Thursday, April 30, 2015

IT Communications you should be doing, but aren't

IT has a reputation of not communicating well. Which is sort of funny, if you think about it, we enable all sorts of communications from voice mail, video conferencing, e-mail, instant messaging and the list goes on and on.
So here are a list of communication tips you should be using. Many of these are informal communications, things I wouldn't send out to the whole company on email, but using a tool like Chatter from, SharePoint from Microsoft, or even an internal blogging platform is a great way for people that are interested in what is going on, to be able to know. It also has the benefit of letting me not feel like an internal spammer.
  1. System down alerts. This includes all the times that something fails but doesn't cause an outage. What a great way to market all the thought you put into redundancy, fail-over and availability without sounding like a self-promoting ass. Of course outages that do cause a significant impact need to go here too. Hopefully you don’t have too many of those.
  2. Roadmaps – We all know that roadmaps change, and sometimes pretty frequently, and I know that’s why a lot of us don’t share roadmaps. The trick is to add the commentary so when it changes people understand why it changed. It’s also a great way for people to know what is coming and to be able to proactively train on them before they need to use them.
  3. Informal notifications on upgrades – Look no one cares if you patch servers, they care about them being available. Letting them know that you are patching them Sunday night at midnight is a good thing, especially if it fixes or avoids an issue.
  4. Training – There are a lot of free training resources from Microsoft, Apple, Google or or SAP offer online videos too. These are great things for you to share either on your IT web site, or informally through blogs or chatter.
  5. Security issues that may impact people at home. It’s a pretty safe bet that your employees have computers at home and would likely find value in any heads up on security incidents that are impacting the company. They are probably seeing some of the same attacks at home and may not know it. With so many people using their home machines to check email or login to the company, making their home machines more secure is always good.
  6. Team recognition. There is probably not a lack of innovation in your team, why not recognize it and get some recognition for the cool things your team is working on. We regularly would do a "Geek of the week" award. It's kind of cheesy, but helps show that we value innovative ideas.
  7. Personal accomplishments. IT administrators are people too and no doubt have major personal accomplishments. Maybe one of your staff just finished their MBA, or the Boston Marathon. It’s good for people to know your team as people, and not just the person that fills the toner when the printer is out. If your company likes the people in IT, they are going to like IT as well.
  8. Blog on industry trends. Many of us in IT actually know what the trends in IT are, in fact you may have people that are influencing those trends. Why not share the insight you bring to the company as a whole. Now let’s be clear, your opinion on the latest power over Ethernet specification may not be too interesting to the co-op in finance or the VP of HR, but you never know, they may be pursuing a masters in electrical engineering and are also working on PoE.
  9. Deals or discounts. If you have a corporate plan with a cell carrier, you may be able to offer the same discount to employees. It’s probably the same with many of your vendors, like Dell, Microsoft or Motorola. If you can help save employees money, what a great way to show added value to them.
  10. Surveys and feedback. I am a bug fan of measuring IT customer satisfaction. In fact I'd argue that of all the metrics, this is the one that actually matters. It's a great idea for the CIO (or a senior IT leader) to personally reach out to some number of resolved helpdesk tickets. It shows you care, and shows that you are open to feedback. When asking for feedback, the real trick is to actually listen and act on the feedback. Asking and then ignoring is actually worse that not asking. 
These are some of the things I have done in the past to make IT more approachable, responsive and likable. I'd love to hear what other people do as well!
You can also find this on Linkedin and follow me there as well.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Know your audience

(From one of my recent linkedin posts - feel free to follow me on linkedin as well)
I try to bite my tongue and not rant, but sometimes material just presents itself and it's too good to pass up.
I just got a call from a local ISP. It went to voice mail , of course, but I digress.They had recently installed new fiber for another company in our building and wanted to talk about diverse paths and redundancy.
Perfect. It's always good to know about options and even though we already have a separate fiber from two different companies, it's good to have a third option, especially when our 2 year contract is almost up.
In fact, it seemed great. A sales call for a product I can use and timing that is almost right.
So why, the post?
Well after she talked about the diverse fiber she went on to explain that they also offer Cisco hosted voice and we should look at replacing our phone system and upgrading to Cisco.
Now, I'm sure they do a lot of business selling Cisco phones and I think that's great. But, Extreme, where I work, is a competitor to Cisco and I will never buy Cisco products here. I mean that would be like showing up to the Microsoft Redmond campus and trying to sell an ipad, or going to Ford's corporate offices in a Subaru.
Nothing wrong with Subaru, Iphone or Cisco, but know your audience. If she had stopped at diverse fiber paths, I'd be on the phone now.
I'm actually torn between ignoring the call, and calling back and going "Really? Cisco? Really?" like Seth and Amy from Saturday Night Live. Or Seth and Kermit