5 Ways to Build Trust Between Business and IT

TSP • @myTSPnet


When you attend a Broadway musical, it’s easy to get swept up in the magic happening on stage — the music, dancing, acting, set, singing, props and costumes. Oftentimes though, no one in the audience thinks about the crew operating the lighting or sound or the team that must switch up the set between each scene. Who did the actors’ makeup and hair? Who decided what costume they’d wear?

The same applies to business. Customers and the end users typically don’t think of the IT team behind the business, except, of course, if they encounter a problem and are on hold with a customer service representative for hours on end fighting to tell the recording what their issue is and to connect them with the right department.

IT is the magic behind the operations of the business. If any musical is going to last on Broadway, the actors must trust their crew. The same goes for business and IT. For a business to operate at its fullest potential, there must be trust established between the leadership team and IT department.

If you ever start to notice numbers going down, customer satisfaction rates plummeting or organizational dysfunction getting out of hand, go back to the root of the problem — trust has broken down between business and IT. Here’s how to fix that issue, one step at a time.

IT departments need to tell it like it is. If there’s an issue and the leaders are not listening, IT needs to step up and embrace their much-needed candor. Everyone’s motivation is to please their bosses, colleagues and customers, but there'll be no satisfaction if everyone isn't honest about the issues at hand.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you can truly complete a task by the suggested deadline, say so! A musical won't succeed if the actors don't communicate with the crew managing props. Was a prop a few moments too late to get on stage? Actors say so. IT needs to say so, too.

Don't be afraid of disappointing or asking for help or clarification. Business is smoother when everyone’s on the same page. Good communication and listening skills help everyone understand the expectations and effectively convey their respective needs.

Executives’ minds are only focused on one thing: line items. If they’re so concerned about meeting outcomes and KPIs, IT professionals have to communicate with business leaders in a way that will resonate with them.

If you have a problem, suggestion or comment to make, frame it in a way that prioritizes goals and strategies of the business. For any IT initiative to work, it has to align with the overall company objectives.

Explain that “in order for our business to meet this goal, IT needs…” or “in order to improve the status of this metric right now, IT needs…” Make it about outcomes and the numbers. It all goes back to how you must first understand your audience for a message to resonate with potential consumers. IT professionals should understand what the organization’s leaders are working on, striving for and struggling with so trust can be properly established and maintained.

Trust takes time and effort to build, as well as collaboration and a team that works together well. For any problem to be solved effectively, more than one person needs to provide input. A leader can’t just explain issues to the one department in charge of that particular issue. For there to be trust, picture the entire business as a machine. One department cannot be siloed, it has to communicate and collaborate with other parts. Then, those parts must work with other parts.

Executives might sit in conference rooms making critical decisions about the business and its future, but they have to consider the people in the departments making those activities and goals happen. Understanding this allows for more ideas to flow, better solutions to be presented, and for the machine to be well-oiled and successful. Trust will then grow stronger, and empathy for what the business and its teams are dealing with will increase.

Pessimism, gossip and complaining is never productive. In fact, it’s a dead end. No solution is presented, no goals are adjusted, and it can lead to a highly toxic environment where no one trusts themselves, their teams or executives.

A positive work environment, and therefore trust, goes hand-and-hand with empathy. Leaders must at least try to understand the perspectives others are coming from and avoid making assumptions. If you don’t try these things, you’re basically giving employees permission to avoid difficult conversations that must be had in order for trust to not break.

Making difficult decisions the right way leads to a tighter bond and stronger trust within the business. If you work to stop the complaining, everyone will be more likely to rely on each other and work together.

The IT department cannot begin tasks without understanding the importance and potential effects on the business. Once there’s trust, innovation flourishes. Once the IT department knows ideas will not be shot down immediately, the business can be taken to the next step.

Asking why is critical to building and maintaining trust between the business leaders and IT department. Being curious allows for a deeper understanding, and allows the relationship to build on the trust already established. Additionally, sometimes curiosity is what spurs those crazy, weird and bad ideas that can lead you to the final good one that works and completely pivots the business.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations that business leaders fail to give necessary attention to IT. The well-oiled machine that is the business will not operate if there's a lack of trust, but it all starts with these tips. If business is failing or falling behind, take a peek at what’s missing and how that trust can be rebuilt.