We’ve all run into him, that tech guy, the lynchpin of the company. He grapples with arcane IT matters. He’s nocturnal, often up until 1 A.M. rescuing a database or rebooting a server. He speaks in Klingon.
He’s the IT Wizard, shaman of the tech domain.
What many firms don’t know is this guy is bad for business.
Speaking of words …
Let’s look at definitions.
A shaman or wizard is a priestly figure who acts as an intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds. By definition, a shaman has powers that mere mortals do not.
If you want to access that special world—in this metaphor, the world of technology—you must go through him. He owns the magic.
Business people often promote the idea of technologists as shamans. Just look at the extreme awe with which we regard tech entrepreneurs like Sergey Brin, Larry Page, or Steve Jobs.
Wizards can be limited
But while secret vaults and mystical powers make for good fiction (Harry Potter fans, that’s for you), they do not make for good business.
For one thing, technology is not magic.
It is a logical discipline that, with a little effort, is perfectly comprehensible to most business professionals.
Still, it’s socially acceptable, even encouraged, for professionals at all levels to declare, “This technology stuff! It’s just too much for me!”
Statements like this smack of Prissy in “Gone with the Wind,” wailing, “Miss Scarlet! I don’t know nothing about birthing babies!”
Can you imagine a similar business professional saying, “This financial stuff! Why, it’s just over my head!”?
Technology staff who are allowed to act like shamans often “hoard” their special magic. They perpetuate the idea that they have a unique ability to work the alchemy that is technology. They don’t consult with the business lines because they consider tech decisions to be an exclusive right of their realm.
A witch’s brew, where business stakeholders don’t know what’s going on, and mid-level technologists feel empowered to make critical decisions with no input.
For example, it’s only discovered later that an upgrade to the database has compromised a future sales initiative—about which the tech wizard knew nothing.
Undoing the spell
What can you do?
Don’t treat tech people like shamans—and don’t put up with a technologist who acts like one.
Ask questions. The best tech professionals will discuss even complex IT topics in transparent language that makes things perfectly plain.
And remind yourself that finance and accounting also have opaque elements, but that most business people master enough about these disciplines to do their jobs.