A Credibility Equation for IT Specialists
Why are IT groups frequently left out of decision making that involves IT? When companies decide to outsource IT, why are CIOs out of the loop? Bashein and Markus suggest these oversights are due to IT specialists' low credibility. Business people who don't understand what IT specialists contribute to the business simply do not trust them.
Two elements of credibility are perceived trustworthiness and perceived expertise. Trust is based on similarity and likability, prolonged interaction, appropriate behavior, and consistent behavior. According to the authors, IT specialists frequently fail to gain coworkers' trust.
Bashein and Markus studied two organizations in the midst of major business process change to determine whether their view was correct. At Advanced Healthcare Systems, which was reengineering to reduce costs and improve patient care, they found that the IT department had been left out of the initial planning. By the end of the project, however, the perception of IT had changed. Although IT people attributed the change to new technologies and solutions, the business people attributed it to the IT specialists' ability to be team players, speak their language, be patient, and support them throughout the process. They began to feel comfortable with people they had formerly distrusted.
At American Electronics Corporation, there were similar themes, as IT was left out of the initial planning but established rapport through one-on-one meetings, team participation, and efforts to understand the business.
The authors conclude that IT specialists should focus primarily on creating a reputation for trustworthiness before emphasizing expertise. They should meet one on one with managers; listen well and ask questions; use business, not technical, jargon; allow for plenty of time with clients; and survey customers for suggestions. Once they establish trustworthiness, they can enhance credibility by, for instance, explaining systems, introducing technical terminology gradually, and maintaining problem logs.