Is IT Crushing Your Learning Efforts?

IT For eLearning How To Manage Your Courses
Summary: Building a foundational relationship with IT is in your and the organization's best interest. Both are responsible for "knowledge" and including them early demonstrates how to best leverage technology for learning effectiveness and grow respect for your learning efforts.

Don't Fight Back, Work Together

A client recently approached us to develop eLearning courses for their accounting competency map. Simple enough, right? After submitting a proposal, all left to do is to sign a contract and then roll up our sleeves that will impress them. There was one hiccup we never expected; they asked if we could host and manage the eLearning for them. This is not an unusual request, but it was unusual coming from them. Our smaller clients often ask us to host and manage their courses since they don't have the capacity to do so themselves. But this was different. This is a large, non-profit organization with a competent IT department, established IT infrastructure, and a recognized LMS! So, what gives?

Apparently, this smaller department doesn't want to work with their IT group. They're so adamant about not working with them that they are willing to pay extra to avoid doing so, and they've clearly stated they have a limited budget to develop the courses.

We have a wonderful relationship with this non-profit organization and each of its learning departments. We know they have the IT capacity to make this happen. It is very much in their best interests to host these courses on their own internal LMS.

More than avoiding the additional costs, hosting it internally would address their security concerns and enable them to collect valuable, external user data to better address their own users' needs. This is a no-brainer! But something is afoot and, believe me, this type of IT conflict is not an uncommon occurrence.

Respect And What It Means To IT

Any relationship with IT can be complex. And as it often happens with learning efforts, IT is often the last to be included in the technology solution requirements. You'd think they'd be the first to engage in any tech decision, but people tend to get caught up in the deliverable, not necessarily on the infrastructure requirements or how it will work. Many assume, "they'll (IT) work it out" or "how to make it work."

Doing so is disrespectful to the IT department. Those in learning should be the first to recognize this disrespect, as they are often left out of key decisions as well. Rather than making these implicit assumptions, it's essential to include them. Naturally, leaving them, or anyone, out of a decision will only make them defensive, protective, and, at times, exceptionally upset.

The objective is to always make alliances, not adversaries. Your learning efforts don't occur by happenstance (well, I hope that's not how you are doing things). When planning out your learning efforts and strategies, begin by first reaching out to those fundamental to supporting your efforts, like IT (especially IT). Make them a partner when planning your learning efforts. That way you have another credible voice when you're facing your stakeholders' tough questions.

Jumping Through Hoops

Ok, it's not just about what you can do to get IT onside. They (those in IT) must also step up and reciprocate! Collaboration is a two-way street and extending your olive branch to IT is only one part of the story. IT must also respect that even though they're a necessity, they must embrace working alongside other organizational departments and not be resistant to new approaches. They must adapt and be flexible.

Regretfully, many IT departments are exceptionally protective of their IT environment (anecdotal). It's never a good sign when someone reacts with a cringe when you say we should run this by IT. In IT's defense, technology is every organization's backbone, and they have a huge responsibility to ensure its reliability. It's only natural that they'll be overly protective of their infrastructure as if it was their child. Because, if it fails, it's their heads that are on the line.

But protectionism comes down to learning to manage two things: first, respecting their knowledge, and second, managing their sense of entitlement.

As for knowledge, and not to be disparaging, IT people tend to know what they know. This means that anything you propose is typically new and foreign to their infrastructure and implicitly threatens the reliability of the organizational backbone. Essentially, they're saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This makes logical sense to an extent considering the fragility and intricacies of IT software and hardware.

As for entitlement, it's more about acknowledging their (IT) integral role within the functioning of the organization. It's fundamentally feeding into ego. Saying they're entitled sounds harsh, however, it's meant to recognize that they are the gatekeepers for the organization's knowledge acquisition distribution. To some degree, they've earned the entitlement title.

Steps To Take

IT cooperation and support for your efforts begins with your approach to the initiative.

1. Stop Being Reactive

Clearly define the initiative and expectations. Stop being an "order-taker" (e.g., stakeholders diagnosing the training solution) and get out of your cubicle/office and meet with internal clients. Learn about their operations, business, and performance expectations. Do what you do best, conduct a comprehensive needs assessment so you can prioritize any IT needs with IT.

2. Forecast, Plan, And Prepare

Learning about your internal clients' needs allows you to determine your future IT and financial requirements. It will help you bring together and harmonize your required technology requirements with your proposed learning efforts.

3. Develop A Learning Technology Strategy

This is more than a tech wishlist and it's an integral subcomponent to a comprehensive learning strategy. Rather than sitting back considering what you require to properly manage to learn or react to immediate demands, the objective is to get in front of your technology expectations. Planning for what you need is better than acting on impulse.

4. Partner Up

Don't leave IT out of the conversations. Find an IT point person to involve whenever learning technology needs pop up. Meet with them first to make them aware of the internal client's requirements and how you intend to align the technology. Get them to share their insights and guidance to make it work before meeting with the client. Then, meet with the internal client to propose your learning solution.

Moving Forward

Organizational respect is something that is earned, not bestowed. IT's earned respect didn't come about overnight; it grew over time, as the rise for knowledge management grew in significance. Naturally, the weight of gaining respect can also lead to ego and entitlement. You can't change this but you can manage it by engaging IT early and often.

Building a foundational relationship with IT is in your and the organization's best interest. Both of you are responsible for "knowledge." By including them early, you not only demonstrate how to best leverage technology for learning effectiveness but will help you to grow the respect learning practitioners desperately seek from others within the organization.

You are one cog in the org machine. Alone you won't achieve much. However, engaging with other cogs in the machine will deliver valued outcomes.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We would enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbelearning!