The Art of Collaboration
"We’re growing fast, so we need to be flexible and dynamic. We don’t need process or bureaucracy."
We’ve all heard it, usually coming out of the mouth of someone in Marketing or Busienss Development in response to someone in Operations or IT trying to stem the tide of corporate sprawl. But why is it that "fast and flexible" is viewed as mutually exclusive of "stable and accuracte" when it comes to systems and repeatable processes?
Here’s an example: a corporate website that is maintained by IT, with content owned by Marketing. Nothing inherently wrong with this scenario. But when several major customers call a VP late Sunday night because a page link is broken or content is wrong, who gets the call? Not the guys in Marketing. No, its the folks in IT Operations. So who is ultimately responsible for content and the website? Marketing wants the ability to edit on the fly, and IT wants to ensure pages work before pushing them out in front of the customer. Who is right?
As with most internal issues, its more about politics than anything; groups feeling that power is somehow being taken away from them if they admit to shared ownership. The problem here is not control of the content management system or the overall quality assurance process, but communication between the two primary groups – most of which can be automated, keeping things lean and flexible and fast.
Which is not to say that tools are the answer: its all about coordination. It can be augmented with tools, but ultimately this kind of issue needs to be resolved at the business level.
Without getting into too much detail about this specific example, I’d just like to point out that something as visible as a corporate website should have increased scrutiny, because every mistake reflects back on the company. Everything pushed onto the web should be top quality, screened by numerous eyes across different groups. In this case, a dialog is necessary to help both groups understand all of the needs and concerns. The solution could be as simple as a coordination between Marketing and QA to have all new content reviewed and approved throughout the day, with an agreed turnaround time, and a more thorough review for any navigation or page design changes.
Collaboration is an art, to be sure. And the first step to every solution is always to sit down and discuss the problems – before any solution is proposed. After all, until you have a clear picture of the problem space, how can you be sure you’re solving the right problem?