Is your IT department creating an island of their own culture?
“Why is dealing with my technology department so hard?”
Working with many clients I often observe a similar pattern while talking to the business stakeholders: they really don’t have time to understand how Technology (IT) departments work….
Just to clarify, I am not talking about technology companies built around technology products. These companies typically have cultures centered around technology production and that makes them inherently different.
But for everyone else, how often do leaders, who know every aspect of their business, from financials through operations, avoid their IT department? And why? The reasons in my experience are fairly simple – IT/Technology departments have their own pace, own rules, and sometimes even their own culture, which often is not aligned with the rest of the company culture. Some of these differences are justified, but others are not.
So let’s talk about the culture in IT. Technology is a highly competitive industry and employees have very particular expectations about working conditions,benefits and other perks. These things are closer to what big logo technology companies offer, rather than what hourly employees or seasonal workers get. Technology leaders in more traditional organizations often have to deal with this fact in order to be competitive on the market. In effect, they have to create an island in the middle of the company culture: different work dynamics, flexible schedules, remote work opportunities and much more. In the short-term this can solve an employment competitive issue or perhaps stop employee attrition in IT, however, in the long-term this tactic will backfire. This stop gap has the effect of widening the gap between the IT/Technology department and the rest of the company. It isolates the IT/Technology department even further and it is extremely disruptive for the rest of the organization. And this is a big problem for the business.
If you are like me – all about company culture – you ask yourself what to do in this situation?
The best option, if you can afford it (from the budget, time, and the company focus point of view), is to start changing the overall company culture to match what your IT/Technology department is trying to build: flexibility, training, perks, benefits, competitive packages and much more. It may not be very simple, definitely very expensive, but in a long-term this investment will pay off. Building a great and modern company culture always pays off and modernizing it today will make you better suited for the future when 50-60% of your workforce will be millenials.
But as I said this is very, very expensive. What if you cannot afford it? Or what if you actually love and are proud of the company culture you have built in the rest of the company?
The answer is very simple: take the IT/Technology department out of your organization. If creating an island is your only alternative, why not to fly a different flag on it? You can still get fantastic technology services and outcomes including having all of your business objectives supported, but you will not have to deal with an rogue enclave that requires everything of its own: recruiting, HR, policies, employee handbook, etc. And you won’t have an IT department that slowly becomes the most expensive line item in the budget, and that so often disappoints.
In today’s market there are vendors that are great at building and operating teams, outsourcing anything from innovation to maintenance of legacy systems. They know (most of the time) what they are doing and operating IT/Technology is their specialty. Some of them are also great at understanding your business needs and become your true Technology partner. Additionally, a carefully selected partner can also save you significant part of your budget and maybe, just maybe, you will be able to afford to invest those savings into an even better company culture for the rest of the organization.
In my next blog I will try to share my thoughts about reasons why your IT/Technology department has to have its own rules. Check out our other Thought Leadership pieces here.