How to make peace (and not wage war) with your IT team

Most marketing or sales departments don’t like working with the IT department all that much. It is akin to asking artists to consult with scientists before creating a new painting or sculpture. If you ask most IT folks, they don’t have all that much of a desire to work with those in marketing or sales departments, either. This sort of rivalry has existed since the first human entered the first cubicle farm.

Fear not! While this rivalry might seem impenetrable, there are ways to make things go smoother if you need to deal with your IT folks in trying to upgrade or implement new technology and systems. Unfortunately, there is no secret handshake, nor a special language you can learn. I can, however, outline a few annoyances in the process. Don’t expect to be crowd-surfing amongst the IT staff afterwards, but if you keep these things in mind, you will definitely earn some favor and gratitude amongst the techies. 

Dictation and forcefulness

First and foremost, don’t dictate the implementation of new tech or push too hard for that upgrade. I’ve yet to meet an IT person who liked to be dictated to by anyone. Starting off the process like this instantly makes it adversarial and thereon out it’s going to be painful and aggravating. You’re going to likely be met with sarcasm and return nastiness, and it’s just going to be ugly. No one likes to be told how to do their job in any field, and if you come off as a dictator to the IT staff, it won’t ever end well.

Ignoring and marginalizing IT

This is a big one. Of all my colleagues, the thing that typically bothers them the most when dealing with other departments on new technology or upgrades is when their coworkers don’t listen to their feedback. These IT folks were hired because they are supposed to be experts in their field. The best person to know if there will be any technological hiccups or road blocks is going to be the IT contact. Talking over them and disregarding their input on the process will only make for problems later. Even if you are a self-proclaimed geek and stay current on technology, chances are you don’t know better than the IT staff does on how a certain system or change will affect the company technologically. There are usually existing systems and support concerns to consider; these are things IT deals with every day. Not listening or ignoring that feedback/input usually ends up with an “I told you so” moment. You might get everything you want, or you may need to make some concessions due to technical limitations, but trying to push ahead without acknowledging the IT concerns is a recipe for disaster.

Don’t dump it on IT

Do your homework. Make sure you are technically proficient enough to discuss your issue intelligently. If you walk into a meeting unprepared and in the dark about the nature of your system or purchase, you may as well be sticking your head into the mouth of a hungry lion. We IT folk can smell fear and cluelessness; I think it’s genetic. When we do, any chance for taking this purchase or request seriously goes out the window. Don’t become so technical and engrossed that you cross into the dictator zone I mentioned earlier. But don’t get caught unprepared. IT doesn’t want more work. Who does? Most of us have plenty to do as it is. Give the tech people a head start where you can and it will go far. If we have to do all the work, chances are it’s going to take a lot longer than you would like and not be done like you hope it would.

Get it right the first time; don’t keep piling on changes

You’re working on a project, it’s been days – if not weeks – and you’ve had to put in long days to make the deadline. You’re happy with your work and are just about finished – and then someone asks for a change. Then another change comes in, and another and another, and before you know it, your “almost finished” project is now 60% larger and your deadline isn’t realistic even if you could push it back another month. Most of us have been there at some point. Don’t do this to IT. Explore the options in advance. Look at what the potential advantages and disadvantages will be as far ahead of time as you can and propose solutions before they become problems. Nobody can ever anticipate everything, but that’s why we discuss it with others for other opinions, mull it over for a bit before committing, etc. Try your best to anticipate needs ahead of time and budget that into the timeline and stick to the plan. If you see something that needs to be changed or could be changed for the better, talk it over and gauge the impact. If it’s not a make-or-break change, plan to go back afterwards instead of trying to squeeze everything in at the last minute.

Hopefully these tips help you in your next dealings with your IT department. These points apply not only to new purchases and upgrades but even just getting general tech support. Keeping them in mind will definitely make things go much more smoothly and prevent the IT staff from rushing your office bearing pitchforks and torches. Who knows, you might even get invited to the next IT poker night.

Post by Anthony Damiano

Anthony Damiano is a technology and security professional with over 20 years of experience, an actor and producer, former U.S. Marine and experienced geek. Anthony held management positions at Universal Pictures, NBC Television and the Motion Picture Association of America and also works as a consultant in information security and as a developer on many open source projects. He is also an amateur chef, hobby artist and Super Villain in training.