The needs of the consumer and the capabilities of IT are more closely aligned than you might think.
The world of IT and the world of its “customers” often seem so far apart as to be on opposite sides of an insurmountable chasm. Laboring under the weight of mythology and prejudice, the customers see IT professionals as removed from the business, and therefore removed from their priorities and needs. The natural tendency, therefore, is to think that IT professionals don’t understand consumers.
After all, most consumers aren’t “geeky power users” like IT folks—at least that’s how the argument typically goes. In any case, IT professionals don’t interact with business consumers in the same manner as sales and marketing people. In our seemingly infinite and insatiable human capacity to denigrate other professions or groups, we get wrapped up in the unfortunate world of stereotypes.
As a marketing professional, I consider myself far more capable of writing, speaking and strategizing than I do of exercising any level of technological skill. Moreover, as part of a profession that’s always under the gun—something IT and marketing have in common—it’s natural to want to find others to blame or at least to poke fun at.
However, during my more than 15 years of experience dealing with IT professionals, studying the culture of IT and getting paid to connect companies with their technical audiences, I’ve come to understand just how important IT is to smooth business operations. From this experience, I’ve come to understand how deeply IT professionals understand consumers. I’ve learned more about the consumers of IT from my interactions with IT professionals than from anyone else.
So how did this separation of IT and its customers come to pass? How did this inversion occur? The answers are actually fairly easily derived from basic knowledge of the life of IT professionals. As a group, IT professionals are:
If we consider that IT professionals embody these characteristics, let’s shift the discussion to the consumer. Regarding consumers (especially consumers of technology), there are some basic discernible tendencies:
As you can see, the needs of consumers and the qualities of IT are quite well-aligned. It isn’t simply happenstance that IT professionals understand consumers. It’s built into the very fabric of what they do.
The next time you’re blasted with the notion that you as an IT professional are fundamentally disconnected from your consumers, you need to sit down with your accuser. Explain carefully how, if the entire organization embraced the basic principles by which the IT department runs, everyone would benefit from newfound knowledge. In the end, of course, the consumers would benefit the most.
Romi Mahajan is president of KKM Group. Prior to joining KKM, Mahajan was chief marketing officer of Ascentium Corp. A well-known speaker on the technology and media circuit, he serves on a variety of advisory boards and speaks at more than a dozen industry events per year.