In a previous post, I discussed why IT departments sometimes have trouble communicating with the rest of the organization. Regardless of why, however, here are some things that can be done to improve communications.
1. Do a user survey at least annually. Unless you have a very small staff, where you can do your survey with personal interviews, send out a questionnaire asking things such as how you’re doing, what new services or devices they’d like to see, and what aspects of their work seem to be taking too long and might benefit from a new app. If you want, put the survey on surveymonkey.com or a similar site. It will compile the results nicely for you and save time. Be sure to send out reminders until everybody answers. This is actually good PR, because they will remember being asked.
2. Do a needs assessment. The difference between a needs assessment and a survey is that you interview instead of survey. This gives you the chance to use open-ended questions and to let the users run on a bit. In another post, I’ll put down the kinds of questions to use in a needs assessment. You can do the interviews one-on-one or in groups. I recommend one on one for the higher executives. This can be time-consuming, so getting a consultant for this isn’t a bad idea.
3. Do a strategic plan. Every three years or so, it’s good to do an IT strategic plan, where you do the kind of needs assessment mentioned above but expand the project to include an examination of your infrastructure and applications and a roadmap for ongoing work plus satisfying new needs for the next three years. This is also a great place to insure that your department’s strategic goals are aligned with those of the organization.
4. Attend meetings of groups of users. If there are groups of users that meet, such as an administrative assistants’ group, you might want to see if they’d like you to attend a meeting and answer questions. In general, try to seek out meetings where you can make contact.
5. Prepare emergency messages in advance. One of the most important times to communicate is during an emergency, such as a network outage or service failure. Obviously, you can’t predict the emergency in advance, but you can think of the form of the communication you want to send and what elements should be in it, so that it’s quick easy to write when the need arises. Also, you might want to think about what different media might be necessary for this, depending on the outage. This is also a good place to get ideas from your communications department about how to write messages like this with the best tone.
6. Form an advisory committee. A committee can provide regular feedback, help with new implementations, and get your word out to people. It requires some tending, however, and there are various kinds depending on the governance situation at your particular organization. More on this in a later post.
7. Make the department more visible. This can range from producing a monthly or quarterly newsletter, to asking people about how IT is doing in casual group situations, to putting your help desk out in a public part of the office where people can stop by. The general idea is not to get isolated but to be an easily accessible part of the community.