Let the business name things. It is critical that you don’t project your IT labels for things out into the business. They don’t understand it, and they find it annoying. Even the phrase “submit a ticket” is IT jargon, that most companies would do better without. How about “Get help with a problem” or “Request a service”?
Take the time to understand what labels your users would naturally call your various services and use those terms instead of your technology names. Get the list right and make sure it’s understandable to non-IT people. Even test it with users before you make it official. Can they find the things they typically look for?
Then make sure it is all consistent. Presenting inconsistent names for things is particularly maddening to a business person who thinks he has finally learned “what IT calls it” and then is faced with a different IT interface, where it has a different name, and they can’t find it again.
And if someone is looking for telephone support in an alphabetical list under “T” and you have it under “G” for “Global Telephone System”, that is frustrating enough, until they look for the next thing and check under “Global” thinking they are being clever, and you have it listed under “Worldwide”. I don’t make this stuff up.
Check all your interfaces! The act of creating this clarity and consistency alone, will go a very long way to establishing IT’s credibility, and a consistently positive view of IT’s performance.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. It’s a pretty well known fact that many IT problems are self inflicted. You need to do maintenance and upgrades, which often cause problems and outages, but I’ve seem many IT departments make spectacularly bad choices as to when to do them.
Schedule IT problems with business users. When you need to roll out an upgrade, or implement a lot of changes at once, think about this. Instead of sending an email that says “We are going to do an upgrade, you may experience service interruptions”, plan this with your business counterparts.
It seems obvious, but the number of times I have seen this type of email on the second to the last day of a quarter is quite alarming. Go to your key stakeholders, review your plans, and understand what they have on the books. If you need to do a rollout, give them a panic button, give them an escalation to you when they are in a business critical timeframe. Make someone specifically available to hand hold specific key users through the transition.
Developing this plan together, getting the timing right, and putting escalation resources and process in place ahead of time with your business counterparts will build your credibility (and effectiveness) immensely.
All these things serve to build a consistent positive view of IT, and to provide a meaningful and positive context to weather the occasional disruption without damaging your credibility.
At age 33, Patty Azzarello became the youngest general manager at HP. At age 35 she was running a $1B software business. Patty is now the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group, which delivers practical, experience-based tools to CIO’s and other business leaders through products and services including articles, online programs, executive coaching, public speaking & workshops.