4 Calls to Action: Challenging Conventional Ideas about Technology


Over the course of my career in technology, I have often been amazed at the conventional misunderstanding that the majority of non-technologists have about Information Technology’s role in project initiatives. The general disposition is that the technology components are a certainty. Another notion is that technology should be dealt with separately or as an afterthought. Compounding this approach is technologist themselves as a general group being reluctant to engage in the board room or high-level discussions.

A few examples I have come across recently have lead me to believe that a paradigm shift by technologists would increase the effectiveness of their departments and organizations dramatically.

The first example is an advertisement focused towards IT professionals. This ad’s message was to use a vendor’s service to get IT out of meetings. This perpetuates the problem of IT support as an afterthought. If you are not in the meeting, you cannot support the initiative fully. Technology isn’t a constant like gravity and water. The purveyors of technology are not mystics that are relegated to secret locations to create ‘magic’ solutions. They use tools to engineer solutions to meet the results of their clients.

The second example comes from a local school district. The idea of standardize tests using computers and software isn’t new or complicated. A large school district planned to proctor standardized test starting on a scheduled day. The students, the teachers and administrators were prepared for the big day. The district’s children all logged onto the system to begin the testing. The volume of demand quickly over capacitated the server and the system crashed. The planned event took into account everything but IT’s ability to support the expected capacity. The failure to include IT in the planning rather than the assumption that technology, gravity and water just are proved catastrophic.

These four calls to action are intended to change the idea that technology is not a solution, but a tool. The call to action can be summarized by these changes in the technologist approach.

  1. Technology is a tool, not the solution. The idea that if you buy this glittery device, you have solved a problem has created a chasm in IT’s ability to support their stakeholders. Tech companies’ greatest strength has been in marketing. A smart phone can do thousands of things. Most people only need to do ten things. If you have nails, wood and a hammer, you don’t have a bookshelf. What you have is the tools to make one. However, the perception is that if I buy a piece of technology, I have solved the problem. Technologists need to clarify the tool vs. solution perception. It creates more problems than it solves.
  1. Technologists must push outside of their comfort zones. They need to insist on being in meetings with people. Time is short, projects are due. All professionals feel the pinch of limited resources. Meeting with and making time for project managers is the gift of time being given back. Being involved in the planning of projects allows IT professional to enhance outcomes instead of just supporting them.
  1. IT exists to support the organization, not just its own goals. Most IT services exist to support the greater goals and missions of their organization. I am surprised how many IT professionals seem concerned only with the ins and outs of the IT department’s goals. Learning what others do in your organization will allow for better organizational outcomes. This may also result in more appreciation for what IT professionals do instead of the assumption that they are mystics.
  1. Your job is to make sure the output is right, not to pass along the output. The role of human beings in IT is to make sure the outcomes are right, not to assume the computer is right. If that were the case there would not be a job that computers couldn’t handle. Garbage in and garbage out still applies.

These call to action can turn the tables for IT’s ability to support organizational goals to a greater capacity. Better support leads to better outcomes — something all members of an organization desire.

Derek A Stertz is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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