I am a CFO, a Smart Guy/Girl, so How do I Get the Upper Hand on my IT Staff?
Last week we discussed why you can’t understand the language your IT staff speaks any time you question them; this week we will discuss how you can gain the upper hand, or at least level the playing field.
1. We Live in the Information Age
Today there is an unimaginable amount of information available on any subject, literally at your fingertips and only a mouse click away, thanks to the Internet. Anyone who is serious about gaining an understanding of any subject will easily find more than enough information available to become a master in the topic they choose to pursue.
- Google.com will open the door to more sources (including articles, how-to books, white papers, etc.) than anyone can ever hope to peruse.
- The “___ for dummies” series focuses on teaching difficult subject matter to people who have no natural inclination for the topics being taught.
- YouTube is full of videos that explain or demonstrate every concept or topic imaginable.
- Wikipedia is great at explaining very weighty material in a manner that is not directed only at experts in the subject and houses an unbelievable amount on information on Telecom/Technology.
So if you do not feel “up to speed” on IT or the related jargon your IT staff uses, get online and get updated. You will be able to easily raise a few eyebrows in your next meeting with the questions you will be able to ask (or answer!!).
2. Question, Question, Question
Knowledge is power and most likely the easiest and most readily accessible knowledge source for you is your own IT staff. While completely knowing and understanding the intricate technical complexities of network architecture is helpful, much of it is irrelevant to the cost and daily operation of your company’s network.
Most people have very little (or no) understanding of the workings of gas-powered combustion engines, but they use cars daily and without concern for how the car works. Such detailed knowledge is not necessary to actually operate the car, and the same goes for networks. You do not need to know the “how” nearly as much as you need to know “why” it is needed or preferable to other possible solutions or providers.
If your staffers are saying things that you do not understand, do not stay in the dark or be hesitant in questioning them, but make them provide answers in lay terms that will give you basic understanding. You can expand that basic knowledge with some of the tactics discussed through the online outlets discussed above.
3. Ride the Telecom and Technology Wave
Luckily Telecom and Technology are ever-changing. Currently the landscape is being completely redefined as Cloud-based solutions are replacing older, dated technology. This means that the vast majority of what you do not know/understand is very quickly becoming obsolete.
Your learning curve is shortened significantly as you can quickly get up to date by learning only about this new technology. If you gain a foundational understanding of this emerging technology, as new services are layered onto it in the coming years you will very easily remain more than conversationally aware of how it works and, more importantly, how it can help your business.
4. Who’s the Boss? YOU ARE!
He or She who controls the purse strings makes the rules. Do your research, ask your questions, do your verification, and brush up on emerging technology. Then you can make the rules on how to move forward. Challenge your staff to conduct an RFI/RFP so that vendors are pushed to provide best in class solutions and pricing.
Bring in outside help for neutral insights, objective feedback and additional perspectives as well as benchmark analysis, all without a slant toward vendor partiality or thinking that is framed by “we have always done it this way.” Join CFO chat forums or LinkedIn groups offering peer perspectives and success/failure stories.
Mostly, feel empowered to deny budget requests that you may feel pressured to approve (but lack understanding of what you are actually approving) until the request is made clear and understandable and the need is proven.
CAUTION: Budget denial and delays can hinder the progress possible through better solutions; knowing when and how to navigate this fine line is not easy but these actions will make it easier.
Next week we will discuss how your actions/decisions may be needlessly costing your company a fortune and actually impeding easy-to-attain progress.