My technology blog can be found at Tech.LanesNotes.com.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Crucial Question for I.T. (and everyone else)

What distinguishes you from the other players in the market?
If you’re in I.T. (and business, generally), that’s something you need to be very clear about.  There are a plethora of firms out there waiting to do your job.  And they’ll do it more cheaply.  They might even do some of it better.

They might do all of it better.

Someone, certainly, will do something better, and they also will do it more cheaply.  So:  what makes you the best person/group/firm to do what you do?  Why should someone not hire another company to do what you do?

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because your company handles sensitive data, I.T. won’t ever be outsourced (or offshored):  that’s not job security.  “The cloud” is growing, which means that people are getting more and more comfortable with the idea of having other people control their data.  In any case, management’s resistance to having someone else hold their data isn’t by itself a ringing endorsement of your exceptionalism. 

Because even if your department isn’t outsourced, there’s still a world of people vying for your job.
So:  what distinguishes you?

In I.T., we tend to focus on technical prowess, and I suspect that’s true in a lot of industries.  But there always will be someone who can promise a deeper understanding, or a better technical pedigree.

Instead, know your customers.  Understand their technical needs, yes.  But also their business processes.  Discover the quirks that they’ve worked around for so long that they’ve forgotten there’s a possibility of something better.  Celebrate their successes, and work with them to overcome their failures.

That’s something that no one else can promise to do more.  And doing that will make your work better and more fun.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

In I.T., You Don’t Want to be the Plumber

This is in no way a dig on plumbers.  I’m a fan, in fact: plumbers and other folks in the trades do work in an incredible variety of situations, and they deal with the unexpected daily.

But here’s the thing:  no one wants to call the plumber.

If your primary goal in I.T. is to provide a clog- and leak-free pipe through which everyone else’s work flows, you’re asking to be outsourced.  Because there always will be someone with a claim to offer the same thing for a better price.

When suggests that all the new networking work and all the problems facing your org are job security, they’re wrong.  Because anyone can install new drops.  And someone will promise to fix those problems more cheaply.  That’s not job security.

The bottom line is that you can’t win on price.  And, more importantly, you don’t want to. 

You don’t want just to be the people who get called when something isn’t working, or when it’s time to lay down new pipes. 

You want to be the people who get called when others want to do something new.  You want to be the people your org thinks of when they think of innovation, of new services, of thinking about challenges differently.

You want, in short, to be looking every day for ways to work with your customers to make their lives and work better.  Your menu needs to be innovative, and your customers will recognize the value that brings.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What’s Really Hard about Information Technology?

When you get down to it, I.T. isn’t hard.  At least, not in the most basic sense.  Computers, apart from crashes, behave the same way every time you do the same thing.  That’s the beautiful thing:  they vary according to the input given them, but the same input produces the same output each time.

Unless it doesn’t.

Then, there’s something to fix.  And here’s the thing:  fixing a computer isn’t hard.  It really isn’t.
Diving from a 10 meter platform?  That’s hard.  Digging coal out of the ground, also hard.  But typing isn’t hard.  I’d even say that knowing what to type generally isn’t hard.  It takes time, and it takes patience.  But it isn’t hard.

Finding where the problem lies, and then tracking down how to fix it, though:  hard.  That’s where experience, study, and a lot of work comes in.  If you’re good at that, you’re probably good at a lot of things, including I.T.

If you haven’t tried your hand at I.T., and you’re good at finding solutions to problems in other arenas, you might find you’d be good at I.T., as well.