…In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…’
So starts Shakespeare’s classic tale, Romeo and Juliet. Most of us are familiar with this tale of star-crossed lovers and I want to use it as an analogy for another relationship between two key parts of every business that often struggle to work together.
With a little less drama, this is a relationship I see every day that has the potential to cause significant disruption to most organisations*. This can go unnoticed and unchecked for some time until it comes to reviewing / refreshing information management systems.
It is a long established and widely accepted fact that Information Management (IM) and Information Technology (IT) inevitably fall out and disagree on how information should be viewed and managed. A latter day Capulets and Montagues going to great lengths to obstruct one another in a battle for supremacy.
That may seem a touch dramatic, but in this blog post I hope to show you why it’s actually this serious and why, if left unchecked, it can expose organisations to any number of risks associated with not securing and managing information correctly.
‘Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?’
Having developed in relative isolation, both IT and IM use almost entirely different languages to explain aspects of their work. An example might be the word ‘archive’. To an IT professional this may simply refer to an email archive that takes older emails and compresses them into .pst files to reduce server storage. To an IM professional this term has a much more specific ‘active’ use in that it relates only to information that would need to be kept for historical purposes.
To avoid this type of confusion and accusations of being deliberately antagonistic, both teams need to work out how to communicate to each other and agree what terms can or cannot be used. This may seem incredibly petty, but it has been proven in all types of conflict resolution that if both parties have a clearly agreed language and rules for its use, they get past problems a lot more quickly.
If both teams take the time to understand what it is that they are both hoping to achieve without worrying about what words they should be using (i.e. talk in plain English), it’s more likely that they will realise that they are not working in competition but actually trying to achieve the same goal.
‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet’
As both teams are working on such closely related activities it can be difficult for other parts of an organisation to understand why they need to talk to one team and not the other.
Establishing what each team is responsible for and how they should communicate this in a unified way to the organisation will be incredibly valuable. Not only will it reduce the conflict between the two teams, but it will present IM and IT as being professional in their responsibility for the organisation’s information.
It can also improve the way in which changes or upgrades to information management systems are designed, and implemented across the organisation, as users won’t be able to play one team off of the other in avoiding any new changes they may object to.
In the same way it will also demonstrate to senior management that both teams are equally important and should both be consulted regarding any concerns over the management of information.
‘A plague o’ both your houses!’
As Mercutio lay dying in the street he cursed both the Capulets and the Montagues for not being able to get past their historic conflict.
IT and IM run a very real risk that if they continue to perpetuate ongoing arguments and obstructions to one another, the organisation will lose respect for them. If this happens then both run the risk of being discredited, leading to users ignoring them, senior management questioning their value, and regulatory bodies penalising the organisation as it fails to comply with the rules owing to poor information management.
*Although, sadly, fewer masked balls.