I often remind my staff that we are technologists, not technicians. As an IT organization, Wharton Computing doesn’t simply focus on the day-to-day tasks required to keep the School’s technological infrastructure running; we also actively evaluate how all this technology impacts our students, faculty and staff. The key to success for any IT organization is to take the knowledge and passion of its staff, get it out of the datacenter, and evangelize solutions and services to users.
Evangelizing technology may seem unimportant at first glance. IT departments everywhere are busy running an increasing number of constantly evolving services with the same, or in some cases fewer, resources. But all of that work put into a datacenter is meaningless if users don’t know what services are available.
How do you get users’ attention when they’re already dealing with a daily deluge of information?
Transform the relationship between your IT department and users from one that is transactional (i.e., the only time someone thinks of your IT department is when something isn’t working) to a partnership and advisory relationship.
At Wharton we’ve found a relatively low-tech solution to get users interested in the latest tech trends. Face-to-face interaction trumps any other form. (HD teleconferencing and Web streaming are also important components of Connected Learning at Wharton.) People connect with other people, not with technology. So why not put some of the most knowledgeable Wharton Computing members in front of the School’s faculty and staff to present about interesting topics? Throw in some free food to encourage attendance, and you have the blueprint for what we’ve done here at Wharton.
These “Techfasts” (technology + breakfast) are simple. Every other month, a Wharton Computing staff member gives an hour-long presentation about a technology they’re passionate about, a project they’re working on or a hot trend in the field. While always technology related, the presentation isn’t restricted to Wharton-specific issues. Topics are drawn from a wide range of subjects. Past Techfasts have covered everything from Virtual Worlds, to computer security, to a mobile technology showdown between an avowed Android user and an iPhone devotee. Staff and faculty are encouraged to ask questions, share their thoughts and suggest topics for future Techfasts.
The reaction to our first Techfast was so positive that we have recorded each subsequent event for colleagues who couldn’t attend. Videos are even available for public viewing on our Wharton Technology website.
Evangelizing technology within an organization doesn’t take a huge budget, but it does require a willingness to get out from behind your computer and out of the datacenter to connect with users.