Maintenance and IT can work together

Working with the IT department can result in an easier work life.

By Cindy L. Boyd, CBM Enterprise Solutions

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In brief:

  • Your IT department can be an invaluable resource, and together you can accomplish more than you may have ever thought you could.
  • By looking at the world from their eyes, you can modify your approach in getting these professionals to want to work with you and possibly put your project on top of the stack.
  • Collaboration does away with the us-versus-them mentality. We are them. We’re on the same team.

Frequently, the notion of having to work with your information technology (IT) department can result in negative reactions from people. Maybe you’ve had some experiences that were not fruitful or seemed exhausting.

You may have felt like you were lost when you tried to engage them. You may have felt like you were beating your head up against the wall and running on a treadmill. Your legs were moving and your heart rate was up, but you were going nowhere. You may have been told, “no,” enough times that the rejection still hurts.

Calm your nerves. Your IT department is not the big bad wolf or an unapproachable entity that must be avoided like the plague. In fact, your IT department can be an invaluable resource, and together you can accomplish more than you may have ever thought you could.

But first, to know where we are going, we have to know where we’ve been, so an explanation of how IT has evolved is in order.

And second, we’re headed toward an IT revolution. By having an idea of where information technology is headed, you’ll understand them and be able to talk the talk.

Finally, collaboration makes sense. Some powerful CEOs used collaboration to get input and buy-in from their employees to create success that everyone can share.

Understanding IT

How do you see your IT department — as an internal vendor or a strategic partner? You may see them as both. But if you focus on the fact that these professionals are a strategic partner, you are ahead of the game because almost every function of business today has some connection to technology.

We all know that the IT department has to exist. But if I asked you what they thought their mission was, could you explain it quickly? They’re not there solely to unlock your computer or to fix your email when it’s not working. IT serves to manage the functionality and storage of information systems. One definition calls it “the branch of engineering that deals with the use of computers and telecommunications to retrieve and store and transmit information.”

Engineering? How many of us think of IT people as engineers? Does that word alone shape a different attitude?

Breaking down IT

IT can be broken down into three simple terms — applications, infrastructure, and communications.

Applications, or “apps,” can be programs or groups of programs designed for end users. Application software can be divided into two general classes: systems software and applications software. Systems software consists of low-level programs that interact with the computer at a very basic level. This includes operating systems, compilers, and utilities for managing computer resources.

Infrastructure consists of the equipment, systems, software, and services used in common across an organization, regardless of the mission, program, or project. IT infrastructure also serves as the foundation upon which mission/program/project-specific systems and capabilities are built.

Collaboration may take more time on the front end, but it saves a ton of time on the back end.

Communications is the function of sending and receiving information. Information communications technology (ICT) refers to the convergence of audiovisual and telephone networks with computer networks through a single cabling or link system. There are large economic incentives (huge cost savings because of the elimination of the telephone network) to merge the audiovisual, building management, and telephone network with the computer network system using a single unified system of cabling, signal distribution, and management.

Best practices

Like any department, IT has its own best practices and guidelines. And like most disciplines, it has its own jargon an outsider might find foreign and intimidating.

An information technology infrastructure library (ITIL) is the most widely adopted framework for IT service management (ITSM). ITIL provides management procedural guidance across the breadth of IT infrastructure, development, and operations, and is one of the best-known IT best-practice frameworks.

Control objectives for information and related technology (COBIT) is a framework for IT governance and controls and often is linked with ITIL.

One technique your department may share in common with IT is Six Sigma, a business management strategy, originally developed in the 1980s. Six Sigma became popularized after General Electric’s CEO, Jack Welch, made it a central focus of his business strategy in the 1990s. Today many sectors of industry practice this strategy. The objective of Six Sigma is to improve the quality of process output by identifying and removing the causes of errors, while minimizing variability. It uses a set of quality management methods, including statistical methods, and creates a special infrastructure of people within the organization. Black belts or green belts in your organization are people with expertise in these methods.

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