This is a bit of a follow up to a post a few days ago about whether having an open ticketing system would help with the communications between techs and the users they support.
As I mentioned there, and talked more about in the comments, when you have systemic failure to communicate, it’s much more than a technical problem. It’s a people problem, and in many cases, it a culture problem. If your organization sees their IT department as “those” people down in the basement, you are going to continue to have these issues with people not giving the techs enough information. Conversely, if your IT folks see the people they support as (l)users, you are going to continue to have issues with your techs no following up appropriately.
Worse yet, when these attitudes are displayed by the CEO, or the IT manager, there is no hope of it getting better, no matter what technology you put in place! If your IT department is in its own silo, you’re going to have problems. If all the other departments are in their own silos, you’re going to have problems that go well beyond tech support. From what I hear, this is actually pretty common in larger law firms, as each practice area tends to be in their own silo, not to mention staff departments, like IT, which exist even outside of those practice area silos!
As I’ve written elsewhere recently, there are some things you can do, even if you’re not in management, that will help. First and foremost, do some internal networking. Get to know people in other areas, develop relationships outside of the silo. Learn about what is happening in other areas of the firm and try to find ways in which your talents, or technology, can assist them in accomplishing things that are important to them.
Don’t wait for management to develop a plan to get rid of silos, do it yourself on whatever level you can. Go to lunch with someone in another area of the firm, offer to show them how to use some bit of technology during a brown bag lunch. I’ve had some success offering to show people how to setup an RSS reader, for example. It’s not official firm-approved technology training, it’s taking my own time to help teach someone how to use a technology that could help them, with their job, or with other interests.
One other area where I’ve only recently begun to consider is in the use of social networking tools. As I’ve been on Facebook for a little while now, I’m realizing just how much it’s growing in use, even among the non-techie people I know. In some cases, they are joining up to keep an eye on their teenaged kids, and finding plenty of old friends/classmates on the service, or are using it to connect with family members who are far away, possibly as a way to share photos, an then finding plenty of other groups and activities they enjoy, etc. Lots of these folks are also listing their work information, including employer.
I can’t help but wonder if “friending” some of these folks would help me to learn about their interests, and find common ground, or maybe increase the level of interaction with folks who I don’t normally get to see on a regular basis. At this point I’ve only connected with a handful of folks that I work with on Facebook, and none on Twitter, but I’m wondering if I should spend some time tracking down more of them, and using the technology to develop better relationships across silos. (Doing so without coming across as creepy stalker guy from Lit Support might be a little difficult though..*L*)
To me, a lack of communication in any business is a sign of a lack of relationships within that organization. People who know each other, are familiar with each other, and heck maybe even like each other, are more likely to share important information. People who don’t know each other, or who couldn’t even tell you the name of the IT person who helped them, aren’t.
Of course, since I met my wife at work 9 years ago, maybe my perspective on building relationships at work is a bit biased. I tend to think the better you know the people you work with, the better you are going to communicate with them, and they with you. It’s worked that way for me with plenty of folks that I didn’t wind up married to as well.
What do you guys think? Do you regularly connect with folks from within your organization outside of work? If you work in a law firm, what chance do you think an internal networking goal has of getting any sort of momentum with people who are ruled by billable hours? I will say, it’s been easier to build relationships with other staff members than it has been with lawyers. That is one silo that is going to be difficult to reach across, it takes time, and that’s time that isn’t being billed! Share your own thoughts in the comments…