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IT Jujutsu and the Information Professional

Posted by Phil Green on 8/16/2016
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IT-JiuJitsu-HS.jpgIn my last post, I discussed the unfortunate fact that many information professionals find themselves at the bottom of the IT totem pole, and thus they receive underwhelming IT support as they attempt to build and manage world class knowledge/library systems, or special collections.

So what’s an information professional to do? Knowledge and library systems are complex pieces of technology that require IT involvement at some level. Over my career, I have observed that in departments having the best relationship with IT, the information professionals practice what I call "IT Jujutsu."

IT Jujutsu

Jujutsu, in case you didn’t know, was "developed to combat the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon, or only a short weapon…These techniques were developed around the principle of using an attacker's energy against him, rather than directly opposing it."

When information professionals practicec IT Jujutsu, they focus on several key things:

  • Remember IT is very busy, so we need to turn this problem into an opportunity. To do this, we want to move the library from being a low priority to NOT being a priority at all!

    For example, get off the local network and IT infrastructure, and move your solution to the cloud. (You’ll be out of IT’s hair, and your cloud provider will keep your server up-to-date with security patches as well as bug fixes.)

    In addition, when evaluating systems, make sure that they require minimal IT skills to configure or reconfigure. This allows you, the content manager, to remain independent of IT, and to change the system as needed to meet your evolving requirements.

  • What if IT offers to build you a system or wants to convert you to SharePoint or some other existing in-house system? In this circumstance you need to make the IT armor seem heavy and ill-suited for the job of managing your nimble collection. IT will of course start with the statement that your collection or system is really just a database, so “we can complete this project pretty quickly”. To slow the process down, you need to insist that this isn’t as simple as it seems, and ask IT to demonstrate a few capabilities of the new underlying system.

    Here are a couple of simple sorting examples that will surprise most IT managers:

    First, give the IT project manager the simple task of sorting your collection correctly. They will say “that’s easy, any database can sort data”. So just provide IT with all your titles and say, “Please sort these, and by the way don’t sort The Art of Strategy in the ‘T’s and don’t sort
    A Guide to Effective Meetings in the ‘A’s.” If they say that’s crazy, just say it’s a requirement.

    Second, provide IT with the following four alpha numeric numbers and say. "Please sort these as well: HA.2, HA.11, HA.100, HA.1000 (which is, of course, the correct ascending alphanumeric sort)." IT’s database and/or SharePoint will sort these as: HA.100, HA.1000, HA.11, HA.2, where HA.100 and HA.1000 are "smaller" than H.2 or H.11.

Hopefully, you can use these as examples of the axiom that “the devil is in the details” and help IT realize that the conversion project is going to be long and arduous, and that it will be better left to a purpose-built third-party application. You can say, "Remember, you folks are pretty busy, and really good off-the-shelf software has been built to handle this."

By getting completely out of IT’s hair, helping them understand that this is actually quite a complex application, and reminding them that they have other more urgent priorities, you’ll hopefully be able to make peace with IT and work with them in a more productive manner.

Please stay tuned for my next post on IT and the Information Professional, which will focus on the reality of open source solutions and the need for detailed analysis when comparing to a closed source option.

What are your experiences working with IT? We’d love to hear about them,
so please share in the comments below.

Topics: Library Management, Knowledge Management, Strategy, Archives