Helping the Organization

Helping-a-friendI just read Tom Catalini’s “Everybody Knows IT, But They Still Need Help” where he wrote:

People know IT now. But they also need help. That’s not necessarily obvious to them, because it can be obscured by their comfort level and experience. It’s obvious to you, though, so don’t be afraid to take a leadership role and help.

Very true.

Most folks in organizations are very comfortable with the basics of technology today. With that comfort, it request much less effort by IT organizations to introduce technology to the organization.

The ‘old’ days of IT put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the IT group for introducing new technologies to the organization as well as teaching user’s the basics of usage.  Today, most employees have a good feel for basic technology. Additionally, many people within organizations are very technically savvy and are able to understand technology without any assistance from IT.

The role of the IT group has shifted from ‘gods of technology’ to that of technology enabler.  We no longer need to wait for IT to tell us about a new technology or solution. In fact, IT groups are getting bombarded by the rest of the organization over ‘new’ technologies and solutions.

This dynamic is one of the reasons that many IT groups have begun moving into a pure operational mindset over the last few years. They have felt as if they can just focus on ‘keeping the lights on’ and helping to implement new solutions and technologies.

This operational mindset is the wrong approach in my opinion. The future of IT lays within two main areas: Consulting and Leadership.

When I say consulting, I mean exactly that. The IT group needs to step into a role of helping the organization understand and use technology. Additionally, rather than sit back and wait for the organization to bring a technology, solution or project to the IT group, the IT team needs take a leadership role in helping the organization identify technologies and opportunities where technology can help.

Tom has it right. Everyone knows technology, but there is still plenty of room for IT to help organizations out.   How are you and your team trying to help our organization out?

An Educated Client Is a Better Client

This is a guest post by Elmer Boutin. 

education By Sean MacEntee on flickrI read with great interest Eric’s post of January 31, 2012 entitled Do things when you should … not when you have to. I agree with what he wrote, and it really got me going about something I’ve been mulling over in my head for several weeks: An educated and knowledgeable client is better than an ignorant one – especially if you want to help them do things at the right time.

I have a day job, but I do consult with small businesses and nonprofits on a regular basis. When I started consulting, I would do most of the work and not show anyone how to do for themselves or why I did what I did.

While I understand some clients want and need someone to just do for them, I found I really liked teaching, and those to whom I took the time to explain things responded quite well. After consulting gigs where I taught the client in more of a mentoring-like setting, I found the experience exhilarating. Teaching allowed me to have a positive impact in someone else’s efforts by giving them confidence they could maneuver around marketing technologies.

Even better, those people now had the knowledge to make better and informed decisions about strategy and tactics in their online efforts. This actually makes my work a lot easier.

Recently, I was helping the owners of a restaurant in a touristy part of Texas. They wanted to get some social media going, but had no idea where to start. For our first meeting, I put together a presentation which introduced concepts and gave suggestions on where to begin their efforts. After they digested the information and were ready to proceed, we met again. This time, I sat behind them at their computer as we walked through setting up accounts on social sites, claimed their name and location on those sites and even set up “check in” discounts.

While I know it may have been overwhelming at first, they soon got the idea and by the end of the afternoon they were claiming their spaces and setting up deals without much input from me. We’ll need to meet again to go over more advanced concepts, but I knew I did well when they emailed me the next day with the great news that several customers had already checked in and took advantage of their 10% off deals. That gave me (and I’m sure them, too) a great sense of accomplishment.

By taking a teaching/mentoring approach, my clients have become smarter. They have the confidence to move forward, to work online for their business as well as they do offline. They are learning how to “adapt and overcome” to the constant change of the online landscape.

To get back to Eric’s idea: How do we get clients to do things when they should rather than when they have to? We teach them. If we’re going to expect our clients to make those timely decisions, we have to equip them to do so. We have to give them the background knowledge to be able to look at what’s going on around them and be able to ask the smart questions. We have to develop trust with them and establish that we are the experts in whatever field we consult on – and if we can do that before the first time the client calls, all the better.

“How do I do that?” you may be asking yourself. Here’s your tip on doing something when you should: If you just asked yourself that question, then follow Eric’s (and my) lead, start a web site and start sharing some of your knowledge. Go! Do it now! If you want some advice on how to do it, ask in the comments and I’ll show you where you can get information to get going. Read the post I linked to in the preceding paragraph and see how someone else established credibility in their field to the betterment of their business.

As you take on the role of coach/mentor/teacher, both you and your clients will benefit.

Elmer Boutin is a Marketing Technologist and has worked in web marketing for almost 15 years. His first experience was as a free-lancer doing web sites for local businesses such as car dealerships and an art gallery. Later, he ran an online rental property referral web site aimed at assisting military people find homes before they moved. He’s currently Webmaster at a Texas-based decorative surfaces manufacturer. You can read more articles by Elmer at

Image Credit: education By Sean MacEntee on flickr

Fixing the ‘pain’ isn’t enough

No pain By trees like lungs on flickrIan Brodie wrote a nice piece last week titled Why “Finding the Pain” is a bad strategy that resonated with me.

The approach that many companies and consultants take with clients and potential clients is to ‘find the pain’ and provide services to fix this ‘pain’.

I’ve taken this approach many times myself with much success, but Ian makes a very valid point – solving the ‘pain points’ is really just the first step…and its also the easiest thing to do.  But easy is just that…easy.

