Cybersecurity and resource provisioning are no longer the sole domains of the IT department. For the most part, I’d like to think that businesses have more or less adapted to that change. Most IT professionals now understand that their job isn’t necessarily to mandate what end users can’t do, it’s to enable those users to do what they need. That isn’t to say it’s all smooth sailing, mind you.
There’s still a ton of bad blood between IT departments and, well...everyone else. Just a quick glance at reddit communities like Malicious Compliance, Tales From Tech Support, or Sysadmin is evidence enough of that. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
It shouldn’t be this way.
As a business leader, it falls to you to change things. If your organization is to truly innovate, thrive, and protect its critical assets, it needs to operate like a well-oiled machine. It cannot do that if there’s a ton of friction between its most critical departments.
Here are a few steps you can take to grease the wheels and help everyone focus on what’s actually important.
Emphasize to your IT department that their job involves more than infrastructure management and cybersecurity. IT staff need to be able to talk and listen to their end users as much as anyone else in the organization. They need to hear, understand, and respond to the needs of other employees in a way that makes them feel valued.
Similarly, emphasize to your users that when it comes to tech support issues or business needs, honesty, transparency, and respect go further than anything else. If there’s a problem, they should not be afraid to approach IT and request a solution. But they should also understand that your IT staff aren’t wizards - there are some requests they simply cannot assist with.
As an addendum to the above, pay attention to anyone who might not be fully on-board with this directive.
An IT professional who assumes they’re smarter than everyone else and talks down to anyone they don’t consider a colleague. An ignorant manager who refuses to listen to a sysadmins warnings or advice. An end user who demands that they take priority over everyone else who’s opened a ticket at the helpdesk.
These are all personalities that can create undue friction - it’s your job to ensure that they don’t
Cultural change within a business must always start from the top. If you want other people in your organization to respect the IT department, show them that the organization’s leadership respects them. Ensure that management and the C-suite both treat IT with the respect it’s due, and reframe the department’s role within your organization as a critical pillar of business success.
Part of that includes involving IT in your business’s decision-making, and endeavoring to understand what it is they do. When it comes to bringing about some organizational change, instead of handing down a mandate like “make it happen,” simply ask if it’s possible. A few changes in how you communicate can work wonders.
Lastly, start looking into new software and systems that will allow IT professionals to automate the mundane busywork of their day-to-day. That might not sound like it has much to do with the topic at hand on the surface, but it definitely does. By freeing up IT staff to focus more on innovation, you’ll not only make your IT department more efficient (and better at meeting end-user demands), you’ll also increase job satisfaction amongst IT professionals.
In other words, everyone wins.
The idea that IT and end-users should be at one another’s throats is as outdated as it is harmful. As a leader, it’s your job to reframe how both sides of the gulf communicate with one another, as well as how they perceive each other. By repositioning IT as enablers rather than obstacles and encouraging better, more open communication, you can free yourself up to focus on more important things than petty squabbling.