One day, a little more than five years ago, a guest speaker was brought into our organization to talk about ‘entrepreneurialism.’ She was excited and engaged about this area and provided a resource where you could reach out if you were interested. So, I did. Ever since then, I have been hooked. I have been frequenting the entrepreneurial activities around my city and actively participating in a variety of organizations. It has helped me think differently in my established company - and behave differently. I credit this experience for teaching me how to LEARN. This is an acronym that I developed to help me demonstrate IT’s role in my company:
L (LISTEN) is the start and key to the value that we, in IT, need to provide. We need to LISTEN to our internal and external customers, our management, and our peers to determine what they want versus what they need (the true requirements to help define a solution). Listening – and I mean listening – can help deliver effective and efficient solutions that provide value. This helps dissuade some of the previous opinions of IT being overhead but begins to shape IT as a valuable and solutions provider.
E represents an ENTREPRENEURIAL mindset. This mindset is one of tenacity and focus. The entrepreneur (or in my case, intrapreneur) is a thought process of taking a calculated risk, understanding what problem you are trying to solve and who your customers are. It is not trying to solve world hunger but, instead, focuses on ensuring that a few hungry people (your customers) get fed.
A represents a fundamental action that IT sometimes forgets – ASK. Information technologists sometimes get so caught up in the technology and implementing it that we forget to ask our customers what the problem is. Once you start asking the questions, the answers begin to provide the requirements which provide a solution that is valued. It offers you opportunities to successfully implement technologies that were developed to solve the problems.
R is RESPONSIVENESS. I have encouraged my team members to take ‘Minutes’ from the discussion, re-iterating action items, and target dates for them. This clearly shows what our responsibility is and what is the customers. With general Emails, I have also encouraged that they respond to these Emails in a timely way, even if the response is, “I haven’t forgotten about you. Can I get back to you tomorrow?”. This responsiveness encourages two things: 1) assures your customer (user) that you heard them, thereby, establishing trust, and 2) demonstrates accountability around what is our (IT) responsibility and what is theirs.
N is for NETWORK. This is not the infrastructural noun term but rather the verb. Sometimes IT people sit behind our computers, stay in our office or cube, or stay with our fellow IT people. Coming out of our comfort zone, and interacting with our customers/users is the best way to understand what they need, how we can help, and how to grow and evolve our IT organization. It also enables us to understand the business so we can be proactive in offering solutions versus reactive.
It was through using the above paradigm and developing the entrepreneurial mindset that I have been able to broaden my IT departments. They have worked with the customers and users, being invited to sit at the table, breaking legacy silos. This has also worked with even the most technical of customers (the engineers who are launching SMART Manufacturing projects). Having a team that is willing to LEARN is the best enabler that I have had to be a successful intrapreneur in my company. Being invited by my customers at the beginning of a project and not in the middle of the end has been the best validation of my IT team’s value to these customers and demonstrating our ability to learn.