My experience in IT Service Management has been with large, global organizations either driven by fast moving global markets or supporting highly complex infrastructure and application sets. It is easy in these types of environments to forget the main purpose of technology support. When things break, it is usually all-hands on deck. Needless to say, it is a highly reactive environment. These types of environments suck technologist in to becoming focused solely on the technology rather than the reason for being.In 2003, I was asked to move back into my old support team to head up the group as my old Manager had decided to resign. During my absence the team had grown substantially and morale was less than desirable. The business was growing, as was the demands placed on the team. Having cut my teeth in this environment I was very familiar with the pressures of ensuring that the business was executing on all cylinders, with as much up-time as possible 24×7. This had, and was once again, taking its toll on even the senior support analysts on the team. One of the first things I did when returning to the team was to have one-on-one sessions with each and every one of the 20 team members to determine not just what they were working on, but more importantly where their heads were at. This was something that seemed the logical thing to do as a mid-level manager of a support team, which I likened to managing troops under my charge during my 8 years in the Marine Corps. I began every session with one simple question which guided the discussion from that point forward. It may seem like a strange question, but one vital to ask anyone in a support role:
Why are you here?
Profound in its simplicity, I was set back by the general response across the team. Most of the responses began with”I support X application,” “I perform monitoring on X systems” or “I respond to user calls about broken hardware.” In every case, in my mind these were all wrong answers. Of course these are the functions they perform while on the clock, but as to why they were there, I wanted to hear things like “To make sure the users can do their jobs,” “Make sure we can deliver to clients,” anything of that vein would have been more than welcome, but it was not what I was hearing. I asked myself why these individuals had lost touch with the basic business deliverable of not only IT, but that of the company as a whole.To me this is often an oversight of Management lost in administrative responsibilities more driven towards demonstrating delivery to leadership instead of establishing a culture of understanding as to an individuals up-stream contribution to the business strategy and bottom-line. Without that perception of self-worth any individual will quickly loose sight. As a result, you will not get the level of individual performance by a person in technology who is clear on their purpose and contribution to the corporate mission. Take someone in Sales for example, they are very clear on their goals, deliverables, contributions and value to the business. Their approach every day is to bring in new business to raise the bottom line as well as gain a commission, if that is the value structure in place. In technology, this front-line value structure doesn’t always exist to drive awareness of their contribution. For this reason, it is vital that managers keep as part of their responsibility matrix, the importance of communicating the team’s contribution to the overall business delivery model to its clients and how that helps the business be more successful in relation to other competitors. Reach out to the business and try to get your hands on the annual report information. That information is not only critical for you to understand, but ot use as a motivational tool to get everyone aligned with the business drivers. We used to love hearing this type of information and where our company sat in the market against our competitors. It became a subconscious driver to feel like we were truly part of the team. Not the IT team, but the corporate team, as a result we pushed that much harder to give the business the tools it needed to help the company compete with its competitors. As managers, it is easy to get wrapped up in the metrics and numbers in delivering technology. Just never lose sight on the PEOPLE who deliver that technology and helping them feel as a vital part of the business, not just a tool used by the business.