Ask Better Questions to the IT Department

Want to get better answers from IT? Ask better questions.

I’ve been in a lot of meetings where people from different teams are making requests of each other and both walk away frustrated. I’m amazed how people approach IT with unreasonable demands and unflattering comments, and then walk away upset that they can’t be more helpful.

Here some ways to get better answers from your IT partners:

  1. Explain what you are trying to accomplish, not what you think they should do. Your perspective is often as a consumer which is different technology than most large businesses use. Don’t ask why you can’t have what you have at home, because they may tell you- and let’s be honest, you really don’t want to know. Just stick to what you need and stay focused on it.
  2. Describe the kind of information you would like to have and how you would like to see it. Draw your ideal dashboard or report on a piece of paper, being as specific as possible, and ask them if they have something similar already or could create something similar for you.
  3. Tell them with whom you would like to communicate. Explain how you would like to communicate – one way, two way, with text, videos, etc. Let them help you figure out what is getting in your way and who else should be involved in removing barriers. Remember, IT will know where the data is, but they do not own the data so they may need to pull in others to give you access or to capture data that is not currently being captured. For example, many Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) have fields to collect to whom someone reports, but many organizations don’t make that a required field. You may need to talk with HR or business units to convince them to populate the information so you can reach certain groups. Sending your questions in advance helps pull the right people together in the first place, and you’re likely to get better results if your partners can do some research before meeting with you.
  4. Ask them to connect you to the right person in IT to help you with each need. The first IT colleague you approach may not have the answer. Trust them that there is a reason for that. Technology functions can be large and complex and sometimes the information you are looking for is in different systems supported by different people. Let your business partner guide you through that.
  5. Ask them how to get your needs prioritized and let them guide you through the process. This is a good time of year for this as it is probably early enough in your budgeting cycle to get your projects in the queue. There are almost always more projects than there are resources to complete them, so be patient and start early. It will actually get you the solutions you need faster in the long run than trying to go around the process. If you can’t wait, explain why and work with IT on interim solutions.

How has your role evolved in concert with the CIO’s? Does your enterprise standardize IT issues management?