Monday, January 20, 2003

Making a List

I'm making a list tonight of things I think are worth knowing & understanding if you're a tech... especially those things that might be counterintuitive and therefore could be raised here and not have the first reaction be, "Duh!" Instead, I'm striving for the first reaction to be, "No way; you're crazy!"

Here goes. When you think about what value you bring to your company, what comes to mind first? Whenever I've had this conversation with others, probably 6 or 7 out of 10 say their technical knowledge is their greatest asset. Better than 90% of you mention it as one of the top three. And why not, it's why most of us were hired, isn't it, for our expertise? What if I tell you that you're wrong. That you're so far gone on this one that it may even hurt you if you count on it too much. Would that get the reaction I'm looking for?

Here's why I say that. Think about it: Knowledgebase systems and other methods for tracking issues, calls, information, etc are getting better and better all the time. Many companies have such systems in-house and more are purchasing them. You may curse yours but chances are good it's better than starting over from scratch every time. It doesn't matter whether your customers have direct access to this information or you're an escalation resource and some other front-line agent uses it before they contact you for help. If it's something you already know, that information is (or it should be) already in there for someone to look up.

If they have to come to you when they could be finding the information easily without you, it's an unnecessary expense for your company and very few companies can afford unnecessary expenses these days. And, when unnecessary expenses pile up, eating into the profit margin, rank and file workers usually are the ones to suffer because labor costs in a knowledge-driven industry tends to be higher than just about anything else a company can spend money on.

So... if all this is true, that your technical knowledge is NOT your greatest asset, then where the heck does that leave you? Just what value DO you provide? I see two important components; one without the other is of marginal value... both together pack such a punch that hardly anything beats it. The first is, the capacity to grasp whatever is new and make it understandable for the other folks following behind you on the learning wave. In other words, learn and teach as fast as you can turn it around; don't hang onto knowlege any longer than is absolutely necessary. Even before you have it completely figured out, share out the pieces you've got worked through in your own head, and then move on to the next thing that's new.

The second thing is uncompromising service in every interaction you have - where service is defined as understanding what the other person really needs from you (and not just what they say they need) and delivering it in a responsible (to them, to yourself, your team & the company) fashion.

There are certainly other ways that tech-geeks provide value. And both of these mentioned are big enough to warrant entire entries on each one alone. Maybe more. So I'll leave it at that for now. Mostly I just wanted to share the general idea. See how it sits. If you think I'm nuts, send an email to and tell me why. Better yet, share an alternative theory and let's see what we can make of it together.

Don't count on your technical expertise as your greatest asset. Instead, think of your ability to learn and teach whatever's new and deliver it through outstanding (responsible) customer service as a far more powerful one-two punch.