The Great Creative-IT Divide: Top 10 CIO Concerns

IT and creative teams may once have had little reason to collaborate, but marketing’s increasing dependence on technology means these two groups now work together often. However, that doesn’t mean they’re as productive as they could be when they do team up on projects.

Findings for separate surveys conducted by Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group suggest there are some significant barriers to creative-IT collaboration, which create frustration for both chief information officers (CIOs) and advertising and marketing executives.

What do CIOs view as the biggest challenges? Here are the top 10 — in the words of tech executives polled — along with some tips for overcoming these roadblocks:

1.  “We don’t understand the business needs.”

IT teams aren’t getting the memo from creative teams about why and how the business wants to utilize technology to meet specific marketing goals.

Solution: Before a project begins, ask creative teams for a brief summarizing their objective and how IT is expected to support it. Creative teams often use briefs to communicate campaign concepts and expected deliverables to project partners. The brief can provide valuable insight into why the business needs creative-IT collaboration to meet its goals.

2.  “Creative teams overestimate the capabilities of technologies.”

Creative people have big ideas, and sometimes, assume their vision can materialize just because they see it so clearly in their mind. But technology has its limitations.

Solution: When the creative team proposes an idea you know can’t be executed as envisioned, don’t be quick to dismiss it. Instead, position your IT team as creative problem-solvers. Explain what can be done with available technology and suggest alternative approaches.

3. “There is a lack of integration between tech and creative.”

From applications to data, technology and creative departments have trouble syncing up.

Solution: Tech executives surveyed by Robert Half Technology cited CRM systems and contact management among their biggest headaches when trying to collaborate with creative teams. Consider using a simple, low-cost and ease-to-use collaboration tool instead. Also, be sure everyone has access to the applications they need, and that they’re all using the same versions.

4.  “There are constant communication challenges.”

IT and creative don’t speak the same “language.”

Solution: A creative colleague may not know how to build an application (although many actually do). And you and your IT staff may not appreciate the importance of choosing the right logo colors for a product rebrand. However, both IT and creative teams understand the need to deliver outstanding products on time, and on budget. Keep that common ground in focus, and encourage constructive feedback between groups. Empathy can open the door to better communication.

5.  “Making time to meet because everyone is so busy.”

IT and creative are two of the busiest groups in the business. Who has time for an in-person meeting?

Solution: For the sake of project success, you need to carve out some time for creative and IT teams to sit down and talk details before work begins. After that, brief, weekly check-in meetings throughout the course of the project should suffice in keeping things on track, depending on the complexity and criticality of the assignment. If meeting in person is simply too difficult, turn to tech tools like video and web conferencing services. And if you hit major issues during the project, be quick to schedule an in-person meeting: It’s easier to negotiate solutions when everyone can talk face to face.

6. “Explaining new features and software is difficult. Creative teams often don’t understand the information technology process.”

You’re using “tech speak” when explaining things to creative teams, and they’re tuning you out.

Solution: Drop the jargon, simplify the message, and stick to communicating the “need to know.” It’s always helpful to provide concrete examples of how something works. Consider providing short “how to” guides that address common problems, like accessing a secure site. Designate specific IT steam members to be the go-to resources when creative staff have tech-related questions on the project.

7. “Managing expectations for teams who don’t always understand the technology, and ask for things that aren’t possible or don’t exist.”

Creative wants to move really fast, but IT can’t.

Solution: Be up front with creative colleagues about how long technology components of the project will take and why. Ask them to prioritize deliverables. If possible, offer some “quick wins” (items that take less time to complete) to help keep the project moving forward. If something simply can’t be achieved from a technological standpoint, look for alternative solutions. (See #2.)

8. “Making sure data is appropriate and secure to use.”

Collaboration with creative teams increases the risk of data security or compliance issues.

Solution: Consider using a project management tool that keeps project data contained and secure, and set up strong authentication measures (such as two-factor authentication) to restrict user access. Provide creative colleagues with appropriate training so they understand the risks, the rules, and their role in keeping data protected throughout the project.

9. “Delivering and supporting the creative team’s vision.”

Teamwork suffers because people lose sight of project goals.

Solution: To stay focused on objectives, set up regular calls between key players on the IT and creative teams to get status updates and discuss questions as they arise. (See also #5 for making time to meet, and #3 for the value of a team collaboration tool.)

10. “Explaining constantly changing technology and standards, and the need to regularly update everything – you won’t be relevant if you’re not always educating yourself.”

This person’s sentiment was echoed by many other CIOs polled for the Robert Half Technology survey.

Solution: Tech executives, take your own advice: Empower your creative colleagues to educate themselves about technology. Connect them with resources that will help them stay on top of change, from wikis to user guides to self-directed training. You’ll no doubt find any learning curve the creative team has with technology is far less significant than you think — as is the so-called creative-IT divide.

Have you encountered any of these issues when collaborating with creative teams? What advice do you have for overcoming them? Share your tips in the comments below.