How to build a winning IT strategy

Published July 8, 2014
Last modified July 8, 2014

IT is a unique discipline in that success is not measured solely by what you do, it’s measured by how people *feel* about what you do. And that means focusing not only on numbers and ROI and costs, but on a user-centric approach. We’ve been talking a lot about user-centric lately, but it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself, “What does that mean to my organization?” For me and my team, user-centric IT means helping our colleagues be their most inspired and productive through advising them on the best tools and enabling them to work when, where, and how they want.

That means user-centric needs to be part of the organizational DNA—a value that drives both technology selections and staffing choices. Nothing that looks simple from the outside ever is. Strategy and design are just as important as ever, and achieving simplicity takes a lot of work and smart design. The burden falls to your IT team to manage the complexity behind the scenes. You’ll be making choices to eliminate clicks, so it takes less time and maneuvers to complete a task. It’ll mean more automation to handle repetitive tasks, and better integration for getting clean data into the system.

When it comes to technology, user-centric IT leads to solutions that are designed for the end-user—the customer—not the IT team or a supporting operations team. You might find your traditional RFP process doesn’t fit anymore. Maybe you’ll even scrap it in some cases in favour of gathering feedback from software trials. The technologies you pick have clean, simple, intuitive UIs. They may even be a tiny bit fun to use. They may not be loaded with features, and that’s ok. You’re aiming for feelings, not features. You’re going for Box, not Microsoft. Beautifully simple solutions have simple rollout and adoption paths, and your company will love you for making them available.

User-centric staffing means that each hire on your team is important, because each member is selected for their customer-centric ethos. Your helpdesk personnel don’t just fix broken laptops, they are ambassadors for the IT department. They start with “Let’s see what we can come up with together,” not “Our standard procedure is...” They smile. They have good hygiene. (We all know the IT guy stereotype.) They may be quirky, and they definitely display evidence of a sense of humor. They seem to like their jobs, and they make you feel like a person, not a ticket number. It doesn’t sound a whole lot different from hiring anyone else in the organization, really.

I’m finding our user-centric philosophy has changed the nature of our relationships with other teams. Now they’re less transactional and more conversational. And so the attributes I look for in the people I hire and in the tools we select are different than they used to be. I am looking for people who are great listeners, aware of body language, and what’s unspoken. They have a history of being able to manage lots of different personality types, and they are collaborative.

User-centrism is the hallmark of modern IT. An element of it exists in the solutions you choose, the team you build, and the processes you roll out. And that will end up bringing about great things for your company and your team.

What do you look for when you hire new IT staff?