Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cultivating IT Friends

I received some great feedback regarding our session on Web 2.0. The overriding comment I received was

“But how can we do this at work?”

Jeff and David from MetLife commented:

We have issues with legal, confidentiality, and the IT Department. We know it’s coming, but it’s tough to see how to get from here to there in our environment.

I concur. For many of us, it is a lot easier to see how we can incorporate Web 2.0 technologies for our own learning than it is to see how to implement it in our work environments.

I see incorporating any new technology, whether it be eLearning technologies such as Wikis or intellectual technologies like new classroom courses, as an implementation project. Of course, my focus and experience is in application implementations.

Over the next few posts, I’ll throw out some things I’m trying as I try to move our organization kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Tip 1: Cultivate a friend in the IT Department

I’ll be the first to admit that I am in a better position than most. I work IN the IT department – so it’s easier for me to establish the relationships necessary to build an internal wiki / blog / social networking system. It’s very important to cultivate a good friend in the IT department if you are going to do the Web 2.0 internally.

Why you should do this:
1) Even if you have solid technical chops, most of us are not network people. You need their help to get everything configured for your organization’s network.

2) These people are going to be your technical support as your project scales up. It’s good to get their buy in before planning anything too big.

3) Most like to play with cool toys and will give you honest feedback about the tools and potential uses. Heck, many of them are probably already using Web 2.0 tools in their personal life. It’s not the tools they are worried about – it’s the end-users…..

4) Many tend to be early adopters. If they get excited about your project – they’ll spread it to the early adopters in your organization, then they’ll tell 2 friends….

My advice for cultivating a good friend in the IT department:

1) Restart your application and/or computer BEFORE calling us. And don’t act exasperated if we ask you to do it again while we are on the phone. We’re just making sure that everything is cleared out of the caches.

Advanced skill: Troubleshoot the problem first and let us know exactly the steps you took before you had the problem and the error message you received. We are aware that gremlins live in the system and occasionally like messing with end-users. If we can’t recreate the problem, it’s OK. The gremlins are just temporarily scared.

2) Don’t be that person who forgets their password every week (we know who you are).

3) We like to have people say Hi to us every once in awhile and not follow it up with “While you’re here….”

Personal pet-peeve: The people who do the 1 sentence worth of small talk then attacks with their problem. Save your breath….just tell me what you need.

4) We LOVE when people ask our opinion about techie things. Most IT folks are complete gadget and tool freaks and spend inordinate amounts of time researching new stuff. When wooing IT friends, ask about techie toys that are not related to work.

5) Red Bull is quite popular among techie folks these days. We also like junk food.

When you find your quarry – figure out their personal likes and dislikes, what they do outside of IT, and their strongest skills.

Listen carefully when an IT person says “no.” It’s not just the personal work of setting up the system they are considering, but also the support. Actually, it’s the support issues that concern most of the IT folks I know. It’s nice if you have the technical chops to go out and install cool new tools on your office machine – but as soon as that machine breaks, we know who you are calling….

They may also be concerned about the way that program might interact with mission critical applications. Case in point: our Electronic Medical Record is easily broken by conflicting Active X controls from other programs. This makes the IT department nervous about implementing new tools without THOROUGH testing of the EMR after installation. Testing takes time that we generally don’t have.

They may also be concerned that once they get it up and running that you will stop taking responsibility for the project and just dump the thing on IT. It's really important that you know how to take care of your tools. Get the administrative passwords for your tool and learn how to configure the thing. This will give you much more control over what you are doing.

If you convince the IT person to put your Web 2.0 tool in their test environment, offer to help with the testing. Also, make sure you have a plan B in place – just in case your program causes problems with the mission critical application.

As the MetLife guys said:
You know, if we’re going to do this, we may need to do it outside of our firewall.

And that may not be a bad solution….

1 comment:

Brent Schlenker said...

Everyone remember to find your IT buddy! :-)
That was the homework from my last Wiki Session at DevCon. This post fits perfectly into explaining why.
Take them to lunch, or just say hi, but cultivate a relationship with someone close to the technology. That's half the battle.
Great post, Wendy!