Question 6: There Are No Technology Projects

Continuing from last week, I’m revisiting some inspiring and insightful points from a recent conversation with Holger Mundt () on SolarWinds® TechPod.

This week, I want to look at this part of our conversation:

(Holger) “So when we go in as a monitoring project to some companies, it usually turns out not to be a monitoring project—it turns out to be a business process project.”

As managers, the need for technology to support business goals is ever-present. Even so, it’s not always obvious—to leadership, to IT practitioners, and even to ourselves—how a particular initiative fits into those business goals. The irony here is how the group most often expected to resist discussing business drivers is the one with the greatest ability to clearly frame the business benefits of a technical solution: the IT folks themselves.

The challenge is how to get them from an unfortunately all-too-common state of fingers in the ears, “lalalalalalala, I can’t hear you talking about ROI or depreciation,” to a place where they can be as great a champion in the board room as they are in the server room.

As a manager, the secret is to keep in mind knowledge workers do best when they have the largest possible base of knowledge to work from. But knowledge with context is key. Some leaders seem to love business insight for its own sake or think a set of information (and the conclusions one can draw from this information) is self-evident to the whole audience. Nothing is as frustrating as a subject matter expert standing there and rattling off an incomprehensible set of terms, acronyms, and phrases with no meaning to the untrained ear. All you want to do is shake them and shout, “SPEAK ENGLISH ALREADY!”

Wow, this sounds familiar. Where have we heard this exact same thing before? Right! When IT practitioners are talking to (or worse, talking DOWN to) nontechnical folks.

This is your chance to model the skills you hope your team will embody—define your terms and explain why they matter (both in general and to this organization). Connect the dots between business initiatives and approved projects. Offer to help strategize ways to reframe and present their needs so people in positions of budget approval are likely to say “yes.”

Most of all, continue to encourage the IT pros in your team to embrace an idea originally expressed by IT pundit Bob Lewis: “There are no technology projects. There are only business initiatives that have a technology component to them.”

  • I have said for many years, Do not call me IT, the computer guy, or other, because what I do is solve complex business problems with technology.  I am a business partner, and yet a servant to the business.  At the crux of the matter, we in IT are business, we just focus on driving efficiencies through the use of technology.