Influencing IT decisions

Information professionals have vital skills when it comes to successful IT procurement and implementation, says Jon Beaumont.The trick is to make sure we are heard!

One may logically assume that an IT department should take sole responsibility for the decision-making process concerning IT equipment. This was predominantly the case recently, when my organisation was examining the possibilities for a new all-encompassing 'Practice Management System'.

A group was created to manage the project from original vendor demonstrations to selection, purchase and the ultimate integration of the chosen package.  There was one member of the finance department involved in the group, although this was the only Support Department function represented (with the exception of IT).  This was also possibly due to seniority in the management structure as opposed to relevant experience.

Fortunately, with a reasonable amount of harassment, I was finally involved with the procurement process for the system. My late introduction was hopefully worthwhile, and offered an obvious benefit in my view with the amount of questions that remained unanswered and more often than not, would have been unasked. Removing our current KM system and replacing this with an, as yet, untested program could have been in no way beneficial.  The inability to search effectively or view results in full was also a strikingly obvious issue.

But why are information specialists so often unthought of in such processes? Our range of skills, including searching, cataloguing, storage, Knowledge Management (KM), information retrieval etc are extremely well-suited to numerous activities within a professional organisation. Our ability to act as facilitator between IT departments and non-IT professionals is often overlooked, nevermind our (usually) positive attitudes, efficient knowledge-sharing and willingness to engage others. We have often witnessed failures with initiatives such as KM, as they have either been driven by IT and thus are far too technical, or possibly lead by owners who insist on fulfilling their own needs rather than those of others.

This is certainly not a complaining exercise regarding other individuals. Information professionals have many characteristics that can truly make a difference within an organisation, particularly with integration of IT.  

We just need to make sure they are noticed.

Jon Beaumont is Head of KM at law firm Harvey Ingram.

Photo courtesy of: youngthousands via Flickr