Collaborate and Listen: Why IT Needs to Be a Collaborative Effort

What’s your company’s most important resource? Here’s a hint: It isn’t your software. It isn’t your brand name. It isn’t even your physical location and the property you own. It’s your personnel. Without them, everything else the organization owns is just a shell. With that in mind, there’s no more important role you can fill than that of facilitating collaboration between your top talent. Digital leadership comes from an intelligent fusion of human ingenuity with technology that supports and informs the decisions your team makes.

To give you an idea of how important collaboration can be, consider this: Without it, as many as 70 percent of software development or implementation projects fail. Sometimes, that failure is so serious that the organization’s health as a whole is threatened, especially if the business is in the tech sector. Knowing how vital it is, how do you foster collaboration and weave together multiple departments, programs, and operations?

Build Consensus about Goals

Your first step is getting everyone on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish. If your CFO wants to prioritize security while your CMO’s greatest concern is integrating customer relationship management data with lead generation tools, you have a problem on your hands. Which direction should you take? What is the highest priority for your organization? How can you align everyone’s visions and work toward goals that benefit everyone? In this example, your solution might be to install and implement a marketing automation system that builds in better data security and quantifies revenue-driving marketing activities, giving your CFO better data and fulfilling your CMO’s need for more insight into customers and leads.

Be a Listener, Not a Teller

It’s challenging to cede control, particularly when the area in which you’re temporarily loosening your hold on the reins is your own field of expertise. It’s important, though, to step back from the development and planning process, allowing people to brainstorm freely before pruning expectations back to what’s possible. Yes, that means you can expect to see some ideas that are clearly impractical or might have to wait 20 years for technology to catch up with them, but you’ll also get some valuable feedback about what your organization really needs, not solely what you believe is good for it.

Define Success

As you align what people want with what’s possible to provide, it’s important to define what counts as a success. Is it enough to fulfill half the suggested requirements on this project? Two-thirds? Is most of it non-negotiable? Defining your metrics for success allows you to roll up your sleeves and get the development process started. This is the point at which you can start defining your teams, setting schedules, placing milestones, and assembling components – and not before. Only when you have a clear idea of what counts as a win can you progress toward the finish line.

Manage Scope Creep

Inevitably, some of the ideas generated in the earlier phases will find their way back into the project even if they were tabled for future projects. Scope creep, the tendency for a set goal to sprout new sub-goals and riders, is common with collaborative efforts. Refining priorities and focusing on the most critical elements of the work first can help keep scope creep manageable. When you can point to what you’ve done and compare it against a checklist, people are far more understanding of why their pet project isn’t yet receiving attention.

Acknowledge Business Goals

While the project leaders outside your IT department must gain an understanding of what’s possible for you, your IT team needs an awareness of the business goals others are trying to achieve. A successful collaboration fosters understanding among all its participants, not just some of them. Your CFO needs your team to understand why timing a project to get up and running before the first fiscal quarter is vital. Your CMO wants you to see why lossless data migration is a mission-critical component, not an extra feature, of a marketing automation system.

Collaboration is more than just a corporate buzzword. It’s an essential element of successful development.

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