Gaining ground in your organization’s business as a technical professional: Two Essential Tips

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Below are two tips that I think will give you opportunities to become more commercially aware of your organization’s business. Try them out.

1) See yourself as the managing director of your personal business, even if you’re an employee. Ask yourself if your customers (mostly colleagues) would buy your services and trust your company and brand? Do you add value to their business, and is it cost-effective (taking your salary and package as the cost)? Will you get orders for more valuable and important services in the future? By thinking you’re a business, you will be forced to consider the whole transaction of your work against your expense. The financial package you take, and the overhead your customer incurs in using your services (i.e. your managers time, your desk, your PC, insurance, restaurant subsidies, etc.) must be outweighed by the value you bring. If you want a promotion or a higher salary, your track record as a supplier must prove you can take on the extra work to make it worth it for your customer. Have you acquired new skills that can be applied to add more value? AS MD of your business that offers technical services, are you in competetion with other providers? Consider if your service is unique or whether you are the supplier of choice. Ask yourself if the technical skills and knowledge you hold is well packaged and can be bought and sold in your organization’s marketplace easily.

2) Understand the wider business context than your own department. As a commercial agent, you should understand how the service your department provides fits within the whole value-chain (i.e. how your organization provides its product or service from start to end). The cost and benefit of your department’s services affects the cost and benefit of the entire product or service, as consumed by your organization’s customers. You can do this by taking some advice from a previous post (Understanding commercials through the budgeting process) where I described how learning how budgeting works in your organization. You don’t need to know everything, just the basics. In addition, talking to colleagues in other departments that your department interacts with. For example, if you are a software developer, you should understand how the software testing function operates, and if you are an Application Support Engineer, speak to the the end users about how they report problems and receive fixes. You should find out how delays in providing your service, for example, creates downstream problems for your colleagues and the eventual customer, or how improving quality in your department has a positive effect on the product or service. Ultimately, the service you provide is part of a much larger machine, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the business machine is as strong as its weakest point. By understanding and applying your awareness of this, you will grasp where you fit into the value-chain.

Finally, if you’ve had a go at the above, consider taking a few observations forward as ideas for improvement, and speak to your manager or an executive. Sharing your thoughts will give you an opportunity to get feedback on them.

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