It’s fair to say that you’ve invested a lot in your IT support team. If you have an IT support team in house, then you’ve spent time and money recruiting them, training them, and developing them with the hard and soft skills necessary to perform at a high standard. You’ve spent money on computers, software, desks, all sorts of gadgets you may not understand, and of course plain old (but not plain cheap) floor space in your office. If on the other hand you have decided to outsource IT support you have made a big investment in other ways, not least of all the decision of which IT provider to place your trust in. You have made the commitment to bring these people into the ‘inner circle’ of your organisation to provide services to your people that are at the core of your business’ daily activities, and continue to invest in the relationship with every interaction.

Having made such a commitment to your IT support team, you need to ensure you get the most from the investment. Here’s how.

Communicate Openly

Your IT people want to help, they really do, but they can’t work in a vacuum. No one will argue the benefit of ensuring that IT is properly aligned with the business, but a lot of people still seem mystified by how to make this happen. In my experience it’s actually very easy. You just need to openly communicate with IT what the business strategy is, and how the business will benefit from IT involvement.

You may think that your IT people don’t need to know about your marketing strategy refocus, or about the gradual shift underway towards just-in-time inventory in the packaging warehouse, but if I position the question another way – how can you expect them to align their efforts with the business if they don’t know where the business is heading?

Keep your IT people up to date on where the business is heading, and they will do everything in their power to keep IT aligned with that vision too. If you feel this isn’t happening, then talk with your IT people about it. Don’t assume they have no interest in the business, and are only interested in their computers. You may be surprised.

Involve them Early

Your IT support team may appear to work magic at times, but rest assured they do not actually have super powers. When considering a new corporate initiative, make sure you include your IT people in on discussions at an early stage. This way they will be able to offer the benefit of their knowledge and experience to help the project move forward effectively.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve seen IT brought into projects (both big and small) late in the piece, only to be the unwilling bearers of bad news as they share why the current project plans will hit technical problems. No one wins in this situation. The IT people look like the bad guys, and substantial investments of time and money spent in planning have been wasted and need to be redone.

By looping IT in on discussions at an earlier stage the project team will have the benefit of their knowledge early on, and will be able to plan the project accordingly, avoiding any unnecessary surprises further down the track.

Nurture the Relationships

Whether you have your own IT people on staff, in your office or offshore, or via an outsourced arrangement with a managed IT service provider, your IT people are just that – people. As such they will flourish and bend over backwards to please you the more that they are made to feel welcomed, and valued members of your team.

Despite the popular adage, IT people are not mushrooms to be shut in a dark basement and fed….mushroom food. They are people who love to help, and engage, and feel appreciated, and the more you can make them feel this way, the harder they will work to help you and your business.

Like any working team, your IT department will flourish under the right conditions. They may be able to achieve more than you dreamt possible and show you the best possible return on investment if you keep them in the loop on your business direction, involve them early in project planning, and nurture your relationship.