The power of information technology no longer rests only with highly-trained professionals. Today, it’s more accessible than ever. One can find evidence of this almost anywhere. It’s in our cars. It’s in our phones. It’s in our TV’s. The Internet of Things has made once-privileged technology part of the everyday human experience.
This “democratization” of IT puts technology leaders in a particularly tricky spot. End-users are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, and in most industries, technology is a significant component of every employee’s job— essentially, anyone could be a customer or member of the IT department at some level. This increasing level of sophistication makes technology professionals more important than ever, both in technical ability, and more importantly, as trailblazers in the ongoing digital transformation.
How should your team lead the way in an increasingly tech-savvy workforce?
Odds are, most of your organization has a working knowledge of basic information technology practices, and they should be treated as such. Any condescension, even if unintentional, will be met with scoffs and eye rolls.
That being said, when technology does not succeed as intended – whether through failure of the technology or user error – users are at a loss. They may know what technology does but not how it’s done. One can’t assume customer expertise. Concepts and skills that might be second-nature to you or your team might not be so obvious to someone else. Ensure that your team knows when to keep explanations high-level and when to break down processes more granularly.
Be cognizant of opportunities to hand the reins to someone else, especially for issues of lesser severity. You’ll lose track of the big picture if small, easily-fixed problems always land on your desk.
Pay close attention to your team members’ and providers’ skill sets. Who’s most skilled or shows the most promise at data management? Who has the strongest handle on software and application development? Identify the resident experts in a particular area. When problems arise, urge your staff to seek out and collaborate with their colleagues.
Information technology has grown exponentially and will continue to skyrocket in the coming years. For successful technology leaders, familiarity with emerging IT systems is non-negotiable. Read IT-focused blogs and other publications voraciously. Find out what industry-leading CIOs read and read it yourself.
A rudimentary understanding of what’s going on isn’t enough. Effective CIOs don’t wait for new information to come to them— they seek it out. Though some trends like IoT, AI, and cloud technology are well known and more easily anticipated, this isn’t the case across the board. The next big thing in IT might be hidden in plain sight. Be proactive in your research and look beyond the obvious.
Leaders can only credibly influence the direction of their organization if they are acutely aware of the direction IT is heading as a whole. Awareness of up-and-coming IT advancements before they’re widespread can be beneficial both to you and to your organization— you’ll adapt quickly when new systems are introduced, or you’ll be able to introduce systems that will help your organization perform more efficiently.
One of the keys to effective IT leadership is maintaining constant dialogue with both internal and external stakeholders. Creating buy-in is necessary to the success of any project, and when dealing with an increasingly tech-savvy workforce, clients will sometimes overestimate their understanding of technology and its implementation.
This is why when planning a new initiative, teams need to be careful to identify the right early adopters or super users, and work with them to create an effective strategy. Creating a two-way communication strategy allows these super users to take ownership of the project and act as a better advocate for its implementation.
By contrast, having a detractor in your stakeholder group, can kill any project in its tracks. Maintain consistent and productive communication channels with your clients, whether internal or external, to help manage this effectively. This could be done through monthly (or whatever interval appropriate) calls, surveys, emails, etc.