What is the best way to communicate with the Information Technology (IT) department? In this paper, we will look at two IT personnel and comparre communication styles. The most effective way to present this scenario is to engage you, the reader, in a mock computer/network crisis in your company.
For many years communicating with the IT department was not a priority. Most businesses used computers for word processing and simple spreadsheets. Networks were stations on the televisions and there was very little to no dependence on a computer system. The hardware was costly and the support was virtually non-existent (www.microsoft.com-small business solutions, 1998).
Today, hardware is affordable and support is abundant. With these major changes businesses are upgrading and installing complete network systems with multi-site databases and very complex Intranets. Along with the systems comes the support. The options are to have an outside firm support the system or an onsite/internal IT Department.
Either option a company chooses will require constant communication with the people in these areas and these people are a different breed of communicators.
The typical IT person is computer literate and usually very intelligent. They have incredible deductive reasoning and superior computational abilities. Most of them are very introverted and have little or no social graces, not to mention any ability to communicate.
Communication among their peers is usually something like a script from a very poorly written science fiction book or technical manual. Nevertheless they can communicate with each other.
Can they communicate with the average person in the real world?
Picture yourself managing a group of forty data processing people, all on a network feeding critical information to affiliates across the globe. At 3:00 p.m. one half of your network goes down and twenty of your people are not able to work. Your group is still producing, but at a reduced speed.
You pick up the phone and contact the company’s IT manager. Your situation is critical but not an emergency (at this point). You get him on the line and you get one of the two following situations:
IT Manager – Joe (scenario 1)
Joe is the manager of your IT department and has been since its inception two years ago. Prior to that, Joe worked as a technician for Fry’s Electronics at night. Joe is also the president of the “The original – Star Trek ” fan club and believes that Captain Kirk is the only man qualified to command a starship, at least that is what his tee shirt says.
Joe answers the phone in his usual low toned, “Yea”. After explaining your situation for the second time very slowly, Joe finally grunts, acknowledging that he is still on the phone. You finally get frustrated and tell Joe that you were instructed to call him by the VP of production (the senior VP over both departments) and your problem is of the utmost importance. He insists that the problem was created by one of your people; but he agrees to send one of the “techies” down to your area and the problem is fixed (except for your ulcer).
This is not unusual, though a bit exaggerated. Most IT personnel are under the impression that the outside world is so inept that they alone are a much smarter breed so they have a superiority complex. It is often shared in the IT community that communicating our problems to them is a waste of time because we usually do not explain it in a way that will solve the problem.
Joe is the typical “Tech-Nerd” and is socially inept, and doesn’t care. He can interact with the outside world over the Internet, so why does he need to develop any social skills? Being introverted and having the superiority complex raises the barriers to communicate and prohibits any connection between the “Techie” and the rest of the business world.
IT manager – Mark (scenario 2)
Mark is the manager of your IT department and has been since its inception two years ago. Mark has an AA degree from the local community college in computer science. Mark loves computers and spends most of his free time tinkering with them.
Mark answers the phone and listens patiently to your situation acknowledging your urgency. Mark repeats the problem