Procurement 8 September 2017

The business benefits to better understanding the work of your IT staff

Developing programming and coding technologies. Website design. Cyber space concept.
It’s important for smaller employers to treat IT staff in the same way as they would marketing and sales departments

Writing for Business Advice, Rob Belgrave, founder and CEO of cloud technology consultancy Wirehive, explains why taking the time to understand the role of tech and IT staff can help improve communication within a small business and drive its digital development.

No matter the size of their business, if there is one thing developers will agree on, it’s that there is just too much to do.

There are a multitude of reasons for this. As makers, developers have a habit of saying yes. They want to make more, they want to do things better, they want to help their business grow and become best in class.

This is a culture that is only growing as more and more businesses in every sector strive to become digital-first. Eager to prove themselves and up against fearsome competition, developers in start-ups and smaller businesses are under particular pressure to deliver results.

But the eagerness of developers isn’t the only reason why they feel overwhelmed – nor is it detrimental. The problem is a big knowledge gap when it comes to businesses seeking to innovate and implement new digital technology.

Today, as smart technology becomes intrinsically embedded in people’s day-to-day lives, there is a pressing need for businesses to embrace change. Naturally, in a competitive market the inclination for most is to want to be on the cutting-edge of digital innovation – and for many, even the smallest companies, it is now possible.

There was a time when clever technologies were in the hands of an elite few, tuckered up in Silicon Valley; but in the past few years technology has become more accessible, creating a more even playing field for businesses.

Amidst this, it is up to developers to make change happen. But their employers and co-workers generally do not understand the complexities of the task at hand. While tech might be increasingly familiar in a consumer sense, people outside the industry just can’t get their head around how it works – nor do they try.

Therefore, tech and IT staff are typically left to their own devices by the rest of the business. The seemingly incoherent nature of what they do leads to silos and lack of support. It also means the wrong people are given the wrong jobs. Expensive developers become fix-it people, rather than focusing on creativity.

Another impact of this discrepancy is that businesses struggle to know how to equip their tech and IT experts, whether with tools, resourcing, budget or time. This is made worse by the fact that today budgets have never had to be more accountable.

While larger, wealthier businesses are more likely to be able to take a gamble, for smaller businesses, every penny counts. There is also the issue of complexity management. In development, ideas have a habit of proliferating, with one new thing producing many more. The tech debt accumulates.

Breaking the cycle

One of the many exciting things about this technological revolution is that companies in every sector are diversifying their skillsets. A big bank, for instance, will need to hire entirely new departments to help it become future-proof for generations to come. Meanwhile, empowered by technology, small business owners have an unprecedented opportunity to compete with established and market-leading brands.

However, while technology is now a core part of the success or failure of any business, it’s often not the core skill-set of the people in charge. The good news is, that’s ok, as long as you try to understand the basics.

Not everyone in the business needs to have a detailed knowledge of what their developers are up to at any given moment. But it is important that they treat them just as any other department, like human resources, marketing or sales.

As someone who works in tech, it’s easy to lament that people who don’t work in the industry often don’t get it. But the point is that it is entirely possible to explain technology to non-technical people as long as you take the time to speak to them in a language that they understand.

This is one of the reasons I co-founded our web hosting consultancy, which helps clients make informed technology decisions and alleviates the day-to-day pain points of developers, freeing them up to pursue more creative projects and solutions for their businesses.

No matter your chosen career, work will always become frustrating when you are not able to do the job you were hired for. For developers, this is no different. Instead of treating tech as a catch-all term (and tech workers like a catch-all resource), businesses would do well to equip themselves with a basic knowledge of what developers should really be doing.

Only then can they ensure they find the right solutions – whether siphoning some of the tech debt to a partner or hiring different skill-sets – and ensure they are making room for what these valuable people can and want to achieve.

Rob Belgrave is founder and CEO of Wirehive and co-creator of Alexa Stop!

Find out which ten factors most affect the cost of developing a mobile app

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