Let’s face it. You have a complicated relationship with your organization’s IT team. Both your laboratory R&D Team and the IT team are under stress. You may be facing smaller budgets and smaller staffing levels, but with increased expectations for production and efficiency. Sometimes it seems like you can’t live together, but you both know it would be impossible to live apart. In stressful times, the only way for both teams to succeed is with a healthy relationship.
Healthy relationships thrive on clear, honest communication. You can help your IT team love you and your needs. Remember, relationships are hard work. Take a look at the following steps and see if they will help bring on a little bit more love to your relationship.
1. Put them first
In other words, think before you ask them to do something. If you haven’t thoroughly thought through a request or question, do not bring it to the IT department. Now here’s the next step – if you have thought it through, make sure you know where it falls on your laundry list of requests and (if possible) where it falls on the laundry list within your entire organization.
2. Don’t make them read your mind
If you have big dreams, let the team know. There are many different ways to achieve the same goal. If the IT Team knows step two, three, four and even ten of your dream plan, it will be able to create your system infrastructure in a way which will accommodate your future changes. If you are in a genetic testing lab, and you plan to apply for CLIA validation, your team will love you forever if you tell them now… while you are still developing your system. A LIMS system which allows for tracking of all information and can be used in validating your lab will be much more valuable to you in the future, even if it causes a few more steps in the implementation process today.
3. Share everything
Share too much. Let them know your plans for your data today, tomorrow and a year from now. Your IT Team may come up with a much better solution for the future if it knows the roadmap. A scalable system built on a platform architecture with a variety of applications makes much more sense to an IT department when it knows growth is in your future. Knowing your LIMS system will having changing needs over the next few years will make the team investigate your options differently than if you plan on keeping the same workflows indefinitely.
4. Establish trust
Be decisive if you can. Take an extra day, week or month to thoroughly analyze your needs and your requests before giving them to your IT Team. Your IT group would rather have a delayed decision which won’t change, than a quick decision that is constantly changing. If you have switched between goals or plans in the past, you will need to do more work to establish trust. If you’re uncertain, say so. The team will appreciate your honestly and will find points in the planning process where decisions can be revisited with minimal impact on time and expense.
5. Ask for advice
Bring IT in early-on when you are planning a new purchase or a systemic change. If you explain your goals and ask for input upfront, the team will be more invested in the success of your project. While you might be an expert in research and know exactly what you need to fulfill your goals, you need to remember the members of the IT Team are experts in their field as well. They know the questions to ask at every stage in the informatics research process. If you can engage them early-on in the buying process, they can quickly and easily consider the merits of different laboratory information management systems before you become lost in a swarm of potential applications and workflow options.
6. Remember, it’s what’s on the inside that counts
Don’t be fooled by a pretty face. As with any purchase, when looking for a new informatics system you need to look beyond the packaging. Take a deep look into the platform infrastructure, akin to looking beneath the hood when buying a car. One simple demonstration won’t give you the full depth and breadth of a system, nor will a flashy sales demo. And also like a car, don’t buy a system because you like the color or the company logo. You need to bring along someone to the showroom who knows the right questions to ask and won’t be swayed by the heated seats – loop your IT team into the decision making process early to ask the right questions to meet your requirements.
7. Use cloud-based software
If your IT team is forward thinking, they will not be scared by a choice to use the cloud – but will be able to help you make an informed decision. Using a cloud-based infrastructure can save your IT team valuable time when compared to maintaining your in-house system. Data security and upgrades will be covered by the software provider and your in-house team will only need to worry about your configurations and workflow issues. Using a cloud-based a system means you will not need to install the software on your servers, freeing your IT Team to deal with other issues. There will also be additional support for your IT Team from the software provider, giving them much needed assistance when they need it. Of course, if the cloud isn’t the right choice for you – then your IT team will help you to understand why, and you can deploy on-premises instead.
8. Buy them something nice every once in a while
Who doesn’t like a nice present? Upgrade your system and stop making the IT Team suffer through maintaining and using your legacy systems. The time and energy that goes into maintaining old systems is unacceptable in the modern world of scientific informatics. If you need specialists to maintain old systems and/or to access your data, you are not moving toward the future and you are in essence stifling your IT team and your relationship is destined for a rocky road – failure ahead.
9. Use configurable systems
Why would you lock your IT Team into something today which is difficult to change tomorrow? If you invest in a cloud-based platform architecture with a variety of applications, your team will love you. Configurations are quick when compared to custom coding which can take an inordinate amount of time – delaying your research and hurting your bottom line. If your IT Team can be empowered to make the configuration sin your system, it will ensure you have a team well-versed in all aspects of your informatics system.
Is your IT Team spending its time maintaining old, outdated systems instead of implementing the system you need for the future? Sit down with your IT Team and ask about how time is allotted and determine what will be the best course of action for the future. You will need to have a real list of priorities for your informatics system and handling your data. Creating that list will be painful, but it will be necessary for a harmonious relationship. Learn what the IT team needs from you. Ask them what would make life easier for their team. The answer may surprise you.
All relationships take work
Achieving harmony with and simplifying your relationship with your IT Team is possible. Sunsetting legacy applications in favor of new cloud based systems with reduced system maintenance efforts will streamline your system upgrades. This can lead to better access to data across applications, allowing you to make more informed real-time decisions. If an old system must remain a new one must have a robust API which will allow for information to flow seamlessly between the systems.
Open, honest communication is the key to a good relationship. Remember, you are in a serious relationship with your IT Team. For the relationship to succeed, there needs to be give and take on both sides. Remember, you both have something very important to care about – your data.