Yours Truly in “Canadian Business” magazine: How to talk to the IT department

by Joey deVilla on July 22, 2015

how to talk to the it department

Photo by Tamera Kremer. Click the photo to see it at full size.

A few weeks ago, I did a phone interview with David Fielding, an editor at Canadian Business magazine, who was working on a quick piece that would be titled How to Talk to the IT Department. The end result is the one-pager pictured above, which appears in the July 2015 issue.

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the article isn’t posted online in Canadian Business’ How-To section. Here’s the text of the article:

How to talk to the IT department

Joey deVilla, current platform evangelist at GSG Telco and former platform evangelist at Shopify, on how to keep your tech support team from phoning it in

Tell your tech team what you do. Give them a high-level view of what your organization actually does. The tech department is in charge of keeping the systems up and running, but what sometimes gets forgotten in why the system is there and what it’s being used for. If you tell them the line of business you’re in and what you’re tying to do, oftentimes the techies will come back and say, “Ah, that’s what you’re doing? Well, here’s a better way of reaching your goal using technology.”

Give challenges, not orders. I feel no shame in telling you this idea comes from Star Trek. There’s one point where Scotty says “Starship captains are like children: They want everything right now and they want it their way.” We are people who derive joy from tackling a challenge by building a system. It’s best to say “I have a problem, and I don’t know how to solve it.”

Take time to acknowledge your IT team. The gap between the C-suite and IT isn’t just philosophical; it’s physical as well. The IT department often works in the back of the house — or sometimes in a different building or city altogether. It doesn’t take much to show them you appreciate what they do.

Don’t sweat what you don’t know. Pop quiz: Do you know the four strokes of a combustion engine? If not, does that affect your ability to drive a car in any way No. If you follow the first three steps, starting with explaining what problem they’re trying to solve, your IT teams will save you from needing to know how the machines work.

In case you were wondering about the four strokes in a four-stroke engine, they are: intake, compression, ignition, exhaust, or as any biker will tell you:

suck squeeze bang blow

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