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Bedside Manner?

At times listening to some of my fellow Corporate IT bods, you have to wonder why IT exists? I think it must be something to with the amount of money that gets spent on IT which seems to lead some people into believing that IT has some kind of special value and that businesses exist to fund the IT department. 

Seriously, talking to some people; I really think that people believe this and what's worse, is that our customers have picked up on this. So any spend that IT makes is almost immediately a red-flag issue; it's just the guys in IT wanting to spend money.

But how do we change things? And can we change things?

Firstly, it's about time that we started treated our users with modicum of respect; we're all guilty of the 'users==lusers' thinking at one time or another. We like to think that we are the technological elite but many of our customers have really rather sophisticated needs and often they are much further ahead on the uses of technology than we are. 

Nothing has demonstrated this more than the growth of the use of social media in the business; I know that within the organisation that I work for that IT is probably behind the curve on this, the real thrust to use social media has been from the business. In fact many people in IT still see it as just a toy without realising that is replacing email for many of our users. No-one has asked the IT organisation for permission for setting up Twitter accounts, Facebook pages etc; they just do it. 

Then look at the desktop; how many people work at companies who have massively locked down desktops? And when the locking down was done, who made the decision about what applications would be provided? Who is engaging the users to find out what they want? 

Our users grow ever more sophisticated in their demands and too often, the IT department is seen as the brake. And a very expensive brake. 

IT people seem to see every problem in the terms of technology and often they are framing answers in the terms of the technology that they are aware of. And how they make the best of use of technology to suit *their* processes. Too often they start with a technology answer.  Normal people don't especially care about technology; they care about outcomes and how they work better and improve the business and generally they want to be involved in the changes that impact them. 

I think that IT needs to develop a bedside manner; we do deal with a technical subject and at times it is highly specialised, just like medicine and we could learn a lot from some of the changes that the medical profession is undergoing. Arrogant, aloof and generally obnoxious doctors are rarely tolerated these days; yes, there are some old-school surgeons/consultants about but there are less. 

Doctors, like ourselves, are having to cope with the fact that our parish now has opinions and knowledge about our specialised areas. And yes, at times, this is incredibly frustrating; just talk to any GP and they will tell you about the times when their patient has googled their symptoms and come up with some weird and wonderful disease, convinced themselves that they have days to live and panicked themselves when all they have is a cold. But they will also tell you about the well-informed patient with a chronic condition who knows more about it than them, knows the treatment options and cuts out a huge amount of work. 

The trick is to treat both with the same amount of courtesy and also identifying which is which; working with and listening to the patient is the only way to do this. Just reaching for the treatment cabinet is easy but not always the right thing to do. 

And almost always outcomes are better if the patient is involved and sometimes the outcome the patient wants is not necessarily what the doctor wants. We could learn a lot from this attitude. 


  1. Tim Burton says:

    Interesting shift happening. Once it was only geeks who used their own personal computer at work, but increasingly I am finding non tech friends taking their MacBooks / netbooks into work so they can do what _they_ want.
    Once departments start using social media in place of email, google docs in place of the “H:/ Drive” and their own workstations the draconian IT dept will find (or not) that their lusers have outsourced their needs circumventing IT.

  2. Martin G says:

    I think that we are a ways off that parting of ways and I certainly see some major issues around things like data protection which could bite really nastily.
    But many IT departments need to wake up and realise that their users are not the same as they were a few years ago.

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