Posted by Sarah Whitman on Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 06:00
As creative and IT teams work more closely to tackle digital initiatives, shared stumbling blocks often prevent projects from flowing smoothly. Here we reveal common barriers to effective collaboration and strategies for improving relationships with your IT counterparts.
Increasingly, creative teams are collaborating with information technology (IT) departments to tackle projects that demand both marketing and technology skill sets. In fact, more than half (55 percent) of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said they are working more closely with technology leaders within their company compared to three year ago. But this partnering approach, while beneficial to the business, is not without challenges.
Executives surveyed also were asked to name the top obstacle for creative/marketing professionals when collaborating with their IT peers. Following are some of the responses, along with tips on how to overcome those challenges.
1. "Understanding their tech terms – they're forever changing."
Tip: While industry jargon can be an obstacle to effective communication, it's often unavoidable in the workplace. Do your best to try to learn the language of IT. If you don't understand a term, politely ask for clarification. Return the favor by making sure you don't use creative lingo or acronyms.
2. "Making time to meet because they're so busy."
Tip: Diplomatically point out that getting together for a short meeting at the outset of projects and during critical phases will save valuable time by helping head off costly miscommunications that can lead to lost time, resources and money. Then, if appropriate, set up those meetings.
3. "Keeping on track and communicating information clearly during meetings."
Tip: If you scheduled a meeting, create an agenda. Send it out in advance and ask if there's anything attendees want to add to cut down on unexpected conversations. During the meeting, allow for some banter (it can help build rapport), but politely point out when the discussion is veering off track. Leave time to answer questions, and schedule a follow-up meeting if important items have not been addressed.
4. "Getting people to act and follow up. You can have a great plan and talk about the plan in meetings, but if there is no follow-up, that great plan is nothing."
Tip: After meetings wrap up, provide in writing the specific dates/times of when you and your team will supply everything you're responsible for. Request the same information from IT as well. Consider using a project-management tool like Basecamp to schedule reminders and keep everyone accountable for their action items.
5. "Communicating on a regular basis."
Tip: A kick-off meeting can get the ball rolling, but regular check-in calls or meetings are useful for answering questions that pop up along the way. These can be quick, but they help ensure projects stay on track. If certain IT team members are unavailable, ask if someone else from the department can step in and report back. If key decision-makers are chronically busy, let them know that you'll need to push deadlines back if they can't find time to meet.
6. "Creating and sustaining a welcoming workspace."
Tip: Whenever possible, schedule meetings on "neutral" turf – like a conference room – versus someone's office or cubicle. Or, switch back and forth between your departments. In addition, be respectful of everyone's time and workload. Always ask if it's a good time to chat before bombarding IT colleagues with questions or requests. This will help improve the odds they welcome you with open ears.
7. "Managing priorities; what's important to us may not be important to them."
Tip: Again, this speaks to the importance of remaining in regular contact. Don't be afraid to communicate your needs or the needs of your department. Build goodwill by being respectful of projects and deadlines that are of high concern to IT, even if they're not your top priority. Also, ensure you have buy-in from key stakeholders on what actually constitutes a "business priority" and that everyone is on the same page. Getting input from someone who ranks higher than you and your IT project partners can help diffuse tension when disagreements arise.
8. "Accepting constructive criticism."
Tip: Make sure that you are delivering feedback in a productive way. What you think is "constructive" could be coming across as rude or unreasonable. Consider leading with positive but sincere comments as well – it can help boost morale. When in doubt, discuss the feedback you plan to deliver with your own team before meeting with your IT colleagues to determine if you need to adjust the tone or content of your message.
9. "Resolving controversy quickly."
Tip: Address challenges head-on and with the appropriate people versus tattling or pointing fingers. If you're at an impasse, consider approaching a superior together to help resolve the conflict. The more you argue and stew, the more you derail the project and its deadlines.
10. "Getting a response; we don't have enough IT staff to do everything that we need to."
Tip: Speak with your manager about what's preventing you from moving forward more quickly with projects; they may be able to make a case for bringing in more IT (and creative) help, on a permanent or freelance basis, in order to keep projects on track. A specialized staffing agency such as The Creative Group can quickly identify creative professionals with experience working with IT staff.
There's comfort in familiarity, and it can be challenging to work with colleagues outside your creative team who may be "wired differently." But the more you work to resolve differences and accept others, the smoother your projects will flow and the more successful they will be.