The IT Agenda: IT Pros: Get the Props You Deserve

If law enforcement agencies hype their accomplishments to the public, why shouldn't you? It's time to prove to management that they're getting good returns on dollars invested in your IT

January 13, 2006

3 Min Read
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For many years now, police agencies have published annual reports informing local residents and elected officials about their accomplishments on behalf of the community during the past year. In fact, in my old stomping grounds in Savannah, Ga., you can lay hands on annual reports dating back to 1860. In Asheville, N.C., the police put out a visually appealing package chock-full of facts and figures. In general, these reports are designed to drive home the point that citizens are getting a good return on their law-enforcement dollars.

Since IT resembles law enforcement--we try to keep our streets trouble-free but we'll never catch all the criminals--that kind of visibility couldn't hurt. Here's how to get it:

» Tailor the publication to your audience. The broader your readership, the more basic you should keep the report. In describing a Web filter project to nontechnical corporate execs, for example, explain how the new system will protect the network from Web-based attacks; to a highly technical crowd, though, it's safe to say "the new proxy update enables real-time Regex-based filtering in conjunction with a URL block list." Either way, present the facts, and keep your style consistent with that of the corporate culture: In a formal company, take a serious tone; in a more casual environment, make it more conversational.

» Address the "Why should I care?" factor. IT work products don't mean much to anyone if there's no direct benefit. OK, so you've deployed IP telephony. Users won't care until you spell out that this will save $100 per employee move, add or change, and you remind them that instead of paying $72,000 a year for WAN links, the company is now paying just $42,000. Even in organizations that don't charge back for IT services, these savings can lead to reductions in departmental cost allocations, which could translate into funds for, say, extra help on special projects.

» Use a diverse set of work-product metrics. Sure, number of work orders and hours spent are indicators of how hard your department is working, but there's more to it. Talk about the training your organization has taken, discuss all the projects you have in process in addition to those you've completed and some you've proposed (assuming they're not under any NDAs), and your work products. Let the facts stand on their own--don't worry about politics. If IT's proactive patching saved the company from a potentially deadly worm, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. Nobody else will.» Show, don't tell. Grab readers' attention by keeping verbiage to a minimum and graphics to a maximum. Pictures--before and after photos of the new wiring in your data center, for instance--are worth a thousand words.

» Encourage feedback, and incorporate it in future reports. Even if you're just sending out a static printed document or PDF, set up a survey- or helpdesk-based feedback system, and share readers' input in follow-up messages. If readers say helpdesk technicians are rarely helpful, send the technicians for additional training and report on improvements down the road. Include a comment from the CIO or equivalent to reinforce the fact that users are being taken seriously.

With this tangible evidence of your accomplishments in hand, you'll know you've done your best for your users, and they'll know it too. Now that's starting the new year off on the right foot.

Jonathan Feldman is director of information services for the city of Asheville, N.C., and a contributing editor to Network Computing. Previously, he was director of professional services at Entre Solutions, an infrastructure consulting company based in Savannah, Ga. Write to him at [email protected].

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