O’Brien agrees. “So often IT professionals are process-led internalizers. I want them to get out more and bring back what they find!”
However, there isn’t much point in having a department that focuses on creativity and technological advancements if customers are complaining that the website is always down. Underpinning all that strategic stuff is the work that IT departments do to keep the whole enterprise ticking over.
“I think the key thing is seamless service – everything should just work,” says O’Brien. “I expect service delivery to be an IT manager’s prime accountability. You can’t discuss a future strategy if the printers don’t work.”
As well as articulating the services you can offer colleagues and the company as an IT manager, it often helps to explain things in terms of the value that they can bring.
“IT carries intrinsic and often unrecognized value in any organization that leverages it properly,” says Reese. “Good IT managers develop relationships with key business leaders. Too often IT leaders are unable to articulate their value as business leaders. Every IT manager should make business acumen their top priority. Great technologists can be found anywhere; great technologists who focus on business results are rare and valuable.”
Business acumen will also set you apart from colleagues who do not have this detailed level of understanding about the organization. It can make the difference between safeguarding the IT budget and having to take cuts in the next financial year. If executives don’t understand the value that IT brings, why would they continue to fund it?
“Careers in IT are going through a huge change at the moment and all IT staff have to come to terms with the challenges ahead,” says O’Brien. “The commoditization of processing power means that you can get it anywhere, cheaply and reliably. The technological convergence of devices means that there is now always more than one solution.
“Who you are and how you interact with people matters now in IT more than it ever did before. The IT manager is now more like an expert client than expert solution provider.”
So how do you take all of that and turn it into a couple of phrases to explain what you do for the next time you are standing next to someone at the coffee machine? The elevator pitch is a short answer to a question, so called as you can deliver it in the time it takes to go between floors in the elevator. Prepare one for yourself, so that next time someone asks you: “What’s your job again?” you have your response thought out.
Dickey has this as a suggestion: “As an IT manager, I hope to bring business insight coupled with technical capabilities as my biggest contribution to the table. My talents go beyond the technical, offering softer skills and business acumen that are equally important in today’s industry. My number one objective is to provide recommendations to further innovation and achievement based on my technology understanding and my company’s business plan.”
Reese suggests including the fact you add to the top line by generating strategic and competitive advantages along with enabling new market opportunities, and to the bottom line by creating operational efficiencies and cost savings throughout the organization.
He also suggests pointing out how you work with other teams by “facilitating global inter-departmental collaboration and communication, helping business units take advantage of strategic global economies of scale and scope,” and being “a catalyst for change, enabling organizational agility to respond to rapidly changing market conditions.”
All of that sounds much more long-winded than: “I’m an ambulance tech.” Try out a few short phrases and find something that works for you and your company. “My advice is to be professionally enthusiastic and focus on the business benefits of what you do,” says O’Brien. “It’s not about the technology.”