In the world of IT, amassing personal power is all about boosting credibility. As Andy Avila, IT and security manager at San Francisco law firm Cooley Godward Kronish says, "Credibility brings power because with it plans have a better chance of standing for themselves."
So how do you go about increasing your credibility? Avila and others share these tried-and-true tips.
1. Focus on clear communication without the technobabble. "A lot of IT people grow up in the IT world. To expand their role and become more important to the organization, they need to learn to speak business," says Paul Lemerise, executive services partner at consulting firm Tatum.
At Colorado State Employees Credit Union, that means sparing executives and other managers detailed technology explanations, says Tom Gonzales, senior network administrator at the Denver organization.
Instead, he translates what he wants to do with the technology into how it affects the bottom line. "They're not going to be impressed with how successfully I can rewrite the code on a PIX [firewall] . Instead, they want to know that I can upgrade the firewall without hindering productivity," he says. "I need to show them that I took steps to avoid inconveniencing our customers, and that I understand it's not about the technology but about serving the customer."
2. Prioritize technology training for you staff. Don't make the mistake of underusing your training budget, says Donna Manley, IT senior director at the University of Pennsylvania. Taking the time to improve your team is critical for morale and improving your overall approach to technology, she says.
As an example, when Manley was charged with bringing the school's [data center] to the next level, she sent her team through training to update their skills. "The better they are, the better I am," she says.
Avila also is a big believer in training. "A lot of our training is technical so we [learn to] understand the systems and technologies we're going to be implementing," he says. He encourages his team to get third-party and vendor certifications, as well as attend seminars and join legal services peer groups.
"When you stand up before executives to propose or defend a project, you need that education behind you to gain credibility," he says.
3. Create opportunities for regular face time with users. If your user base say "we," "us" and "our" when talking about IT projects, then you know you've successfully positioned IT as a critical part of the organization, Lemerise says. He recommends putting yourself in your users' shoes when assessing a problem. Too often, he says, IT managers have blinders on and solve a particular network issue that doesn't address the overall problem. For instance, if a user at a remote site is getting poor performance, the IT manager may tweak that person's computer instead of considering that an increase in bandwidth to that office might improve everyone's performance and boost overall productivity.
Manley keeps in touch by participating in the university's IT roundtables and power user groups. "These groups help precipitate the type of interaction we need" to understand concerns, she says.
Face-to-face communication is a must for building credibility, Avila adds. His team meets with users as much as possible, even though the firm's eight locations are across the country.
"I like meeting people on the front line -- the partners, associates, secretaries and administrative staff -- who need the help-desk support," he says. "When we do cutovers, we make it a point to do floor support in conjunction with phone and help-desk support. That way, when they call in later for assistance, it brings a level of comfort, confidence and credibility to how they view our team."