In many companies the function of “digital media” is recognized as a corporate department or group that stands on its own -- even if it ultimately reports through either marketing or IT.
Typically, the function of digital media is to produce content, while IT provides applications that manipulate that content. Using content management systems, digital media provide artwork, Website layout, and constant content refreshes. IT is called on to move the content among these systems (and other, backend systems that digital media personnel know nothing about) and the end users for which the content is intended.
“The relationship with IT works pretty well,” says Alan Hatcher, associate VP of publications with Primerica, a term life insurance provider, “especially when you recognize that, regardless of your function, everyone is on the same team.”
But teamwork gets more complicated as Websites add more “moving parts.” This evolution is starting to overrun the “content versus applications” dividing line between digital media departments and IT.
Hatcher remembers a time several years ago when Websites were more “static” and contained fewer moving parts. Add to this the fundamental cultural differences between digital media -- which wants a new Website “now” that it can get to market quickly -- and IT, which wants to make sure that the Website is secure and working properly.
These stress points have resulted in some digital media departments taking matters into their own hands by hiring developers so they can build their own applications. “The idea of doing this without IT can work well, as long as they understand the data,” one CIO diplomatically told me.
Unfortunately, “understanding the data” involves more than developing attractive Website displays and intuitive Website dynamics. If you’re going to touch the infrastructure data contained in corporate databases, you have to also build security best-practices and application integration that crosses networks and platforms. This is IT’s world, and clearly a place where digital media prefer not to go.
The solution is more cooperation between digital media and IT. “In working together, we understand each other better -- and we also have a strategy for application development,” says one digital media specialist. “We work with IT jointly in projects. IT lets us design the front end of the application, and they develop the backend. Then, we pilot the application together.”
This strategy borrows from sound IT project management practices and also builds in respect for fast-moving and iterative front-end changes typically required by digital media. Both sides get together in weekly “scrums,” where everyone communicates on project task status. Any problems or roadblocks are acted on immediately.
The approach seems to work. Digital media departments see the results in iterative testing that is faster and offers the ability to accommodate rapid changes. IT knows that best-practices for data movement and deployment will be followed. Most importantly, both sides are answering the new demands that sophisticated customers and users are placing on Websites and on the underlying applications that make them work.
— Mary E. Shacklett, President, Transworld Data