By Stephanie Donahue, President & Co-Founder, PAIT Group.
I’m reading a book right now called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (by Liz Wiseman). It’s about accessing the intelligence and potential of people in organizations. I ask you not to stop here, as this is not a book review. In fact, I’m still in the first chapter, but it has me thinking a lot about my personal impact on my own organization and even more so, about all of my IT contacts at their individual businesses that I consult with. I want to start this article with some information from the beginning of the book, because I hear this issue surface constantly and it sets the stage so perfectly for what I want to talk about.
“New Demands, Insufficient Resources”
At a time when many organizations do not have the luxury of adding or transferring resources to tackle major challenges, they must find the capabilities within their current ranks…The ability to extract and multiply the intelligence that already exists in the organization is redhot relevant. I have become convinced that the biggest leadership challenge of our times is not insufficient resources per se, but rather our inability to access the most valuable resources at our disposal. People are often overworked and underutilized. Leadership is a critical force for leveraging the full capability of the organization.
Reference: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
So you may be wondering – what is a Multiplier?
As the book excerpt says, this book is “A thought-provoking, accessible, and essential exploration of why some leaders (“Diminishers”) drain capability and intelligence from their teams, while others (“Multipliers”) amplify it to produce better results. Quite simply, a multiplier is someone whose leadership style enhances the productivity of their team or organization by bringing the best out of their employees.
How do we take this concept of being a “multiplier” and apply it to our Office 365 or SharePoint deployment?
It’s the same thing isn’t it? How do you take the staff you already have, the dedicated employees already in place and make them more effective? So effective, that you feel confident enough to take on something as daunting as a strategic, culture changing Office 365 implementation?
I’ve always thought of Information Technology (IT) as a leadership role within the organization. This is where innovation and change can occur at a level where the right strategy impacts the way the entire organization works. This is so exciting! It’s also an area where it’s easy to become the ‘money pit’. You know, the department that only spends money and continues to roll out solutions that managers and business users alike refuse to adopt. Those users can be fickle can’t they?
I often hear from IT that the business users don’t handle change well. That they just don’t want to change their bad habits. I’m going to call IT leadership out on this and let me tell you why. What I see happening is that there is a clear lack of ability for IT to communicate to the business and vice versa. IT – this is on you! The reality is that the business and IT speak with different terminology, they have different priorities and most strikingly, IT can sometimes develop the idea that the business users just doesn’t have the skillset to adopt the technology. I find this generalization mostly untrue. Conversely, the business thinks that IT just doesn’t understand them, and generally, I do find this to be true. I’ve worked with many organizations and it’s truly a matter of providing the right tools at the right time, with the right amount of support. This will allow even the most challenging users to adopt new technologies.
I know what you’re thinking….
“But our users won’t adopt the tools we’ve put in front of them”
“Our users will go back to their old habits after a week or two”
“We even provided training, they still won’t use it”
I get it, we see this all of the time. Specializing in SharePoint, we’re especially prone to hearing this because SharePoint, for all it does well, can be challenging to understand. But I ask you this-
Did you ask the business what they wanted before you built it? Or did you assume you understood what they needed?
Did you sit with them while they performed their job so they could show you what they meant and not what they actually said?
Did you work in an agile format so that you could help them understand the technology and the new possibilities before you rolled out the solution as the final production version?
Once your solution was rolled out, did you clearly communicate how to use the tool? Did you provide adequate support? Did you plan an additional phase to tweak it for additional needs?
IT can get so wrapped up in how we think the business operates, or how the business currently operates, that we eliminate the possibilities of how they should be operating instead. It’s extremely important to ask why the business performs a function a certain way and not just how. We frequently find that the business is spending a great deal of effort to work around limitations and they don’t know a better way is even possible.
If you are a leader in IT in your organization and you are struggling to understand why your SharePoint implementation hasn’t been as successful as you had hoped, or maybe you are just getting started on your Office 365 or SharePoint journey – I would suggest that you circle back around to your team and start asking questions like those I mentioned above. Do we understand why or are we just addressing how? Observe how much time your staff spends with the business – do they leave their desk to communicate to the users? If you find they struggle to communicate well with the business, or IT is at a remote location, then take a look at your technically inclined business users. They don’t have to be a business analyst, just someone who knows a particular department or process well that can bridge the gap between IT and the business. As a consultant, this is where I spend the most time mentoring organizations, as I find it to be one of the most easily overlooked yet highly critical component to a successful rollout.
As business needs evolve and technology rapidly moves to the cloud, it’s more important than ever that IT stands ready to be Multipliers! Eliminate the negative talk in the organization and eliminate the attitude of IT vs the business. Enhance the productivity of the employees in your organization by engaging both IT and your business users together as one team. Generate ideas that stretch IT’s understanding of the business and allow IT to stretch the business’ ideas into the art of possible. Use the combined knowledge available to you as a leader to amplify the positive momentum and support an IT strategy that everyone in the organization can be proud of.