An IT culture clash can be dangerous, here's how to avoid it

It used to be that company IT decision makers could simply dictate the software that business units would use. However, in today’s business culture where employees use multiple devices to collaborate and complete work, the traditional one-size-fits-all approach to selecting software and cloud computing services is no longer effective for employee productivity.

Blurring both personal and work-life boundaries, today’s employees are always dialed in to work, even when they’re off the clock, and demand flexible solutions that enable them to work on-the-go and in their preferred environment.

According to a 2014 Gartner survey on personal device use, 40 per cent of employees at large enterprises admitted to using a personal smartphone, desktop or laptop daily for some form of work purposes. Furthermore, Gartner predicts that by 2017, 50 per cent of employers will require employees to bring their own device to work. With mobile device use becoming such a integral and cultural component of work, it’s never been more important for companies to begin implementing flexible IT solutions to recruit and retain top talent.

In fact, choosing customised IT solutions that meet the needs of end users is one of the biggest ways to keep employees happy. According to a 2014 study by Dell and Intel on workplace trends, the productivity and quality of work is directly influenced by the technology provided to employees. With fewer than half of the respondents reporting that IT considered their opinions when selecting new workplace tools, it’s not surprising that one out of every four workers expressed dissatisfaction with their company’s technology choices and would consider taking a new position if better solutions were provided.

So, if the selection of software is such an integral part of employee retention and workplace productivity, why are companies continuing to miss the mark?

With close to 40 per cent of companies outsourcing IT, one of the biggest reasons stems from more companies accepting generic IT recommendations in order to save money on an in-house, on-premise IT department. While there are benefits to outsourcing certain aspects of business, when it comes to selecting enterprise cloud software, all decisions should made after adequately understanding the overall needs of a company and the tight culture under which it operates.

Since culture is arguably one of the most important, intangible assets a company can “own,” its value has been linked to driving higher financial performance and greater employee productivity. A 2015 Glassdoor survey analysing Fortune 100 companies with strong company cultures found a meaningful economic link between culture carriers, such as employee satisfaction, and higher stock market performance among publicly held companies. Like any financial asset, it’s clear that a satisfied and engaged workforce working collectively under similar cultural beliefs is a highly valuable company attribute.

Knowing the importance of company culture and its affect on employee productivity, it’s clear that all IT decisions should closely align with company’s culture. To ensure your company is on the right track, here are three tips that will help IT leaders avoid a culture clash and still find solutions that satisfy security and compliance.

Understand the End-User

To prevent employees from viewing the IT department as an adversary, encourage both parties to work together and collaborate on how to move company processes forward more efficiently. Keeping in mind that there are often many departments, teams and workgroups within an organisation, it’s essential to select tools that cater to each department’s needs.

IT managers can more easily customise software and select secure cloud solutions for organisational workgroups by understanding:

  • Size of teams and overall hierarchy structure — what is the bandwidth and maintenance needed to support individual teams and who will will IT report to?
  • Preferred communication and collaboration methods — do teams communicate via email, chat, phone or face-to-face and what tools best facilitate these preferred methods?
  • Preferred methods of file sharing – are there any limits or security aspects to consider (i.e. do you run a creative team and need greater file sharing capabilities)?
  • Troubleshooting needs — do employees need an in-office IT help center or do they prefer a 1-800 type solution?

To understand further how teams work within a company:

  • Just ask! IT managers should frequently talk with employees to understand how tools are performing and what solutions they think would better serve a department’s work style.
  • Encourage managers to shadow employees in different departments to gauge the effectiveness of the tools already place. Oftentimes, watching employees work provides insight into the habits, preferences and tools they need (or don’t need!) to perform more effectively.

Overall, this type of collaboration encourages faster iteration cycles with software, adoption of new software and reaction to new risks.

Break Through Regional Barriers

For companies with multi-national and international offices, syncing culture with IT can be difficult. IT managers might find that answers to the aforementioned questions will vary drastically one state or continent over. Differences in language, customs, progression of technology within a region and more, make it critical for IT managers to accurately understand the culture of employees in various locations. The most effective solution to getting it right: name an IT liaison who not only understands the overall culture of the company but also has regional authority to help IT make decisions that align with a state, region or country’s cultural activities, rituals and preferences.

It’s crucial to have delegates in place at each of your company’s locations to help advocate the needs of employees.

Introduce a Trial Period

While taking the time to understand the needs of each department and cultural differences of employees in different locations is important, you ultimately need buy in, and that can take time.

Never force new, office-wide solutions on employees. If you do, you run the likely risk of users abandoning solutions and “going rogue” by introducing outside solutions to meet their work needs, which is a huge security risk.

The best way to introduce new solutions is to target influential teams to test the product or solution under a trial period, which should typically last six months. Along the way, work with selected teams to understand the pros and cons of the solution and how to perfect the software. Paying close attention to and getting buy in from influential teams will help spread “grassroot adoption” of the selected solution in the future.

Overall, culture is one of the most important aspects to consider before selecting and introducing companies to new software and cloud computing solutions. By paying close attention to the end-user, regional differences and launch time, IT managers will more successfully avoid clashing with a company’s culture.