Storm the Castle! Staging an IT Coup in 5 Steps

Submitted on Thu, 6/7/2012 - 2:58pm
We want the IT Department to have a seat at the leadership table. You want the IT Department to have a seat at the leadership table. What about your leadership?

Here’s the situation: You are the IT person in your organization, but you don't have a seat at the decision-making table or you don’t feel that IT gets the respect it deserves. If this describes you or someone you know, or you just like having outlandish metaphors applied to office life, read on.

Step 1: Rally the troops.

First, make a list of all of your stakeholders and supporters, particularly other managers and key influencers or change agents in your organization. High up on the list of people to enlist is the Director of Accounting and key Program Directors. The titles of these people will vary greatly from organization to organization, but I’m sure you know who I’m referring to. After you’ve made the list, prioritize the people according to their ability and willingness to support your ascension to power. These are your troops; they will follow you into battle and fight for your control of all things IT.

Step 2: Inventory the arsenal.

Interview the troops to compile a list of unmet needs, pain points, and desires. During the interviews, be sure to get a sense of priorities and other people who are affected by the same issue. This list is your arsenal; it will provide you with all the firepower you need in a skirmish.

Step 3: Write your manifesto.

Analyze the arsenal to develop a project roadmap. Each of the items in your arsenal represents a potential IT project. Develop a list of projects, in priority order, with budget and timeframe estimates as well as a description of the benefits that the organization can expect. Add information to the document about your methodology – who you interviewed, how you came up with the estimates, etc. Most importantly, be sure to include a one-page Executive Summary at the beginning of the document. This may be the only thing that most people read, so include the most important projects and ideas there. After your first draft is complete, share it with the troops to ensure accuracy, generate further discussion, and get buy in. Don’t be concerned if it takes a few drafts to get it right; good ideas tend to beget other good ideas, so the document could evolve considerably from the first draft. You’ll know that the document is ready when the troops start itching to go into battle. This document is your manifesto; it will guide the troops (and those you conquer) in your quest for IT supremacy.

Step 4: Storm the castle!

Schedule a meeting with your Executive Director. Provide the manifesto in advance, but be ready to summarize and discuss it in the meeting. In addition to discussing the contents of the manifesto, be sure to convey your desire for complete ownership of the IT function. Tell your ED, "I want to be fully accountable for IT and help us leverage it to serve our mission." Insist that all future IT decisions pass through you and require your approval. Make a pledge to the ED that your first priority is the mission, and that technology will always come second. During the meeting, explicitly request a seat at the decision-making table, which should include participation in strategic planning, management, and other committee meetings. Be aware that this commitment may cause you to take on duties that you have never considered before, like budgeting and reporting. This castle-storming effort is your coup; it will establish you as the champion of the IT cause.

Step 5: Stand your ground.

During the coup you gained crucial ground; it is critical that you do not lose it. Keep the lines of communication open by scheduling recurring meetings with your troops and other key stakeholders. It is of the utmost importance to maintain strong relationships with the people who helped you take control. If possible, meet with the ED on a regular basis to report on your progress. Stage a full-blown revolt if any IT decisions are made without your involvement and approval. Do not forget that the manifesto is a living document; continue to revise it as new ideas, needs, and technologies emerge. These efforts comprise your occupation; they keep you firmly seated on the throne of IT.

I am fully aware that all of this is easier said than done and that the enemy will live in the details and detractors. To that end, please contact me for more discussion, motivation, scheming, support, and assistance. Keep fighting the good fight. Viva la revolución!

Jeremiah started with Design-PT in 2008. In addition to his duties as President, he regularly consults nonprofits throughout the Northwest on technology strategy, implementation, and management. Outside of Design-PT, Jeremiah serves on community advisory boards and actively promotes social enterprise and entrepreneurship.