One of the fascinating aspects of being an IT manager of a distributed company is discovering the office personalities. Not people personalities like “the office joker”, but how each office itself has a personality of its own. The challenge of managing technology in these environments is learning the idiosyncrasies of each location and then guiding them appropriately.
I’ve worked in companies where some of the remote offices take on a “Wild West” mentality, which sometimes leads to “shadow IT” purchases, both hardware & software purchased outside of purchasing guidelines and the knowledge of the IT group. Wild West offices also tend to consume IT resources as needed without considering that they are depleting inventory levels needed for new employees or the office in general. Perhaps this happens because they’re not directly connected to the main/home office, or perhaps it’s an attitude bred at the executive level and merely mimicked by the employees on the floor. Managing IT in these offices often comes down to a battle of wills, IT against the rest of the office. What we have tried to do is communicate the situation and the need for changes in order to gain the buy-in of the employees so they understand any restrictions and our requsts for cooperation.
Some offices are “People Pleasers,” eager to support IT initiatives. These oftentimes are made up of groups of support or other technical employees who understand the challenges IT faces. These groups are content to work with the resources available, cobbling together “Franken-machines” of discarded hardware. They tend to request software only when needed, after researching the features and options on their own. You rarely hear much from People Pleaser offices, which seems nice from a work request standpoint, but the challenge of these offices is that they tend to under-report problems or needs which then leaves IT to discover the shortfalls at inopportune times. With People Pleaser offices it is important to stay in touch with the hardware & software needs of the departments contained within so that upgrade cycles don’t lag behind.
Office personalities in big buildings can also change from floor to floor. Many times this depends on the manager of the group and how they set the tone for the work day. Sometimes the culture is set by the department – sales can have a frantic feel with promotions & contests, finance can be quiet as they focus on reports and data, software engineering can have bursts of energy as they let off steam and periods of quiet as concentrate while fighting fires.
What I love about these personalities is that IT gets to enjoy all of the diversity as we make our way through the company. Most everyone is happy to receive our help, and we get to be the heroes who save the day a lot of the time, or Santa Claus at other times, delivering tools or hardware that make people’s lives easier. (We don’t like to be the Grinch, although that’s part of the job every so often as well.)
Managing office personalities is much like managing people personalities – communication is key. Tough love is sometimes needed, but healthy doses of patience and kindness will carry you through most situations. The job of keeping the business running is serious, however, being mindful of how we conduct our interactions and operations will allow us to get along with the various personalities that we encounter through the company.