Thursday, 9 December 2010

Gaining the Trust of the SMT as an IT Manager

Yesterday I went to Manchester, having been called in at the last moment to substitute for a speaker who couldn't make it. The event was about Shared Services in Post-16 Education.

One of the comments made at the event was that senior management in colleges don't always make decisions based on sound knowledge of what technology is available and what it can do. But I had to wonder whether that was because senior managers simply didn't care (I don't think so!!!) or did they not trust the level or span of knowledge of their IT manager?

So it led me to follow that train of thought for a while and to start to identify how an IT manager should build that necesary trust if he or she wanted to be consulted as part of senior management decision making.

My own background contains several years as a Head of IT in a college and many more as manager of Management Information Systems. I was probably not the easiest of managers to handle as I constantly strove to improve systems for both SMT and users and that costs money and involves bending ears a lot. But I had the trust of the College Principals that I worked for.

Why? Because I demonstrated that I was keeping on top of new developments and had the good of the college close to my heart. Because I included within my remit (my decison - no one gave this to me) a responsibility to assess the background business processes of the college and I raised issues where I thought they could be improved.

Had I just sat and got on with running the IT team, making sure that systems were working and not trying to understand what others who used the systems were trying to do and how and why, I wouldn't have had the knowledge necessary to gain the trust of anyone outside my own team. And therefore, why should they ask my opinion on anything other than "We want this done, how long will it take?"

The job of an IT Manager should include the assessment of new technologies and I'm sure that 99% of IT Managers do this. But I wonder what percentage go to their senior management team and say "This technology is becoming available. These are the benefits it could bring us, here's what it would cost, here are the risks we would face and here's how we would have to change in order to exploit it."

Now if I was a senior manager in any organisation, that's the IT bod I'd want managing my IT department.

1 comment:

Philip Butler said...

Nice article John and one that is increasingly becoming topical as a debate and I'd like to know your opinion on some of the key arguments to what you're saying; namely the changing role of IT, especially in the era of shared services.

The nature of e-Learning has evolved and learning providers have had to adapt as organisations. Now, we see colleges who are leaping ahead in their e-learning development (Barnsley, Lewisham, etc.), their is a realisation that this is primarily about changing 'culture' (see Frank McLoughlin's keynote at Alt-C). The internal drivers should be Quality and raising standards in teaching and learning. The role of not only IT managers, but the role of IT itself is changing significantly and it should be natural to question that = technology should never be the organisational driver, nor should MIS for that matter. Sadly, I think the problem is now reversed since your days John; those organisations where IT Managers aren't adapting so well and still driving the process with new tools and technology are those where e-Learning is often the poorest.