Matt Sharp, Director of Operations and Technology, Packard Foundation
Last week, when I started as Visiting Scholar at the Packard Foundation, I sat down to use the computer in my office to write a blog post. It was a bit of a culture shock using a computer that was part of an organization's IT system after being my own IT department for many years. As I tried to recreate my social media dashboard on my desktop, I realized that I couldn't simply install all the plug-ins and software I needed to be efficient.
Luckily, the IT department at the Packard Foundation is very helpful and progressive IT department. I had a meeting with Matt Sharp, IT Director, who told me that he has a bet going that I would ask for 72 things to be installed by the end of my nine months! (We're up to six!)
I learned from Matt more about how IT department's policies and challenges. As Matt explained it, "We have to get people across a river of scorpions without getting stung." Which was a great metaphor for explaining why there is standardization in the system and administrative controls. He also talked about how they test new hardware and software so it works with the existing system and doesn't prevent people from getting their work done.
I shared with him some of the tools that I use for blogging, Twitter, and other social media tasks that would require downloading and installing (non-standard) software onto my desktop. In order for me complete the installation, I'd need administrator access which required calling the Help Desk. So, as to make this efficient as possible, we set up a batch process.
Mary Watson, IT Manager
Mary Watson, IT Manager, gave me my orientation to the different IT, phone, and security systems at Packard. She offered me a helpful list of tips and Outlook 2007 cheat sheets, the Foundation's email/calendar or productivity system. Almost two years ago, I gave up Outlook cold turkey, went into rehab, and switched to gmail, so now I will be using both systems to manage different portions of my work. It was easy for me to pick up Outlook again, like riding a bicycle -- and this will be an opportunity to be "bi-lingual" in my productivity software usage. I'm also really grateful that this is very responsive IT Help Desk who have answered all my questions!
Working with your IT department is a question of social media readiness identified in the above quiz from Joel Postman, author of "Social Corp." This is a question mostly for larger nonprofits with IT departments or support.
This experience has given me so new insights about balancing the needs/concerns of the IT Department with the social media strategists needs for specific tools.
- A good working relationship with your IT department is essential for success: The most important factor affecting success of your ability to implement social media programs is the relationship you established with the IT department. Taking the time to get to know the folks in the IT department and the policies and concerns is critical. Don't take a us vs them approach.
- Engage with IT Department on the Front End: If you can sit down and discuss mutual needs/concerns on the front end, you won't end up in a reactionary situation where there has been a violation of IT policy. Also, sometimes it isn't necessarily a black and white situation of you can't or can do x. Look at your discussion at a creative problem solving opportunity.
- Be open to alternatives: Try to be as open-minded as possible and listen to alternatives to your IT department might propose. With technology, there is always more than one way to do
For those of you who are doing social media from within a nonprofit organization that has an IT department what have you found works to get support for social media tactical implementation?
Adam Christensen, The Impact of Corporate Culture on Social Media
Brian Kelly, IT Departments: Help or Hindrance for Web 2.0