Bill Gates, who obviously never asked the question “what does an IT specialist do”, once said:
“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without them talking about the other”.
Sometimes business leaders and managers may be vague about information technology (IT) and may not fully understand how to answer the question, ‘What does an IT specialist do?’ It can be all ones and zeroes to the point where you just nod your head in agreement (while your neurons are racing up and down your neural pathways trying to pull out relevant archived material).
I wrote an article for Financial Mail encouraging business owners to become tech experts within their own organisation. This interwovenness that Bill Gates speaks of is growing rapidly and business owners need to have a handle on it to make effective decisions around a key business driver – information technology (IT).
If you are a business owner, leader or manager and can’t speak ‘computer’ it is imperative that you educate yourself so that the next time someone asks you the question “Hey, you, what does and IT specialist do?” you can have an answer.
What does an IT specialist need to do within your business
An IT specialist is a professional who is trained and skilled at solving technical problems within your organisation and navigating the following areas of IT:
- Computer software (like MacOS)
- Hardware (best computers for the job)
- Networks (how computers communicate internally)
- Cloud platforms (like Google Drive)
- WiFi set up (does it supply sufficient bandwidth)
- Cyber security (to avoid being hacked)
Below are some examples of what an IT specialist should be doing within your business and some of the skills they need to be successful.
1. Accurately diagnose problems and deliver solutions, either through knowledge or research
The IT field is very broad and rapidly evolving on an annual basis. An IT specialist needs to keep abreast of these changes and make sure they have a grasp on the latest technologies, like operating systems, to be able to explore multiple scenarios and pin point the cause of any given problem.
Allow them the time to continually research best global practice and industry standards, as well as rapidly changing updates. We recommend setting aside some time one day a week where you as a business manager and your IT specialist, have a briefing session on your organisation’s IT set-up. Allow him to present his latest research and then troubleshoot the best scenarios together through a quick brainstorm.
With this approach he can get up to speed on the latest developments and, through these meetings, you can begin to learn to answer the question, ‘what does an IT specialist do on a daily basis’, which will give you more peace of mind.
2. Be good at maths and understand the telecommunications sector
It is one thing to research and acquire information but what does an IT specialist do to be able to analyse that information, make sense of it and implement that information in a solution-specific way?
Make sure your IT specialist is able to see the big picture and doesn’t get caught up in the reeds of only fixing full mailboxes.
An IT specialist should be good at maths; should understand the inner workings of telecommunications systems and should have a firm grasp on geometry and statistics. These are important skills to look out for before hiring an IT specialist.
When you draft interview questions to ask before hiring an IT specialist start with the heading ‘What does an IT specialist do’. Then having done your own research draft some relevant questions and researched answers that you can take him through during the interview.
Set up a scenario for him, for e.g. “We get held to ransom by cybercrime, what would your approach be to curtail an event like this”? You would have already done the research around the answers to these questions and have the answers in front you to see if his are in some sort of alignment.
3. Strong planning and solid communications skills
For most IT specialists being able to communicate effectively and integrate themselves into the team can be a hard task as they tend to be less passionate about engaging with people and prefer working with systems. We all need to do things in our job that can be outside of our comfort zones. IT specialists need to be able to effectively communicate with colleagues to extract information from them about a technical issue and to be able to take someone through the necessary steps from problem-to-resolution, in layman’s terms.
4. Your IT specialist will need extraordinary patience and blueprints
They will need special patience to work with the less tech-savvy among us. This can be better achieved if an IT specialist has a plan in place. For example, they should draw up a professional looking blueprint of your organisation’s network and be able to explain this blueprint within a presentation. This is particularly important when onboarding new employees.
5. They should know how to draw up an IT troubleshooting guide
Another crucial task of an IT specialist is to develop a troubleshooting guide. A troubleshooting guide will save the time of ‘fixing’ those computers that simply were not turned on, needed to be restarted or were not plugged in (you know who you are). This type of list may take time in the beginning but it has the following positive effects:
- Others are empowered to solve IT problems themselves at a basic level and so it saves time on the ‘soft’ issues
- Your IT specialist won’t waste time looking for a solution previously discovered
- If your IT specialist ever left your organisation, he or she can hand this guide over to the new IT specialist who doesn’t need to start from scratch
As a leader or manager of the organisation you need to understand this guide too.
Finally, your IT specialist should possess skills beyond a qualification
Despite the obvious things an IT specialist should have, like the right qualifications, their skills need to go beyond that. They need to become a thought leader in this space, within your organisation, and they need to be able to communicate those thoughts to all stakeholders in a way that makes sense.
They also need to have a bigger picture of the business as a whole and add value as a key driver of sustainability and growth.
You, as a business owner, or leader need to take the time to acquire more knowledge for yourself about IT (which you can do in partnership with your specialist) and to build a relationship with them where you are solving IT-related problems together.