Consider this scenario. Your boss asks you to come up with an implementation plan for a new application or IT solution. You create what you think is a great one, but it gets shot down. Why?
You’re smart. You looked at the most important stuff, right? Usually when these things go off the rails, it’s because the solution was optimized but for the wrong thing.
As an example, let’s say that you value precision. You ask someone who values speed to complete a task. The results are delivered fast, but the results are not accurate. The person who completed the task thinks the work was great, but you’re upset because the ball was dropped, right?
Perhaps something like this just happened to you. You optimized, but your optimization didn’t include all of the factors that mattered to your boss. Usually we say “Well, my boss kept changing the requirements!” As technologists, it’s our job to help others be able to tell us what is most important.
How do we find out? We have to go beyond the original request. We have to look for, ask about and LISTEN for clues from what we are being told.
As an example, we recall an engineer who was asked to design a new blade solution for the data center of a big hotel chain. He researched all the options and recommended a solution that decreased operational costs, used less power, allowed remote management and took up less space than our preferred vendor could offer.
Unfortunately, the preferred vendor was far behind in this area. The solution he identified came from one of his competitors. Based on what he found, he recommended that we switch vendors.
His recommendation was shot down hard. Why? Because the hotel chain we worked for had a deal whereby the hardware vendor’s consultants stayed at the hotel. The revenue from their hotel stays was FAR greater than the savings from switching vendors. Our preferred vendor’s optimization of the solution didn’t factor in the business relationship between the hotel and the hardware vendor. Thus, his proposal was rejected.
We usually focus on technical factors, but the truth is that we are not only technology professionals. We are also business people who use technology to solve BUSINESS problems. We don’t talk about that much, but seeing ourselves first and foremost as business problem solvers is a critical factor in our long-term success as technologists.
So what factors should be considered to make the best decision? Consider these:
- Financial – By following this approach, could we actually save money? If it costs more, why would it be worth it?
- Security – Are there improvements or other implications? Are there concerns about this? For example, if the company has had a recent data breach, this might be so important that it outweighs all other factors.
- Compliance – Are there compliance requirements, and how critical are they?
- Time and Resources – Are there time and resource requirements? Can this create time and resources for internal projects/objectives that have been postponed? Never underestimate the value of this.
- Uptime – Are there requirements for high availability, disaster recovery or business continuity?
- Scalability – Is the solution going to meet future business needs?
How will you know what’s most important? Ask! (And here’s what to say.)
“Boss, I understand that you want me to design a solution to this problem. I’ve heard you say that I need to include X and Y. Are there other factors that I should think about? I want to make sure that my solution includes the most important components. I’m wondering about things like new regulatory compliance, security concerns or upgrades, financial drivers, improving performance, speed to market, or delivering more scalable solutions or adding new capabilities to support business requests.
I know that all of these matter. But in your opinion is there anything on that list that stands out? Have you heard any news or been in any meetings that might give me a clue about which factors might be behind this request, or that can help me get the resources or budget to actually make this project happen smoothly?”
When Your Boss Wins, You Win
You may find that you’re thinking ahead of your boss when you dig a little deeper. It’s possible that some of these factors had not occurred to your boss, so you’re providing value just by asking the questions. When you help your boss think about delivering more business value, it makes your boss look good. That’s a win for you.
Tom Cooper spent 20 years working in software and IT. As a geek, he discovered that most geeks are great at the technical stuff but not so great at the people stuff. Tom learned how to connect with others and now is a speaker, trainer and executive coach. Tom helps geeks communicate clearly, delegate effectively, manage conflict productively and plan well. For more from Tom and his podcast see: http://HelpingGeeksCommunicate.com/join