Ian writes:

Problem solving to address clear areas of pain is something most organisations have got good at, and that a whole bunch of consultants and coaches can do pretty well.

Very true.  Many companies know what their pain points are and they have a good idea on how to solve those pains…or at least they know many companies / consultants they can reach out to so solve those pains.

Ian continues:

Sure, you might have to start by fixing some core problems – find the pain and stop the bleeding in medical terms. But you then have to move on to something much bigger.

Ian wrote his blog post from a consultant’s standpoint….but the idea can be applied to all areas of business…especially IT.

After reading the post, I shared the link on twitter. Almost simultaneously, I heard from two folks – Tom Catalini and Kelvin Lindley – who had the same thought.

[blackbirdpie url=”!/KelvinLindley/status/74675652971855872″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/tomcatalini/status/74838478889824256″]

Both Tom and Kelvin are spot on when they said that ‘fixing the pain’ isn’t enough in IT any longer. We (in IT) can no longer look for the ‘pain’…there are too many easy ways for the organization to ‘fix the pain’ these days.  Its much too easy for a person or group to find a solution to their problem in the ‘cloud’.  Its much to easy these days to plunk down a credit card and buy a year of service from a SaaS vendor.

Finding the pain is a tactical approach to solving problems. Rather than look for the pain and try to fix it…we need to dive into the organization and really understand their needs and wants.

Whether you are an IT professional working inside an organization or a consultant like me, its time to step back and take a strategic approach to helping the organization.

Sure…fixing the pain is necessary but oftentimes that pain is a symptom of a larger problem.  The CIO’s, IT professionals and consultants that can help organizations solve those larger problems are the ones that will survive and thrive.

Image Credit: No pain By trees like lungs on flickr

Are we treating the symptoms, or the real problem?

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of knee pain.  For the last few months, its been constant and regular and seemed to get worse when I would spend a lot of time on my feet.  My initial thought was that my years of powerlifting in high school was finally catching up to me and I was finally seeing the response to have over 500 pounds of weight on my shoulders (I won the national powerlifting championship in 1990 at 16 with a 550 pound squat, 350 pound bench press and 500 pound deadlift). That’s a lot of weight to be on anyone’s shoulders, but probably worse for a developing young man.

I was about to resign myself to the fact that my knees would ache for the rest of my life or I’d have to have some form of knee surgery, until one day I happened to realize that my feet began to hurt a bit before my knees hurt.  It seemed that the foot pain was a precursor to the knee pain.

I did some research and found that when you’ve got bad foot support in shoes, it can cause knee pain.  About that same time, I saw the Dr. Scholl’s FootMapping Machine and its ability to ‘read’ your feet and tell you what type of orthotics to buy.   I found a machine at my local Wal-Mart and tried it out…sure enough, it told me that my low arches were forcing pressure on other parts of the feet, which is exactly what my research said would cause knee pain.

I bought the recommended orthotics and now…no knee pain.  I’ve been pain free for a few days now.

It would have been very easy for me to call up a Doctor and describe my knee pain and my history.  It would then have been just as easy for that Doctor to prescribe surgery for that knee pain.  And…it would have been easy for me to spend tens of thousands of dollars on medical expenses on something that turned out to be poor support for my feet.

Instead…because I spent some time research the issue, I found that I could solve my problem with a much simpler approach.  For $50 I was able to solve the real problem causing my knee pain.

Much like the current business environment isn’t it?

Many organizations today are in pain and are looking for solutions.  They’re patients looking for a good doctor.  They’ve got a lot of pain, and there’s a lot of people willing to offer medication or surgery for that pain, but very few people willing to treat the real problem(s).

Take social media as an example.  There are problems that social media can treat well.  But…there are a lot of people prescribing social media for many different ‘pains’ and ignore the underlying problems.

For instance…if your organization has a history of poor customer service, would you first take a look at the customer service organization, culture and processes for ways to improve? Or…do you do as many organizations are doing today and join twitter,  FaceBook and other social media platforms to ‘engage’ with your customers?

Many consultants & companies will tell you to ‘get out there’ on the social media platforms to engage with your customers.  These people are treating the symptoms rather than the real underlying causes.  The pain is the blow-back created by poor customer service and many people would argue that by ‘engaging’ with these customers, you’ll somehow magically improve service.

While this might be true in some instances…it doesn’t address the underlying problems. You may improve service for a few people (or few hundred people) using social media but the underlying problem still exists….the problem of poor customer service. Social Media won’t solve the underlying problem of poor service culture or processes.

Of course…treating the symptom works in many cases.  Have a headache…take an aspirin.  No more headache…for now.

But what happens when that headache isn’t the actual problem?

What if that headache is actually just a by-product of meningitis or a tumor?  Without taking the time to really understand all the symptoms, just treating the headache may not treat the real problem.

That aspirin would help the headache today…but it’ll return tomorrow.

So…next time you see a problem in your organization, take a good long look at it and make sure its the real problem before throwing money & bodies at it.

Make sure you’re solving the real problem…not just addressing the pain.

Links for May 30 2010

Cheetah Learning – funny video ad for CAPM

Kristen over at Cheetah Learning, one of the best Project Management Training groups out there sent me a link to this YouTube video…..I love it!

Why do ads have to be boring?  They don’t…and Cheetah has figured out a way to get their point across in a funny manner.    Enjoy the video…and if you’re looking for some excellent PM training / learning aids, check out Cheetah Learning.

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