Digital Directions: The IT Crowd
Technology folks have for decades gotten more than their share of ribbing. Much of the hilarity comes from the cultural friction between technical and the non-technical. This cultural divide was perhaps most cuttingly portrayed in the hilarious UK sitcom The IT Crowd, in which an IT staffer routinely answered the phone with the greeting, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Another IT support guy I work with in the past manned his post beneath a large sign that read "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part."
These divisions are no longer such a laughing matter. One incredibly key aspect of change publishers will face concerns the very role and significance of technology development professionals in publishing organizations. I am not referring to IT systems and support folk—who already have a rather well-defined and established place in publishing organizations—but rather software development professionals who are involved in the creation of products, services and tools for an organization that is increasingly digital.
This is new.
The manner with which a publishing organization navigates through decisions regarding technology talent will, to a large degree, determine overall digital strategy and their success in executing it.
The technology people in publishing organizations are doing more than installing software and generating financial reports. They are integral to creating value for the core publishing mission, either by innovating new efficiencies in digital production or creating new customer value through digital product offerings. Technology talent is the key to unlocking future revenue.
After working with talented technology development teams for more than 25 years, I have observed that having developers work within an environment that reflects and supports specific cultural characteristics derives the best results. Experienced publishers well understand the varying needs of different types of professionals in terms of work environment—manuscript editors versus marketers, for example. What is not well understood are some of the ways that the organization can create an environment that creates the best results for technical development teams.