It’s critical for the library to have a great working relationship with the IT department, and that doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. Even though it sounds counterintuitive, establishing your credibility with IT leadership is the key to achieving IT independence and managing your own systems.
If you want to select, implement and manage your own departmental systems (e.g. ILS or KM platform) and get the IT department’s stamp of approval, you’ll need to first build your credibility with them. There are several elements of a strategy to “make IT happy” and foster an excellent interdepartmental relationship:
- Learn to speak their language rather than expecting them to learn “library jargon.” There are many good online resources that define and explain IT terms, and using them will reassure IT staff that you know what you’re talking about, or are asking informed questions.
- Be aware of the tools that they use to manage their own activities, to select vendors and to justify expenditures – and use all of them yourself. Examples of these include:
- Use cases explain what the system requirements are without using library jargon
- Business cases describe the value to the organization, and explain the return on investment (ROI)
- Functional specifications give detailed information about system capabilities, tied to the business case
- Project plans will give IT staff context and confidence in what you are proposing
- Get your facts straight – it’s extremely important that library solutions integrate with the existing IT ecosystem/environment, so work with IT to understand infrastructure and requirements
- Share that information with your potential vendors very early on, and once you’ve selected a vendor, make sure to foster communication between them and your IT staff
IT department leaders are much more likely to feel comfortable with authorizing you to “do your own thing” if they have a high degree of confidence that you understand their priorities and are smart about your strategy, goals and implementation – and if they’re clear that you know when to consult with them.
Even if achieving IT independence and selecting, implementing and managing your own systems aren’t your goals, the recommendations given here are still relevant. You’ll be higher on the IT department’s crowded priority list if you’ve helped them understand the organizational importance of library automation or KM solutions, along with the expected ROI. And the more information they have about user needs and functional requirements, the better equipped they’ll be to support your initiatives.
Another helpful relationship building strategy is to have regular interdepartmental meetings. If you schedule them specifically for the combined team, nobody feels like they’re “crashing” someone else’s meeting. You can use this channel to share project updates, work through issues, or celebrate successes.
Speaking of which, make sure you publicly share the credit for successful system implementation and management with the IT department, even if “all” they’ve done is equip you with the information you need. In addition to keeping a great relationship going, it’s only fair, because you can bet that if there are any hiccups they’ll be sharing the responsibility!