Tips for Seamless Collaboration Between IT and Communications Departments

With more interactivity being built into websites and intranets, it is increasingly important for IT and communications departments to work together effectively. Gone are the days when IT would build a website with static content provided by communications staff, and then leave this relatively untouched for a number of years. Due to the surge in social media and access to information online, websites must and need to be easily and quickly updated. Your website is an integral part of your organization’s external communications, and your intranet is an essential component of its internal communications.

Being able to work together effectively will grow each department's knowledge all while flourishing your organization's progress. Build a strong bridge between your IT and communications staff by following these 4 simple tips.

1. Use a content management system that can easily be updated

If everything has to be done through IT, this can create frustration for both IT and communications staff. It takes up the time of IT staff and can prevent communications staff from quickly getting out information. We have written previously about using SharePoint for both websites and intranets: it is a content management system with permissions that can be set for different types of users.

Communications staff can be given permissions to not only update the content, but to create new pages, change their layout, and so forth. A number of content management systems exist that can do this (other than SharePoint); the key is to find one that non-technical staff can easily be trained to use, and that IT can support and customize without a large investment of time and other resources. 

2. Involve both IT and communications senior management in executive strategy meetings

Since websites and intranets are integral parts of external and internal communications plans, both the IT and communications senior managers need to advise executives on the direction to take an organization’s website and intranet.

This might seem self-evident, but not every organization does this. Some decide strategies and tactics at the executive level and then pass them on to IT and communications senior management to implement. Some leave websites and intranets solely in the hands of IT departments and don’t include them as valuable tools for implementing their strategies and tactics. Difficulties can arise if strategies haven’t been developed in consultation with IT departments because they may not be possible to implement using the current system, there might not be enough IT staff to handle regular updates, and if IT has normally been in charge of the website and intranet without consulting with communications, there might be some resistance to changing this relationship.

By ensuring that both IT and communications senior management are involved in executive strategy meetings, organizations can help prevent feelings in IT departments that they are being directed to implement strategies that are impractical, and communications staff and executives won’t feel that IT is deciding strategies in a vacuum.  

3. Gain a basic understanding of the technical stuff

If communications staff have no knowledge of how a content management system (CMS) works, they won’t be able to effectively collaborate with IT to decide on its direction or make updates and changes without constant assistance. Sometimes this might even involve learning basic HTML so that formatting issues can be corrected outside of WYSIWYG editors; this can be taught in an afternoon (or staff can be sent off site to update their skills in HTML, Microsoft Office, or other software if there are no in-house training staff). 

4. Knowledge is power; share it!

Ensure that both departments are open and clear in their communications with each other. Just as communications staff should be willing and able to learn a bit of the technical side, IT departments need to be willing to share technical information in simple and accurate ways. Transparency is key. Encouraging open lines of communication between departments will leave staff feeling excited for the new challenges and tasks needed, rather than being frustrated due to misunderstanding. 

The above tips may apply more directly to mid-large companies and organizations that have separate IT and communications departments, but they can also apply to smaller companies that may only have a few IT or communications staff. At Winding River Solutions, we not only provide IT training courses by our experienced instructors, but we also rent out our classrooms for training purposes.