Friday, October 07, 2005

Being Helpful

Today was fantastic at the Enterprise. So much was happening that the days are moving quickly even this entire week.

We are buying a new software package that costs millions. What kind of hardware will it need? What kind of database will be used? Are the clients fat or thin? (Clients used here do NOT refer to users but to the user-facing software piece. Microsoft Word is a "fat client" because you have to install software on your local machine. A browser that is used to visit Amazon is a "thin client" because you don't need to install anything special to surf to the Amazon site and buy stuff. Sometimes this is also know as a "glass client." )

Anyway, all of this technical stuff gets sent to me to figure out. What version of AIX will it support? Can you read the contract before we sign (30 pages) and determine if we missed anything?

I try to give my business clients (Directors and VPs) the fastest service possible. Even if I'm in another meeting and they page me, I'll duck out, call them to answer the questions, and then return to the meeting. They like this and they report their satisfaction up to my managers. Some architects make them wait so as to feel more important. This only backfires.

The key to any relationship is to provide service. This works even in business. If you serve them, provide the support they need, they will view you as great.

Some of the directors that have left the enterprise to work for some other enterprise, like Coke, think I'm fantastic. They'll talk about me after they leave. The reality is, I know where or who can help me get the information they are looking for. I always copy my source in email when answering the questions. This not only adds credibility to what I'm saying but also builds relationships between my peers and my business clients.

At first I didn't see much result from this method of work. Sometimes people took credit for what I recommended and presented it as their own. In one case, screens from the software I designed was placed into an executive presentation at a Board Meeting as a win for the Information Technology of the enterprise. When, in fact, it was Information Technology that opposed me all the way. (My name and team was omitted from their presentation.)

But now, things are starting to snowball. The momentum is building. People recognize the contribution I can make. It's a good feeling to be helpful. I like the feeling that I'm building teams across the entire organization.

I like to think of the individuals as droplets of water moving up the trunk of the sequoia, pulling each other along. Cohesion is key.

Or to put it another way, it all looks so disjointed and unconnected but today it came together. The ingrediants I've been mixing in have now congealed.

Speaking about people skills (often called "soft skills") someone once said: The soft stuff is the hard stuff. Ignore it at your peril.