Hands joining together

Blurring the lines between IT and digital communications

One of my pet hates is when family or unwitting friends refer to my work as being IT or ‘something to do with computers’.

For the most part, it’s an innocent enough mistake. All the while people associate smartphones, social media and digital content with the wires and levers behind the scenes it seems inevitable that the two are interlinked.

In fact, as budgets shrink, and the requirements of organisations change, IT teams and communications teams really are going to be working more closely together. It’s already happening at the Department of Health.

I think bringing teams of people with different types of skills and experience together is a good thing. IT and communications really can complement each other.

My previous experience of this was in publishing. I worked for a successful company that had been built around advertising sales. Editorial and design was just a means to an end, and in a way I could understand that. We go to work to earn money; the business needs to make a profit, and in this case advertising created that profit.

Hands joining together
Bringing a team together is necessary and rewarding

However, it became apparent that for the business to continue growing and develop, the content of the publications and the way we marketed ourselves would have to improve. Central to this was ensuring that the editorial and advertising teams stopped working in silos, and understood each other’s needs and challenges.

Bringing the two teams together was a huge culture shock to all involved: think Gordon Gekko sharing a desk with Richard Whiteley.

Broadly, there were three successful ways to bring the teams together:

1) Building personal/professional relationships: this meant me knowing my Sales Director was to become a father, and taking an interest. And it meant him coming for a drink with me and the other editors after work.

2) Working alongside each other: me going to sales meetings, him working in the editorial office.

3) Sharing a common goal: in this case, increasing the revenue of the titles we worked on.

These three routes to success are easy to write about in hindsight. At the time it was very hard work: arguments, compromise and a constant need to be honest with each other about concerns and frustration. It took almost 18 months to make it work, but in the end we were successful.

For IT and communications teams across the public sector this journey is starting. Perhaps there are some out there who have already done it. I’d love to know.

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/jiheffe/

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