IT as Innovative Teamwork

Information Technology (IT) is my best friend.

Without a well oiled partnership with IT, the success and qualitative results of any web-related project would be greatly compromised. Yet it’s no secret that communicators, marketers and other professionals have had their classic moments of disconnect with IT teams.

Since the dotcom bubble, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely and cross-functionally with IT in three distinct sectors (finance/insurance, telecommunications and corporate law). Along the way, I’ve sampled several flavours of inside politicking, dysfunctional interactions and all types of internal hiccups high level execs prefer their respective managers to deal with on their own.

For those still struggling with the unique dynamic between IT and ‘everybody else’, I’d like to share some findings, which have helped me not only work productively with IT but also gain insights into and appreciation for technology as an ultimate game changer.

cartoon by James Cook
“I hate working tech support”
Link to illustration courtesy of James Cook – http://www.toonrefugee.com/toonblog

Getting your genuine geek on
Befriending IT used to be quite a daunting task. But these days, communicators and marketers are typically hired (or retained) for their added technical expertise in all things web. So it should be a slam dunk win-win situation right? Not necessarily.

Initial relations with IT rarely start off swimmingly. Unless of course you put on your “genuine geek” and lay down your tech cards off the bat. Be honest and comprehensive when telling them what you know, what you don’t know and what you aspire to know. This transparent approach garners a great deal of respect and places you in equal footing with them.

It is also important that IT understands your level of technical expertise, as it will allow them to manage their resources more efficiently. Good relations will always be built on trust. Transparency, in this case, actually works.

Understanding tech lifecycles
In your role, you are more than likely expected to act as the liaison between IT and MarComm or any other operational arm or on behalf of a third-party client, etc. Naturally, you would already be skilled in translating technical lingo when managing consensus-based projects where each stakeholder’s voice needs to be heard and understood clearly.

But you need to take this a step further. To be harmoniously in synch with your technical counterpart, you must understand (and make others understand) how and why IT project lifecycles don’t often exactly match those mapped out by marketing or business development. Both hardware and software development involve a tremendous amount of detailed work. And yes, it does take time to produce a remarkably successful project, especially at the testing phase.

Ideally, when charting a critical path to a given web project, IT should be the first touch point of consultation. In fact, promise nothing to stakeholders/clients until you’ve first had an in-depth discussion with your tech crew.

Being helpful and proactive
Today’s communications professionals must strive to be diplomats in one of their key roles as effective agents of change—in short, as community engagers and builders. This involves being proactive in the delivery of viable and flexible solutions to day-to-day internal end users (or clients). Doing so, in effect, implies helping champion IT’s age-old role as tech support.

While we are meant to already be savvy enough to manage web-related projects, there are still reams of technically related matters we should be in tune with (i.e., understand in principle if not in practice), including programming languages, network technology and IT project cycles. A whiney corporate marketing type will be automatically perceived as a tech bug, asking endlessly for support, when in reality you should be taking action to figure out temporary workarounds from your end, if not, taking a stab at fixing minor glitches to say content management systems and the like.

Study your systems thoroughly and identify areas where you are unclear. In the process, seek IT’s advice as it pertains to the functional intricacies of a given software or identifying ways to mitigate network issues to ensure business continuity. Be proactive, not reactive. Remember, you’re part of a bigger team.

Your buddy the IT insider
Money makes the world go round, as politics makes it go round the bend. The one thing I consciously steer clear of is any gratuitous discussion related to legacy issues, management styles and internal politicking.

These are tricky subjects, but inevitably ones that do affect a team’s work ethic, social attitude and overall morale. So what do you when faced with this and can’t navigate properly while stuck up the creek as it were? You secure an ally.

You typically end up becoming good real life friends with one or two individuals in a team. I won’t delve into social tips on how to go about doing this, as we each have our own unique styles of socializing with colleagues. However, I would point out that these alliances tend to be ties that bind.

Now having an IT buddy implies assuming a degree of responsibility for helping them address their communications challenges with others. Not that you are accountable for solving delicate inter-personal issues, but at the very least, you should be able to speak on their behalf as it pertains to a project-related issue. This affords you the type of leverage where your ally will in turn give you access to insights on technical challenges that will help you adjust any parameters of a given project and/or allow you to work closely with them to come up with solutions.
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What internal innovations have YOU come across that have helped strengthened teamwork with IT and built a collaborative environment in your organization?

7 thoughts on “IT as Innovative Teamwork

  1. Autom,

    Excellent post, I was smiling all through reading it because it is an acurate reflection of what actually happens. I must send this around to the internal teams I work with. Good work again.

    Finbarr

  2. Good point. This is a very important thing that is usually underestimated. Lots of IT-related projects (and operations) increases their duration and cost due to bad communication between IT team and users/clients/coordinators. As you say, being helpful, proactive and “transparent” is the best way to approach these projects. People and companies should be well aware of that.

    Thank you for sharing your experience in this nice post.

  3. How true Autom, good reminders though!

    I have particularly found that getting my geek on, which translates to asking a lot of questions, is a great way to connect! You know, IT is a lot like MarComm; people always expect them to fix things and always go to them with complaints! It’s nice to recognize them for the experts they are and ask questions. They’re usually more than happy to oblige!

  4. I’m really enjoying your engaged style of writing, especially on a topic such as IT which can seem dry to some. But the great thing is you’re looking at it from a social point of view–social relations. Networking, partnerships, and friendships are absolutely essential for us in the Internet era. We need each other; especially those working in different departments. The whole industry of tech is pulled closer and closer together by web-based operations; everyone depends on everyone else.

    Just because I did a bit of research on the attention economy, I thought I’d throw an interesting quote in, albeit not directly related. But related to IT and programming . . .

    He noted that many designers of information systems incorrectly represented their design problem as information scarcity rather than attention scarcity, and as a result they built systems that excelled at providing more and more information to people, when what was really needed were systems that excelled at filtering out unimportant or irrelevant information (Simon 1996, p. 143-144).

  5. The events of September 11 have really made people aware of the importance of DR solutions globally. Before when someone talked about DR planning it was only the big businesses that looked at it. Today, big, medium and small businesses look at DR in one shape or form. Everyone has really realized what exactly can happen and what these impacts can do to their business. Better to be safe than sorry I guess.

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