I admit it, I was one of the guilty ones. Back in my association days, my department neglected to include our IT colleagues in a couple of technology decisions. We didn’t consult them when we migrated our WordPress-hosted blog to a self-hosted blog, or when we selected a private community.
Why? Because we believed that IT didn’t understand our department’s challenges and needs. We didn’t want to trust them with our technology decisions. Plus, when you’re trying to get something done before the next board meeting, you don’t want to slow down and work around the IT department’s crazy schedule.
But I know better now. I know all too well the reasons why corners are cut and decisions are made without always including IT. But, not including them is a mistake. IT must be part of the conversation.
As a consultant, I see how technology decisions made in a departmental box can negatively impact an organization. One of the most common consequences of excluding IT is poor or non-existent integration between core technology systems. Without the appropriate integration, staff ends up manually reentering data and slapping on Band-Aids, and website visitors have a less-than-desirable user experience. Everyone’s work becomes harder.
If you include your IT colleagues early on in the selection process, they have the opportunity to understand your business goals and ensure that proper integrations occur. Plus, departments don’t always know that the software and technologies that could solve their problems already exist at the office. Communication between staff and the IT department is key – early and often.
Now that I’m on the consultant side of the association world, I also see how IT departments could do a better job of listening to business units and understanding their daily operations and their departmental goals. Sometimes, at least in my experience, IT professionals try to find a solution too quickly, and although I love that sense of urgency, it’s better to sit down and really listen to your colleagues so you can truly understand their needs and goals. Only then should a solution be offered.
The lack of collaboration between IT and other departments is sometimes a symptom of a dysfunctional culture at associations suffering the effects of silos and competing business units. From the top down, an organization must work diligently to create a harmonious working environment where professionals understand that only by working collectively can they better support the organization’s mission and goals.
Flickr photo by Domenico