Friday, November 24

What Does the “P” Stand For in IT?

Guest Blogger:  Steve Hutchinson is an IT Project Manager and holds an MBA from Xavier University.  He accepted a guest blogger invitation from his wife, Katie Hutchinson, eLearning Coach.  Even though education is not his major, it is his passion.

What if I was to tell you that information technology is not about technology at all? It’s about people.  Surprised?  Thought so. I still am and I have been working in IT for 20 years.

The younger the children the more likely it is that they have been exposed to various electronic devices.  Tablets seem to be an extension of their arms.  My 5-year-old nephew can beat me on most Wii and smartphone games (which I have still not fully come to terms with).

But what kids and most adults don’t realize is that the ‘technology’ in Information Technology is only a small part of a bigger equation.  Just because you understand technology in its many forms does not necessarily mean that you have any advantage in the workplace.  Sure, it is valuable, and we all know that there are more and more expectations on staff to embrace and leverage technology. But understand that the other factors contributing to success in the workplace are much more difficult to identify and master.  In fact many people will miss them altogether and even the best practitioners will admit that they will never truly become a master, only a willing student.

It used to just be in the office.  The white collar workers who got ahead were the ones that were adept at using the latest software and willing to embrace change.  But today it doesn’t seem to matter what type of job you are doing, chances are someone will shove an electronic device in your hand and tell you to say adios to the old paper process.

For students entering the workplace in the next few years and beyond, the willingness to understand and use technology will be expected.  What students need to also realize is that simply understanding software systems is no guarantee of success.

The factors that drive success in a job really haven’t changed all that much despite the inevitable advances IT brings.  I’m talking about passion and drive.  I’m talking about excellent written and verbal communication skills, high emotional intelligence, and the ability to maintain composure in difficult and high-stress situations.  Being the kind of colleague people trust and want to work with.

What good is it to be an expert amongst your peers if you cannot clearly articulate an idea, gain buy-in and affect change?  What good is it to know how to use all the features on the latest communication tools if you don’t understand your audience and what message they need to receive and when best to communicate it.

The best software systems in the world will always be a failure if leaders do not understand that it is also about the people and the process.  If the business process is broken and the people are under-performing, that shiny new ‘best in class’ software system will be no more effective than the one it replaced.

I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve been and I’ve learned many of these lessons myself, the hard way.  People care about relationships; they are often scared of change.  They want to be consulted and feel that they are what is important in an organization, not the latest and greatest Bling Corp Database.  An organization succeeds or fails because of its people.  It is the people that understand all the factors that will make them good team mates, not just the ones that ‘get’ IT.

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