A tech in
January 20, 2006
** Listen to this
column on your computer, iPod or other audio player **
to the Podcast
I am sure you have all experienced it. Some department
comes up with a great project and now, only when they are ready to implement
it, they come to you to figure out how to make it work. The want to know
what computers to use, what software and, by the way, this has to have
some custom software written that has never before been created. Once
again, you as an IT worker find yourself in the unenviable position of
giving these people 100 different reasons why the project is infeasible,
exorbitantly expensive and perhaps even counter productive to the goals
of the company. In many cases, they will accuse of you of being an obstructionist,
a technology dictator and sometimes, even worse. You must be lacking in
vision to not see the elegance of their plan. In reality, though, much
of this conflict and strife could have been avoided, if the department
had included a high-tech worker at the very beginning.
A dividing line
When I worked in the corporate world, I often noticed how high-tech workers
were sequestered away from the “creative folks.” Like some
form of high-tech janitor, they were expected to be somewhat invisible
until called in to clean up some technology mess. Unfortunately, this
type of thinking is often what yields the big technology mess in the first
place. Instead, high-tech workers need to be integrated into the flow
of every project, much like you would with engineers, artists, architects,
project managers, etc.
Every project these days, from a new high-rise building to a new consumer
product to a new fashion line, has a technological component. There is
no escaping this fact. Computers and other technology are an integral
part of life unless you are living in the wilderness and even then, you
might still be using a computer. Computers control the heating and cooling
of buildings, they make your new Tickle Me Herbert doll laugh at your
stupid jokes and they control the equipment that manufactures your new
dress before it ever shows up on a rack at Target. You ignore technology
at your own risk and yet, thousands of projects do just that every day.
There are many reasons for this. Often creative workers believe that including
high-tech workers at the start of the project will limit their vision
and prevent them from creating something entirely new and different. Others
see high-tech workers as “worker bees” who are only there
to implement their ideas, not comment on them. Some people put no thought
to technology at all, considering something unworthy of thought, as it
has nothing to do with the “Art” they are creating.
It must be done
If your company isn’t integrating high-tech workers into their projects
today, I can assure you they are suffering many, if not all of the headaches
mentioned above. Projects that are rolling along with the creative speed
of a freight train suddenly come to a crawl as they hit technological
walls that were never imagined. Products that require new manufacturing
processes have to wait until tech workers can be brought up to speed on
the project and begin to develop solutions to their unique technology
problems. The lack of high-tech worker integration takes an essentially
parallel project process and suddenly reduces it to a serial process.
Had high-tech workers been involved from the start, they could have been
developing the necessary technology as the project grew, instead of being
seen as a choke point that brings the project to an utter standstill just
at the time when everyone else wants to see it become reality. Organizing
projects in this outdated fashion puts unfair pressure on high-tech workers
and exposes them to anger and disdain when in reality the process is at
fault and not their technological skills. They are simply suffering from
an outdated process that ignores the last 20 years of technological advancements.
If you want to make your high-tech department shine, you must find ways
to integrate high-tech workers into every project at the earliest possible
moment. It is only by providing your insight and knowledge at this point
that you can ever hope to provide the best technology solutions for your
company. Doing so will raise your profile in your company, expand your
influence, challenge your skills and build a better high-tech career.
Question of the week: In what ways can you
offer guidance and information to the project groups in your company today?
If you would like to join a discussion of Career-Op questions, visit the
Career Opportunities forums at http://forums.friendsintech.com/.