ways of working with your IT team (and avoiding conflict)

There’s always at least a little bit of tension between IT and digital comms teams. They both strive for the greater good but generally have a different view of what that means. The IT team care about security, stability and sustainability. And I’m very pleased they do as a flaky network and lack of email can kill a digital strategy before its started!

A digital comms team thrives on agile, agnostic, use of new technology – having a quick turn around that takes advantage of the current wave of interest. Unfortunately this doesn’t always go down that well with the steady and sturdy IT folk. However I wouldn’t advocate uprooting and going alone.

I’ve worked in a number of models – digital tech completely outsourced, digital development outsourced and hosting in house, and currently a mix of digital tech inhouse and outsourced across the piece. So far the last model has been the most effective event though it’s resulted in more tension and complexity at times.

Why do I think this?

  • The tech side can be a time consuming distraction.
    You can delegate the maintenance stuff and get on with the new bits. If you’re in digital comms your priority should be the user experience and the comms itself – not fixing a compatibility issue that arises when a new browser is released.
  • Being too close to the tech can mean you don’t challenge it.
    It’s a lot easier to push for the next piece of functionality when your head isn’t completely buried in all the intricacies and complexities of the technology.
  • Managing integration to back office systems isn’t digital.
    When your website talks to your back office systems its very easy to get drawn into working on the integration and development of those systems. This just isn’t a good use of your time nor skills. It is a good use of IT skills – its one of the things they’re employed for.
  • Having a different perspective is healthy.
    ‘IT brains’ are often different to ‘comms brains’, together (either across individuals or within the same person) you end up with the right questions, checks and balances that result in a better more future proof result.

Unfortunately there isn’t a trick to making the model work comfortably. A two way balance of trust, defining boundaries, respecting skills, and spending time to build the partnership are all key to ensuring you get the best out of any joint working.

5 thoughts on “ways of working with your IT team (and avoiding conflict)

  1. Interesting article, and a lot of points for thought.

    At my office, we got rid of the marketing v dev divide by getting a developer to sit within the marketing team. This way, we have someone that understands what we want and can interpret it back to the dev team, and the dev team also trusts that we have the noggin in our team to do simple things quickly and more efficiently, like social media integrations.

    A word of warning about your point on integrating to back end systems: it may not be ‘digital’ or your team’s responsibility, but if it affects the end user’s experience, then it will affect the whole organisation. As a basic example, if the end user makes a contribution online in response to an email campaign, but your CRM isn’t integrated properly and doesn’t register the donation, and fails to stop repeat or ‘reminder’ requests, the end user won’t be very happy and may remove themselves from your list. So even though I tend to glaze over when we have integration talks(!), my last question is always, ‘So how does this affect the user at the front?’

  2. Thanks for the comments. We have some technical expertise in our team but not an actual developer – I have thought about it a number of times so interested to hear more about how it works for you? I’ve always been concerned that the developer would feel isolated and not as able to keep up with technical knowledge.

  3. To me the main advantage of having a developer sit with the digital team is they can’t get pulled off to work on another project in the company!

    I’ve seen what Rochelle describes as a “marketing technologist”. They usually sit in the marketing group, but can either be a developer with an interest in marketing or a marketer with an interest in technology. We’re strange by very useful hybrids! Scott Brinker writes a lot about this at http://www.chiefmartec.com/.

    You’re right that a developer might lose a bit not diving into code daily, but look at all the other topics to keep up with! http://bit.ly/eSM0TE

  4. We’ve found to the contrary on keeping up with technical knowledge – our developer feels like he has to be more on top of technical updates because he is the go-to in our team! Plus, we all have some kind of front-end dev knowledge; for example, I’m a designer and I do a lot of front-end development, and a number of the other marketers are au fait with social media plugins. So we look at our developer as someone that can round out the knowledge in the team, as well as providing a more holistic view to integrating with the back of the house. Of course, he has access to the same training and development budgets and opportunities that the rest of us do, and also spends time with our development and systems teams on regular soak days so that he can contribute to any plans they have for supporting the front of house.

    Great developers, like great designers, are by their nature great problem solvers, and our developer takes part in all the brainstorms and planning sessions that we have for campaigns – he doesn’t just code up what we want when the rest of us have decided what needs to happen. We’ve found that, with this extra skill set in the team, we’re able to create solutions to tasks in ways that the rest of us would never have considered.

  5. thanks again – some really useful insight. Most of my team can do a little front end development in one way or another so based on what you’re saying I’m thinking we could keep a Dev on their toes šŸ™‚

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