January 14, 2014

Marriage Counseling for IT and Communications: Get Better Results Together

With the increase in sophistication of digital communications and the onslaught of data available to communications professionals, the opportunity to deliver more effective results is at the tip of our fingers. However, managing and planning for the systems, data, and analysis of these complex communications is a challenge.

As a communication professional planning for this type of work, I initially wondered where do I start? How do I convince the executive team and internal technology partners that resources should be devoted to this? How do I build healthy, collaborative relationships across departments that have a long history of working in silos?

Moving your digital communications toward this space requires a combination of technical skill, collaborative planning, and often an organizational culture shift that allows two groups (or departments) who speak very different languages to come together to reach a shared goal.

The Practical What To Do:

Learn how to take steps toward building a complex communications system at your organization by examining the pitfalls and success in a real-life case study.

Whether you are just beginning your plan or are in the midst of building your systems and looking at how to make your plan stronger, helpful advice will include:

  • What to plan for
  • Critical points of impact
  • Practical tips for working with systems and data

The case study will explore email and web communications, email automation programs, retargeting and segmentation programs, content management systems, different measurement systems, and mobile platform considerations.

Topics we’ll dig deeper into:

  1. How to get a full scale outline of your systems’ API abilities and flow structure
  2. Assuring your data governance structure is set and integrity assessed
  3. Examining your key communications systems and conversion goals
  4. How to identify key pathways for conversion, including measurement
  5. Developing a phased approach to implementation and expected impact

The Softer Side: Marriage Counseling for IT & Communications

Less talked about but just as critical to an effective digital communications system is a strong relationship between Communications and IT. The struggle between these two different groups is not new, but perhaps more emphasized as dependencies and demand increase. More and more IT groups are building up strategic capacity, serving many business goals and needs across an organization. At the same time, Communications groups are moving more into technology system decisions and driving resource and process needs. This convergence can often lead to painful struggles over resource decisions and project planning.

What can you do to make the relationship a success?

  1. Speak each other’s language. Miscommunication and assumptions are often the cause of project delays and frustration on both sides. Clearly outlined requirements and collaborative development and documentation of the project plan can help provide a guide to avoid misunderstandings.
  2. Begin with goals and objectives. Start your work by building the strategy together and problem solving the best way to achieve the goals and objectives you are driving toward. No one likes to be given implementation orders and often the best solutions come from two facets of expertise tackling the issue.
  3. Expect the unexpected. With many technology projects you only know what you know, unexpected results or problems are the norm. Allow for flexibility and agile maneuvering in your schedule and be ready to adjust with the situation. Empower team members to solve problems as they come up and plan for right now solutions and long-term improvements.
  4. Define the critical path. Always spend time discussing what is absolutely critical to the project and has no room for negotiation—blockers should be targeted as much as possible from the beginning so all involved know to move quickly or adjust if one of your critical path items is in jeopardy.
  5. Identify champions. Target key individuals in both IT and Communications that are excited by and eager to bring the power of the two together and assign them as project leads. Champions among the team can help facilitate communication, target potential trouble spots, and gain support from other team members when energy is low.

Much like a marriage, a strong relationship between Communications and IT is dependent upon two participants equally dedicated to making it work. Spend time on developing personal relationships and getting to know how different members of the team need to work, and what environment makes them most successful. Adopt each others’ goals and issues and drive toward a plan that can achieve both sets of goals and address key issues.

Bringing it all together

This panel group comprised of IT and Communications professionals will go into detail on these topics as well as run through a step by step case study from planning through implementation, complete with worksheets and tips to help you drive change in your organization. The panel offers an opportunity for sharing experiences and asking questions on how best to solve common problems.

Want to find out more about how to have a successful relationship between your IT and Communications departments? Join our session on Thursday, March 13 at 1:30pm.

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Melissa Bear
Melissa Bear is a senior level marketing professional with over 13 years of experience in the nonprofit, NGO and corporate digital marketing landscape. She specializes in strategic digital marketing initiatives that support multi-channel and multi-platform conversions. She is currently the Customer Relationship Marketing Manager for CaringBridge, a nonprofit delivering technology solutions that keep people connected during a health journey. She leads the customer relationship management strategy, including engagement, referral, and social advocacy programs as well as supports fundraising initiatives. She manages the strategy, optimization and integration of social media, e-mail, web experience, and mobile marketing channels.
Interest Categories: Operations, Organizational Culture
Tags: 14ntc, Communications, IT