old man’s guidance I’d developed a system that did building helpdesk ticketing, purchase order/invoice tracking and he could produce a report on any building with associated costs. Don’t really remember getting paid that much though!
However, he had full accountability of his department and got kudos for my work! Was probably the best system I’d ever worked on. The importance of a relationship between management and IT working properly together has been clear to me from those early days. If management and IT collaborate and see the bigger picture the solutions are only going to be more powerful to the organisation. My dad knows very little about IT, but always knew the right questions to ask and what he wanted out of it. As a budding IT professional at the age of 14, I went out to build a solution to answer those questions.
Although I have lots of similar stories in my career. Some become annoying and show the breakdown of the IT and managerial relationship. I once had some colleagues who worked in safety who spent most of their time absolutely going to town on a Microsoft Access database I developed for HR and Training record management in the SME I worked in at the time. They called it worse than dirt but didn’t really have any helpful suggestions of what they wanted out of it. Needless to say they didn’t really last long in the organisation. However, when they left they were on the phone asking for a copy of my Access database as it was better than their new multi-national employers systems!
I’ll let you guess what I told them to do…
IT no longer means Information Technology
The use of the term IT these days is a bit of a misnomer. I wonder how many people think of IT and picture an iPad or a consumer product. IT and plain old Tech are just merged as concepts. Most people are also oblivious to business and consumer tech too. The tech industry hasn’t helped by spearheading campaigns into Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) affectionately known in the IT industry as Bring Your Own Disaster. The industry wants to sell more solutions (see later), the inherent unreliability of allowing any device on a company network leads to a lot of work and many solutions!
I’d bother to think of a new term for IT if I actually thought it would do any good. Me and the hundreds of my buddies who went through the education system during the drive to get IT professionals in the UK are a unfulfilled bunch, our advice is rarely solicited or even taken. Many have fell out of the profession. Ironically the drive now is to do the same again.
Even I struggle to convey to the non-technical people the difference between consumer and business grade IT hardware. I constantly have the discussion thinking I’ve advised ethically, told them what they needed to hear to make an informed decision but it doesn’t matter – they’ll buy cheap and pay twice. Sometimes I feel it’s a bit like groundhog day.
I talk to lots of potential customers and explaining the major differences between business and consumer technology – I’m usually met with an understanding response “yes we want business grade hardware, the three year on-site warranty sounds good”. What invariably happens is those opportunities are lost to Currys or possibly some reconditioned PC emporium *shudder*.
From micro to medium SME and even large multinational, I come across the same disinterested types who see IT as the box on a lap or a desk and what it does beyond spreadsheets or emails is fairly unimportant to them.
But here’s my point, all I’ve really discussed is boxes here and not much of that has much to do with the transformation and efficiency of information in an organisation.
What is a solution?
You know, solution is an overused term in the IT industry. ‘Solution sales’ it’s complete nonsense when it’s overused by salesy people who don’t really know what it is – they like to badge a box a solution because it sounds better.
A solution is problem and need based. If you have a mobile workforce and you’re in the construction industry and you only want to employ one safety guy rather than 10, then maybe you’ll consider a way of getting risk assessments back to the person who has to sign them off quicker. That’s where a solution can start going.
Professionals like ourselves, will go out and consider your options. Do your sites have WiFi, no. Right, we need to look at 3G/4G. What areas do you cover, is that connectivity available. The questions go on before we’ve even started looking at real Information Technology – we’re looking at infrastructure, then the software – can we find something that meets the constraints of the available infrastructure? Then we think about your cost and budget. Can we find the software to do it, will we have to develop it – then of course we think about the tech that it’s going to run on.
It’s no wonder these days that we’re trying to split off the term solution from the sales people and talk more of ‘Solutions Architects’ techies who know what’s possible with tech to fit the needs of the business. This despite being a relatively new term, is what has always happened by those IT people who were good at what they do.
They focus on what the business needs are around information (faster, more accurate or more of it) and then fit the technologies around that.
Asking the right questions?
We are here for every size of business, whether you’re IT MAnager, IT Director with a department that’s struggling to reconnect and get it’s abilities known to the rest of the company, then we can help. Same goes if you’re a owner or manager in a company with our without an IT department and you feel as if your IT just doesn’t seem to understand your needs.
We have a variety of tools, services and training to help you get back to good old fashioned problem solving.
If you want to know more – then why not reach out to us? We’re a friendly bunch, whether you want products, services or even consultancy we’re here for chat with no hassle.