Why it's critical to get to know your IT function

In any organisation, the delivery of everyday workplace IT services can be frustrating. Performance may be slow, or the solutions deployed might not quite meet user needs. Meanwhile the roll-out of more complex technology projects is not always smooth.

Steve Bynghall on 30/05/18

When things don’t go right, IT functions often get the blame. This can lead to (unfair) negative perceptions of the IT department and even misunderstandings between IT staff and other support teams. 

Staying close to IT

This is a situation that should be avoided by in-house legal teams. In my view, it’s essential that IT and in-house legal professionals can work together closely and successfully. Technology pervades almost everything we do and there is little room for misunderstanding. Any significant legal, regulatory or organisational change which requires expert advice from the in-house legal team is likely to also involve IT somewhere, the case of GDPR being an obvious example. 

Minimising the risks around data security and cyber security are also big-ticket items of the day which require close co-operation between GCs and CIOs, especially as most of the risk is down to the behavior of employees. Therefore, a consistent approach and voice is needed to guide users to minimise risks. Of course, in-house counsel also need technology to operate successfully themselves so need to have the IT function on-side.

Nerds v Words?

Lazy professional stereotyping might suggest legal and IT professionals have very different approaches to their work. At its most negative, there are some who think IT people are nerds who, for example, aren’t good at articulating the logic behind their decision-making. Meanwhile some think lawyers are far too keen on using too many words, and like the sound of their own voices.   Of course, neither view is true. In fact, although IT functions and in-house legal teams have very different roles, they perhaps have more in common than people think. For example:

  • they are both specialist support functions with a professional background that most users don’t fully understand
  • they have a responsibility or interest to reduce, manage and mitigate for risk
  • they have a generally under-used business advisory role which they could do more to exploit - both functions are sometimes regarded as not being very commercially-savvy
  • they both need to look at the detail of how things happen – the ‘small print’ is important.

Getting to know you

To avoid any misunderstandings, it really is worth spending the time to get to know and understand your IT department. In particular:

  • Get to know the different teams within your IT function. IT is made up of different parts who don’t always communicate well with each other.
  • Understand IT’s business agenda. These probably won’t come as a surprise - security is paramount, they are under pressure to do more for less, increasing accountability and getting closer to the business, are common themes.
  • Speak the language. This is a key area for misunderstandings. What you mean by the words “page”, “file” and “document” might be different to what IT means.
  • Take a process view. Working on processes that everybody signs-up to helps drive mutual benefits.

Making the extra effort to make connections, work closely on projects and initiatives with your fellow IT professionals is well worth it.  Having a solid understanding of each other’s work and agenda is a strong foundation to help manage the risk in any organisation as well as a more enjoyable way to work.

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