Faye Newsham

I see this as a lack of communication, change management, and advertising.

No one seems to know what IT is supposed to do, the average non-IT person assumes IT fixes stuff in either a heartbeat (because it is all mysteriously simple and they are hiding something) or in months and months at huge expense and problems (caused because IT has no idea how to do business – our way). IT, on the other hand, knows what their own budget for the year is and has already allocated most if not all of it to groups who have requested their assistance previously. The struggle begins with these groups to define what it is they do and what they want (do you map out every aspect of your job, with and without a tool? Few groups have their internal processes well documented and without individual hero knowledge). The Johnny-come-lately has already failed at least once, is under the gun, and still hasn’t defined what they want but are sure they are because now they are stuck on their own vision of their failed tool. Neither team fully understands the complexity and importance of the other.

Communication is key. I would propose that IT begin an advertising campaign and effort to inform everyone they serve (in simple terms and clear fashions) what they can do, in what amount of time, and what to bring to the table to make that happen long before the planning and financing takes place. As the business use cases begin to be satisfied, continue change management by talking to folks prior to and during the annual funding and planning phases or even drum up business with teams that come with funding! Make sure that successes are shared with all the teams – how can this be extended or reused for my team?

Assuring a team of experts that you can build a tool for them only with their skill and expertise can actually go a long way to assuring they put that effort into perspective. I’m all for agile and continuing IT but it is the clear communication that will allow it to happen. You’ll never satisfy a customer with a pretty tool that doesn’t make their jobs easier.

We don’t want the users to feel like my mother does, that “all programmers belong on a choke chain.” Her experience was formed over years of working with IT teams who know they know databases and programming way better than she does… without realizing that as a Librarian she’s the best person there is to talk to about the actual data, what a real user is looking for on the front-end, and how to do the data entry – what really works. They continued to build beautiful but useless databases that didn’t do what her team needed. A continuing failure of communication on both her part and theirs’. She was unable to adapt her thoughts to IT-speak and they were dismissive of her expertise. Both assumed the other was either intentionally recalcitrant or simple incapable. Neither was right.

Don’t let past experience or current problems color what you do right now. Sit down and think about how to communicate your needs better. What are you trying to do, who is best positioned to help? The answer is most likely your OCIO IT group. They in turn should be focusing on how to get the needs you are thinking about on paper and into a plan and a functional tool to make your job easier.