IT isn’t a plumbing service, don’t treat them like one

31 Mar 2021

Companies run on information technology. Hardware and software are at the heart of all that we do.

Despite the critical role that IT has in the success of a business, many teams treat IT like a plumbing service. Plumbers are only called upon when something breaks, or we want to build something new. IT isn’t a plumbing service, don’t treat them like one.

This way of thinking, when applied to IT, is misguided, and hurts the business. A CIO at a major USA healthcare company said to me recently ‘The purpose of IT is to serve the business’.  The thing is, there is a big difference between serving the business and being treated like a servant.

Calling IT only when you need them is a bad idea

The first impact of treating IT as a ‘call only when needed’ service is a lack of collaboration. IT teams respond to what is requested when it is requested. This reactive approach to problem-solving prevents holistic long term system planning. Which, in turn, leads to the undesirable practise of using patches and workarounds. These almost always lead to problems down the line.

The second issue with the ‘as needed’ approach to IT is the lack of relationship building. Some relationships are so weak that business teams don’t know if IT is part of the same company or outsourced.

Poor relationships make everything harder. When things go wrong, we like to go to the people we know and trust to fix them. Broken systems are bad news, especially if a fix requires more time than we want. System outages create high-intensity situations. If the fix is going to take time, we are more accepting of the delay when told by someone we know and trust. The same message, delivered by a stranger, is much harder to accept. This is a leading cause of friction between business and IT teams.

When the IT teams are at arm’s length, the most common interaction is to fix issues that have high intensity. This limits the opportunities to build trusting relationships. It takes huge efforts by the people in the teams to build relationships in this environment.

The answer is to collaborate

Better solutions, better relationships, and increased trust are all possible. But only when business and IT teams collaborate.

Collaboration means working together. That doesn’t mean the teams should always sit together. Nor does it mean the business teams should start coding, or the IT teams make marketing decisions. Collaboration means both groups working together to understand and achieve the company goals. Then, and only then, can they decide the best path forward.

Business teams can foster collaboration by proactively sharing information with IT. This means reaching out to engage when there isn’t something broken. Some examples of easy collaborative sharing are strategy roadmap reviews and annual plans. Another good approach is information/education sessions about the way the business works.

Sharing information also helps IT teams see how the organisation uses the IT systems. Which, in turn, leads to better technical solutions in the future.

The only question that remains is who makes the first move?

It doesn’t matter. Now that you know IT isn’t a plumbing service you don’t need to wait for a leaky pipe before calling them. Relationships involve more than one person — either group can make the first move. So, go on, reach out, start building real connections with your IT and business partners today.