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Tips for Effective Internal Networking

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This article has been contributed by Kylie Fowler. Regular columnist and Analyst at The ITAM Review.

It is well recognised that networking is an important skill for professionals, however most of the information about networking available on the internet and in books is aimed squarely at job seekers, freelancers or consultants who are trying to build an external network that will help them find a new job or build up a pool of clients.

For those of us in secure employment with no desire or need to look for another job, networking can often seem an irrelevant waste of time. In fact, in some cases it may be dangerous, indicating to an employer that you may no longer be quite as dedicated and loyal as you actually are!

However ITAM is a team sport and ITAM Practitioners will find that practicing their networking skills internally is extremely helpful when it comes to stakeholder management, the art of managing people and groups which have an impact on your ITAM activities.

For an ITAM practitioner, the two biggest benefits of internal networking is to build up a stock of good-will so that when you ask someone to do something they are more likely to actually do it, and to gain influence so that when you say things should be done in a certain way, or that you need a particular resource, you are more likely to get it. Your ability to influence people is in large part determined by your credibility. If you are seen as well-meaning, positive, and always looking for the best outcome for all parties, then your needs and requests are more likely to be listened to.

Here are my top tips for garnering good-will and building credibility and influence within your workplace:

Connect other people

One of the biggest problems many large businesses and organisations face is that different parts of the organisation find it difficult to share relevant information. It is very common that knowledge may be held with one department that may be useful in other areas, but which no one outside the originating department is aware even exists!

ITAM practitioners often have an unusually wide number of contacts in different parts of the business because ITAM touches so many functions, such as finance, HR, IT, procurement etc. Be alert for opportunities to introduce people in different parts of the business to each other, and aim to become the ‘go to’ person when anyone is looking for contacts or information about things in IT.

But don’t just say ‘you could talk to so and so about this’ – actually follow it up with an email to both parties and a short explanation of why you’re connecting them, and then, if appropriate, follow up with both parties to check if the introduction helped, or if there might be someone else you can connect them with who might be helpful.

Connecting people is the fundamental skill of networking and it is this area that most networking articles focus on. But when you work in a large organisation there are other forms of networking which will also play a big role in your ability to generate good-will and influence others.

Make it your instinct to say ‘yes’

This probably sounds dangerous! But we all know people whose first instinct is to try and block anything new or different that comes along. Even at the best of times, people find this very frustrating, but in difficult times like the current recession, an instinct to try and minimise or resist change can even endanger a business that is struggling in difficult market conditions!

Change is one of life’s certainties, so try and facilitate change and ensure it benefits as many people and groups as possible. Be actively involved in any changes that are happening rather than just blindly accept what is thrust upon you. Do this by assessing the impact of the change on you and your stakeholders and suggesting ways additional benefits can be gained or adverse impacts can be minimised. It will raise your profile and will dramatically increase your credibility with management and your other stakeholders.

If you are in the sad situation where the change involves redundancies, and your job is itself at risk, do all you can to be supportive of management and ensure the impact of your leaving is minimised. Managers find redundancies incredibly difficult and aside from anything else, if you face redundancy with a positive attitude you will gain a glowing personal reference from your managers when you start looking for your next position!

Say ‘No’ positively

Say again? ‘No’ positively? What on earth does that mean?!

We all know that it can often be necessary to say ‘no’ to a request, either because it’s not your job, you don’t have the bandwidth or because it’s inappropriate for you to get involved.

But there are ways and ways of saying ‘no’. Saying ‘no’ in a positive fashion means that you always endeavour to help the other person make progress in whatever it is they are trying to achieve. Sometimes it might be by pointing them in the right direction to get their problem solved, by connecting them to someone else who can help them or just by being supportive and offering to listen over a cup of coffee.

Always aim to leave your colleagues feeling positive about the outcome of a request to you, even if, in the final analysis, the answer was ‘no’. You will get a reputation for being helpful, and it will be much more likely that people will help you in turn.

Help people help themselves

One great tactic for saying ‘no’ positively is to enable people to help themselves, and it is also a great way to build up good feeling about yourself and your role within the business.

Teaching someone to run a simple report themselves, for instance, means they no longer need to wait for you to run the report, but are able to get the data they need themselves immediately.  They may actually see this as a big advantage, as well as having the side benefit of reducing your workload!

Kylie Fowler

At other times, someone may need help with a task that you know how to do, but isn’t actually your job to carry out. In this instance, taking the 15 minutes or half an hour that is required to actually sit with them and tutor them how to do what it is they need to do can be immensely helpful. To have someone take the trouble to actively teach a new skill is generally a much more effective way to learn than using written instructions, and people really appreciate the personal touch and the fact that you took time out of your busy day to help them out.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I keep an email of useful intranet links that I send out to new colleagues or people who ask me for information about something contained in one of the links. I take 5 minutes to explain what the links are, and then help them add the links they think they will need to their short-cut bar.  It’s 5 minutes of my time that can save hours of someone else’s time over the course of their career in the company.

Internal networking isn’t just for ITAM managers or senior practitioners. It can also be a very useful tool for those at the sharp end of ITAM, analysis and administrators. Being seen to be helpful, yet in such a way that you manage your workload while supporting and enabling others to do their jobs more effectively will raise your profile and make you more valuable to the business.

If you are interested in more reading about networking, I found this article very interesting.  Unfortunately, as with most networking resources, it is aimed at those who are networking externally rather than internally, but I hope it will still be useful.

This article has been contributed by Kylie Fowler. Regular columnist and Analyst at The ITAM Review.

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Martin Thompson

Martin is an independent software industry analyst, SAM consultant and founder of The ITAM Review and The ITSM Review. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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