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How to Make Confident IT Decisions When You Aren’t Technical 

Have you ever walked into a packed meeting room, feeling tension thick in the air before anyone even says a word? 

This was one of those meetings. 

Each of the leaders present knew that their organization was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on IT, and no one was happy.  IT gave reasons and promises, but nothing was changing.   

They weren’t happy, but they also didn’t know what was wrong. They had to change something – but what?  Without understanding the root of the problems, how was change guaranteed to help?   

Many of the leaders expressed frustration because they weren’t technical.  “I’m deeply concerned, but I just don’t know the questions to ask. How can we solve this when no one on the leadership team understands the technology? Do we need to hire a senior technical leader to solve this? We can’t afford that!” 

My response: Organizations with less than 500 staff rarely have a senior leader with technical expertise, such as a CIO.  In fact, for every 1 organization in the United States with a CIO, there are 100 without!  The 99% still need IT leadership to be able to make wise IT decisions.   

Ryan Robinson of Mainstay Technologies the author of this blog about IT decisions
Ryan Robinson, Partner at Mainstay Technologies

IT Decisions – Asking the Right Questions

In this meeting, clarity came as we asked questions, confirmed their concerns, and provided the industry viewpoint on what they should expect regarding IT decisions. 

IT challenges are all diagnosable – whether it’s staffing, budget, or technical. And this one was no exception. 

Everything changed as clarity crystallized.  These business leaders were wise, confident leaders – they just had been handcuffed by a lack of clarity.  Once they had it, they decided with conviction, and change was on the way.   

One of the leaders expressed it well: “Before, I felt one thing, but my head knew something else. Now, my head and my gut are aligned.” 

Empowering Business Leaders as IT Decision Makers

I have the good fortune to meet with hundreds of business leaders who have IT questions.  Each time, my focus is the same: How can I bring clarity so that I can empower IT decision-makers? 

Good IT decisions do not require technical knowledge and experience.

Instead, the decision(s) involve simply requiring that every person responsible for IT outcomes (regardless of how “technical” they may be) expect clarity, ask for guidance, be attentive, listen to their gut, and check decisions against business outcomes.

Recommendations if you are a decision maker over IT: 

  1. Expect clarity. Future problems lurk in the blurry areas of business processes!  If you are uneasy, things don’t make sense, or you just aren’t sure, pay attention to that. Clarity does not require technical experience. However, clarity is a must for IT decisions. 
  2. Ask for guidance. Whoever leads your IT is your partner (the only way to manage them as a vendor or full subordinate is if you are deeply technical and involved in day-to-day management).  Ask for – and expect – guidance in decision-making. You don’t want to just hear “buy this.” You want explanations with context, understanding, and options. (You also want a reasonable response time from your partner.) It is critical that you have a strong working relationship with your IT partner that builds trust. If you don’t have that, you can’t solve anything else meaningfully.  You must have a partner who can provide seasoned guidance. 
  3. Be attentive. You don’t need to be technical, but you do need to be attentive. Business leaders can sometimes think, “I don’t want to be in the weeds!” which excuses them from thoughtful attention. You may not need to be in the middle of every detail, but sometimes the only way to help arrive at your destination is to look down at the road and make sure you’re still on the right path.  
  4. Listen to your gut. If something feels off, talk about it.  Don’t assume that it’s you, that you just don’t understand IT, and that you should blindly trust. Blind trust is dangerous! Your head and your gut should be in alignment. 
  5. Check decisions against business outcomes. What do you need out of IT? What’s important to the business? Don’t let the details of technology cloud the true priority. If your organization is like our clients, you need reliable technology that isn’t hacked, that is easy for your staff, with predictable and fair costs. Decide with that in mind. 

When all of that aligns, you don’t just have clarity; you have confidence. Confidence allows you to make the right decision for your organization, as you do in other nontechnical areas. 

Confidence comes from what you know and what you feel.  It comes when there is both clarity and competence.  

If you lack confidence in IT or the clarity even to know what IT decision to make, please consider having a conversation with us. We have brought clarity and confidence to hundreds of leaders like yourself, whether it’s through an assessment, through ongoing services, or through a simple meeting.   

Considering how critical IT and Information Security are to your organization. At Mainstay Technologies, we do not believe “confidence” is optional!