Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve is at THAT Conference.
It’s always interesting to talk to others in IT about their work and I’ve been struck by how often they don’t have all the things they need to support their business efficiently and effectively. Maybe they need more servers or a bigger server, or they need Enterprise Edition, monitoring licenses, utility software, an additional team member, or even technical training. They know what they need, why don’t they have it? Because in most cases they didn’t ask for it.
Is it our place to ask? As the people doing the work, feeling the pain, and seeing the opportunities, aren’t we exactly the people that should be asking? If you’re thinking the answer is no, maybe it’s because you think your manager (or customer) should know, that it’s part of their job. That’s a fair expectation, but managers don’t always the time, energy, vision, or experience to know. Or to look at it a different way, if you were managing a team of IT professionals, would you want them to give you suggestions?
Even if you think that asking for what you need or otherwise making suggestions is the right thing to do there may be reasons why you don’t ask. Perhaps you’ve asked in the past and been turned down. Or your manager or the entire culture isn’t receptive to some kinds of requests. Not asking is less risk and less aggravation. We all have to figure out the people and the culture, because if you try too hard or try the wrong way you can easily be tagged as the person who doesn’t get it.
You might also not be asking for stuff because you think it’s too expensive. I see this a lot. We think about the money in proportion to our personal budget and values because that is our frame of reference. It’s just not the most useful one for business decisions. Instead, frame it as a way to improve the business. It might be reducing overall costs, increasing efficiency, reducing defects, or improving retention just to name a few. That changes the conversation from “that’s a lot of money” to “here is a problem or opportunity worth discussing”.
If you decide to ask for something, it’s worth being thoughtful on how and when you ask. You have to sell your manager first. If they see the value, then you have to help them make the case to their manager and I think that is often where things go awry. We aren’t the only ones that are reluctant to ask for stuff and if they don’t make a good case for it, nothing will get done. Assuming that they had a good conversation though, it will hopefully bubble up to the level of whoever manages the budget. At that point it’s an exercise in figuring out how best to allocate the money available across a list of wants and needs from many teams (or potentially to ask for money in the budget). Not everything gets funded, that’s just how it works.
If your request does get funded, hurrah! If not, try to understand why it wasn’t. Was it prioritization with the budget? Story not told well enough? Not aligned with the current areas of focus? Business being more cautious due to the economic climate? What you hope to learn is whether you should ask again next year and if so, should you ask differently? Or is this particular idea off the table, at least until a major change in leadership occurs?
Have I convinced you to ask for what you need, or ask better, or again? Or is it harder than I’ve suggested here, or more frustrating? I’m looking forward to the discussion (forum link below) and hope to hear many interesting points of view as well as stories of success and failure.