It is a sad fact that there are rather a lot of over-inflated egos in the IT industry. I’m not sure why this is, or if it is like this in every industry. But when it comes to IT, (and in this case the SharePoint community), I think we need to take a step back and remember a few things :
1. The lifeblood of any business is sales
If there are no sales, there is no business, and hence no IT or any other department. As an IT person, how are you enabling / empowering / supporting the sales process in business? Or are you just hindering that process? If you are a ‘know-it-all’ IT person, do you understand the effect you’re having on business? Do you understand that people will just tell you what you want to hear, then simply go around you? I know some very successful business owners who are running their entire companies on email, fileshares and printouts and never use social media. They have multi million Rand businesses who have never heard of SharePoint, document management, BI or process automation and quite frankly, don’t care. They are getting the job done with endless sales.
2. IT is in service to business
When was this forgotten? IT is there to keep the business connected to themselves and the outside world, to help surface useful information; to enable the business to better service clients and thus bring in more business which will support the whole food chain. IT is a massive, non-billable overhead to large companies, however it is usually necessary to take things to another level in business. But when was this partnership lost and the communication chasm between the two made so wide? When was it forgotten that IT is a service, that they are here to serve internal / external clients? If you aren’t a people’s person or not into serving people, is this the right career for you?
3. Users are not stupid
Just because users don’t speak geek, does not mean they are stupid. Many users are highly educated, well spoken, well read, highly experienced people that are specialists in what they do. Many users are becoming more and more tech savvy and you play a dangerous game in assuming they don’t know anything about IT anymore. Software is becoming more and more end user friendly. The question is, how much do you know about what they do? Do you understand how they need to put the financial statements of a global company together? Could you save the life of a patient on an operating table? Could you close a million dollar deal with the CEO of a multi-national? Users have day jobs for which they are getting paid. As IT, are we effectively supporting them to get that job done?
4. Business has other priorities
IT Departments go to Financial Directors, HR Directors, operational staff and tell them they have to pay for SharePoint, can or can’t use SharePoint, that they can only use one browser, they can’t access the internet, or something similar. Do you think people like that care about such matters? There are people out there that are saving lives, cleaning up massive toxic spills in the environment, educating our youth, feeding nations, rescuing endangered species, housing and clothing the homeless, responsible for people’s salaries – do you honestly think they want to hear about IT issues? Do you honestly think they need to hear how they cannot get a new laptop because they aren’t important enough when they have to travel to outlying areas and capture reports on the destruction of rain forests or disenfranchised communities? When did the tail start wagging the dog?
5. We need to see the bigger picture
What is it that we as SharePoint people are asking businesses to do exactly? Are we really just going in there to sell software, or to clean up that software? Really in the bigger scheme of things, are we too focussed on the technology and forgetting why we are all here? Have you taken the time to really think about that? Why do we punt SharePoint and it’s related technologies? If it’s not to truly support and empower businesses to grow and meet strategic goals to uplift entire communities or countries, why are we doing it? For money? Are you passionate about the technology – or passionate about empowering businesses and people and understand change? Because in my book, in this service industry, that is what separates the men from the boys. Just because you know everything about the tool, doesn’t mean you know how to extract business value from it – you need to understand the business to get that right, care about the people using it and understand the outcomes of your decisions on a global scale. We need to remember the huge responsibility we have in this space.
6. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier
It’s totally ok to be passionate about technology of course, but let’s not forget why it’s here. Surely all software has an improved productivity angle of some kind, (ok maybe gaming has a different agenda, but I’m referring more to business software). The SharePoint industry specifically is extremely passionate about what they do; it’s really great, but sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees and we just end up over-complicating the whole situation. I just think it’s time to reflect a little on why we do what we do, get egos out of the way, and figure out what we’re really about. I do believe that SharePoint has unbelievable value for business, I don’t know how small businesses run without it. It has been invaluable to me for the lifespan of Lets Collaborate. But even though I’m in this industry, as a business owner, the tool has been about effectively managing my business, not every bell and whistle SharePoint has to offer. Are we really making things easier for our internal / external clients?
7. We are an eco-system and things change all the time
We all need each other. IT needs business. Business needs IT. Vendors need clients. Clients need vendors. Products need customers. Customers need products. Businesses need partners. People need support. These relationships change hands all the time. Businesses change strategic direction to stay relevant all the time. We need to have more understanding of our businesses and how we fit into the bigger picture – both in our own companies, or in our clients’ companies. We all need to lead by example in our respective fields. We need more empathy for the people’s lives we touch, be more patient, remember that we are in this together, that we do actually all need each other; and most importantly, to remember that there is enough of everything for everybody.