Four Ways to Work Well with IT

If there is one thing I can say for sure about most non-profits, it’s that marketing/fundraising and IT have a relationship marked by friction. I’ve seen this time and time again, and becoming a fundraiser through web development, I have an understanding of both sides.

It’s no longer acceptable for marketing departments to work around IT and find solutions. It’s also no longer acceptable for IT to manage all technology decisions. In today’s world, these two silos need to find the common ground. The good news is the common ground is often already there, right below the surface.

The first thing marketing folks need to recognize is no one calls IT when everything is working. They only get attention when something is broken. Think about it. When was the last time you sent an email to IT thanking them for the fact that for the past week you have sent and received hundreds of emails and viewed dozens of web pages? All that technology doesn’t happen by itself.

IT’s first goal is to mitigate risk, and the most direct way to do that is to limit new things. A known system is a stable system. That’s where the friction often starts. Marketers are always interested in trying something new.

But marketers avoid risk in another way. They try to limit the financial risk of not improving response, a very real and important risk, but one that doesn’t show up on an uptime report.

A Common Scenario

Let’s explore something that commonly happens at organizations. Individuals who don’t have a deep technical understanding plan an effort with technical implications. They innocently don’t involve IT until the project is about ready to be implemented. Immediately, red flags appear. With the launch date looming, marketing uses its muscle (they bring in the money) to force IT to hastily move stuff through. IT comes to the rescue but the process was harder than it needed to be.

No one did anything wrong necessarily, but marketing departments can misinterpret the friction. Their response is to move control further from IT. This only increases concern, suspicion and, frankly, dysfunction. Hence a vicious cycle is created.

Masterworks has been in situations where that cycle has led to a virtual standstill in optimization, putting six figures of revenue at risk for large organizations.

Marketing and IT Can Work Together

I think all parties have reason to examine their choices, but I’m comfortable putting the onus firmly on the marketing side. So go hug your IT guy (or girl). If only it were that easy. Here are some simple steps we have seen as keys to improving an IT/marketing relationship:

1) Find a Translator

A translator is someone who has enough understanding of the technical landscape to be able to identify the technical implications of marketing decisions. This role identifies crucial issues early on so that you can truly partner with IT for a solution (more on that below).

For many Masterworks clients, I serve as that translator. Look around . . . you have translators around you too. Look for folks who have worked both in IT and marketing, or IT folks who have a liberal arts background. Many IT folks are self-taught and can be a valuable voice in your early campaign planning.

2) Partner Early

The sooner IT is involved, the smoother implementation will go. If possible, invite your translator to campaign-planning meetings to capture potential issues. It can be tricky to have someone who is looking for “gotchas” in a creative meeting, but if you set some ground rules, it can work (believe me, I know).

When ideas are flowing, you don’t want to divert the conversation into implementation details. At the same time, you don’t want to have the lynchpin of your creative concept be technically impossible. So if you set up the meeting to allow for your translator to raise technical red flags, it takes the pressure off having to offer those in real time.

In other words, commit to talking out possible implementation hurdles, but don’t let a possible problem stop a concept.

3) Partner, I Mean Truly Partner

Partnering means staying in contact throughout the process. Things change. Informing IT of changes along the way will minimize any surprises at implementation. This means adding folks to status meetings, creative reviews, etc.

This is where clearly defined roles are necessary. Your translator or other IT folks aren’t approving creative concepts, they are informing on the implementations of those concepts. If that role is clearly established from the beginning, you won’t need to significantly lengthen your approval process.

4) Report Back Results

IT rarely hears about the success or failure of an effort. Keep them in the loop all the way through reporting and celebrate their part of the project broadly. They are the vital last leg between your plans and your constituents.

Find ways to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. But keep in mind that it might not be the same kind of recognition you might want. An email to the whole organization calling folks out by name might not be as meaningful as a personal conversation.

This formula isn’t foolproof and it requires a commitment. You need to invest in this relationship beyond a single campaign if you are truly going to change the tone from confrontation to collaboration.

This is one of my favorite topics to talk about. If your interest is piqued, connect with me on twitter: @j8ke or via email: