David Anthony is the solution architect for Through the Line, LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Communications staff don’t need to speak IT’s technical language (Accelerated Indirect GLX, anyone?) for both departments to work well together, but signals can get crossed. Beware these three mistakes that can interfere with the tech team’s ability to provide what you need in a timely manner.
A few weeks ago, I took my family on a long weekend trip to Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park for some camping and exploring. The drive would take nine hours, and we timed it so that we could set up our tents before dark. About five hours into the trip, my GPS alerted me to an accident several miles ahead that was blocking both lanes of traffic and causing an expected hour-and-a-half delay. I immediately hit the "reroute" button and found a path that would only add about 10 minutes to our journey.
Roadblocks happen—but they don't have to slow us down too much if we can find a way to navigate around them.
Some common roadblocks occur when a communications team interacts with an IT team. Read on to find ways around them.
IT folks live in a very specific world. Computers do exactly what you tell them to, for better or for worse. Because of this, your IT team will always push hard for clear and complete specifications.
For example, if you tell your IT group that you need an app, they'll immediately bombard you with 1,000 questions: What will the app do? Who is the audience? How many people will it need to support? What metrics need to be attached to app interactions?
If you're not prepared to provide the exact details of what you need, the project will either stall while they wait for you to fill in the specs, or they'll go ahead without your input and the result will work the way they think it should, not the way your group needs it to.
Solution: Build in time for answering questions the IT group has about your project. This is one place where a bird's-eye view will lead to miscommunication, unmet expectations, and delays.
Build in time for answering questions the IT group has about your project. This is one place where a bird's-eye view will lead to miscommunication, unmet expectations, and delays.
A marketing executive once asked me to send him a specific table from one of the organization’s databases. The next day, I received a request for a different table from the database. The next day, another table. After about a week, he called and told me what he was working on and that he was up against his deadline. I replied with the solution within the hour. Had he communicated his goal up front, we could have avoided a lot of back-and-forth.
In most cases, your IT group will know what tools to use to deliver what you need, if you'll describe the goal and leave the specific steps to them. This also goes for requesting that IT use a particular product: They may well know of a better solution for your needs given that it’s their job to stay current in the field.
Solution: Describe what you're trying to accomplish at the outset. Show examples of past work, reports, or other materials so IT can see where you're headed. Ask questions like, "What is the best way to get this result?", and then be open to suggestions.
There are times when you'll need services or tools that your IT group isn't able to provide. You'll need to shop outside vendors, and the temptation will be to do it independently of your colleagues in IT. That might work out OK sometimes, but for most projects—and the long-term benefits of your relationship—it's better to let them know what you're planning.
Why? On the one hand, they might surprise you with a new tool or resource you didn't know they had, saving you the time and energy of shopping around. Or they might just come along for the ride and advise as needed. In many cases, they can act as an interpreter when the vendor starts using their “tech-speak.” Keeping IT in the loop will save time when you need to integrate with your systems or bring that external function in-house.
Solution: Send an FYI email to your IT team when you’re doing anything technology-related that is outside of their current scope. Let them know what you’d like to do, and ask questions like, “Do we have a tool that will do XYZ?” or “Can you sit in on this meeting to provide the tech perspective?”
Don’t let roadblocks slow you down. Be specific about your goals, trust that IT knows how to deliver on the steps to get there, and keep IT in the loop on other technology-related projects you have going on.