How to talk to IT staff

In a recent Prescient seminar, a communications person lamented about how hard it is to talk to IT staff. She had requested something and was told no because there was a firewall issue. She didn’t get what she wanted, and worse, she doesn’t know or understand why not.

Technology has its own mystique and jargon and woe behold those not in the know.

IT support is vital and most people take it for granted. Having someone available to answer your questions and provide you with technical solutions is mandatory in today’s technically dependent world. It’s true that they can have cumbersome protocols and processes and you may end up waiting in a long queue, depending on the support IT receives, but at least you have the peace of mind in knowing that technology is someone else’s problem.

So when one of our attendees asked, “How do you talk to IT?” I developed these helpful tips for communicating with your IT department staff.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes

    – IT staff are under appreciated. When something technical goes wrong they’re blamed, never mind where the fault or cause lay. They deal with a demanding and impatient clientele – let’s face it, everyone wants it now and everyone’s job is a priority. And they often deal with stupid, not just ignorant, questions. (We’ve all heard the tales about the “any” key and the disk drive being used as a cup holder). So give IT a break – make sure you give them time to deal with your request and if possible, supply them with the financial resources to achieve it.

  2. Set project goals and communicate them

    – Define the scope of what you want to achieve and then….

  3. Involve IT in your project

    – Ask IT what is the best way to achieve your goals from a technical standpoint. They may already have a solution that can do what you want which will save you time and money. I know of several examples in which senior executives approved application purchases independently of each other and of IT – meaning software was often duplicated or redundant and unnecessary purchases were made. And worse, IT was expected to support all purchases even though they were never a part of the decision making process. (Are you starting to feel their pain?)

  4. Respect. Ask. Listen

    – Respect your IT department. I guarantee they’ve had a hard day. Ask intelligent questions, and anything you don’t know or understand should be asked. And listen to what they are really saying. If they say something can’t be done the way you’re asking (and they probably hope that’ll be the end of it and you’ll go away because they are really busy), then ask them if they have any ideas of other ways you can achieve your goals using technology. You may be surprised at how willing they are to provide you with a solution once you make it obvious you value their opinion.

  5. Be prepared and do your homework

    – At a recent workshop I attended for communication professionals, the presenter held her mouse over her video clip in PowerPoint to play it and then proceeded to keep clicking her mouse resulting in the video clip starting over again. She did this several times and said she didn’t understand technology or why it wasn’t working. I finally told her to move her mouse off of the video to advance the slide. She obviously hadn’t practiced nor did she ask anyone. She revelled in her ignorance and blamed technology. For shame. Ironically her presentation was on leadership –which she did not display. I have news for any communications professional shrugging their shoulders dismissively about trying to understand technology – it’s here to stay. According to Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

  6. Become friends, or at least friendly, with your IT staff

    – Treat IT staff to a coffee or lunch and pick their brains about improvements you can make. Start to understand technology in your corporate environment – you may be able to help each other.

  7. Build a business case

    – If you have a problem or an idea that you want to implement research its feasibility. Ask IT what can be done and what the cost is or do your own research to find out. Build a business case to show the advantages and get approval and financial support. If you go to IT with a project that they had input in and with your own budget – things will go a lot smoother. Reading our free white paper on

    Finding ROI

    will provide some good ideas.

  8. Adjust expectations

    – Sometimes only a partial solution is available or a phased in approach needs to be taken (due to time and financial constraints). Don’t blame IT. Work with them to get the best solution today and for tomorrow.

  9. Keep informed and share what you know

    – It’s hard to know about everything going on with technology, especially as it is continually changing. By keeping informed about terms and trends, however, and never being afraid to ask questions your knowledge and understanding will grow. (May I suggest being a regular reader of our newsletters

    Intranet Insight and Internet Strategy

    and blogs:






    isn’t a bad source either.)

  10. Appreciate

    – Give IT the credit they deserve and thank them for their help. It may be hard to grasp some of the technical jargon, but “thank you” is always understood.

As a communications professional you have enough on your plate to worry about without trying to understand all the latest technology and its ramifications. Instead, try understanding your IT support staff and work with them, they’ll appreciate having your respect and understanding and you can get what you need with peace of mind in knowing someone else is worrying about it for you.

Prescient Digital Media is a veteran web and intranet consulting firm with 10+ years of rich history. We provide strategic Internet and intranet consulting, planning and communications services to many Fortune 500 and big brand clients, as well as small and medium-sized leaders.