If you’ve spent a month in the IT field, you know how rampant information hoarders are. They have the credentials you don’t, the access you could desperately use to make your job easier, and hold a position in the department that is as critical as it is nebulous. Some people don’t even know they’re doing it – these are the ones that are over-tasked and under-managed, and just don’t have the time to worry about your job. Some people cling to information because it makes them feel powerful – they have something you don’t. You have to go to them. You can’t do your job as well without them. You need them. Then there are those who understand what I was told during my undergraduate studies: “You are paid for what you know.”
I never really understood this until recently, and there is a real danger in the IT department being too transparent. I think internally, IT should and needs to help each other out, but does the finance department really need to know how the Quickbooks server is set up? Maybe not. I used to think that IT was one of the most stable jobs in the market, drawing a parallel between demand and stability, but it really isn’t. Us IT professionals are treasure troves of knowledge to end-users, and there are many people who would love to suck that knowledge out of us and toss us aside when they’re done. Instances of this happening are rampant in the corporate and especially the small business environment.
When I take a step outside my own shoes, however, I can understand how this happens. IT will hardly ever make a company a profit. In actuality, IT costs can escalate very quickly to be the biggest expenditure for a company. We’re one big red number, and I think the fight to communicate the value of IT to the officers of a company is all but a lost cause. To them, we are both the car they drive to work and the insurance on that car. We get them places, and we can fix ourselves when something breaks. That being said, what happens if we tell them about Uber or Lyft? What if we teach them to fix their car themselves? Then they no longer need us, and we will have effectively put ourselves out of employment. That is why information hoarders exist – to save themselves from not only things like outsourcing, but also as a way of recognizing that there is very little we do that can’t be learned on the Internet.
Just think about it – almost every IT professional has their own physical and digital toolbox, and we guard it with our lives. If we were so secure in our positions, then why wouldn’t we let any Tom, Dick, and Harry use them? While the bulk of that reason has to be because they’re worried about them breaking something, I have to believe as well that it’s because they don’t want them to know how we do our jobs, for fear they might take it upon themselves to run with that knowledge and un-employ us.
It’s for all these reasons that the CIO position is so critical in the corporate environment. Us lower-level techs and admins really do need someone above us in the chain of command who serves as a buffer, communicating our value to the other agencies who just don’t get it. If we’re forced to fend for ourselves, nine times out of ten we’re going to lose that battle, and the only thing we’ll have left is whatever information we managed to hold onto.