This week I've been chatting to my colleague Kirsten about how L&D and IT teams can work together when a new tech product is being introduced to support learning. Kirsten is Head of Product Development here at GP Towers. Alongside our tech director Jonny, she leads our team of tech gurus to ensure our toolkits and e-learning are implemented smoothly for all our clients.

Good IT support can be crucial to the success of L&D's initiatives and often comes down to the strength of the relationship between IT and L&D. In this week's blog I share Kirsten's insights on the importance of getting the right IT support for L&D's initiatives and identify five things L&D can do to work better with IT colleagues.

1. Start the conversation early

If you are planning to make use of new tech to support a learning initiative, it’s never too early to involve your IT team. Try to work with them as a stakeholder from the beginning of your project, ensuring they are consulted well before your anticipated launch date. Doing this means that any problems that crop up can be ironed out in advance. Your goal is to make access to learning as simple as possible, so treating IT as an equal partner in the process rather than a hurdle to be overcome pays dividends in the long run.

In bigger organisations, moving through the change process that's associated with introducing a new piece of technology often takes time. If you are looking to introduce Single Sign-On, for example, L&D needs to have a good appreciation of the scope of such a change request, in addition to the timescales and project management involved. [1] Ensuring that the right people are involved in the conversation from the beginning makes the implementation process clearer and easier.

As part of these initial conversations, our tech director Jonny makes an interesting recommendation:

"Right at the start of every technical project, everybody should confess their ignorance. This is a ritual I always perform because it is a fantastic way of breaking through the theatrics, the feeling that everybody but me knows what is going on. The answer is to confess that you don't understand the problem and that you have no idea about the solution - how can you? It would be like predicting next year's weather. Be honest, admit that nobody knows, and then start the journey of discovering the solution together."

2. Draw on their expertise as part of your decision-making process

If you are reviewing suppliers and looking at a variety of options for learning technology products, involve your IT team in this process and ask them to feed into the decision-making. Even if you are not running a formal tender, ask them to be part of conversations with vendors so they can ask questions and gauge each supplier's suitability from a technical standpoint.

At GoodPractice, our tech team is often invited to have informal conversations with IT departments and teams. We take this as a very good sign that L&D is committed to involving people with the right areas of expertise to ensure the success of the project. The benefits of these conversations are two-fold – L&D gets a good overview of the issues involved from IT's perspective, and IT is reassured that potential suppliers understand their organisation's bespoke technical requirements.

3. Understand issues from IT's perspective

The more you know and understand about IT's role and contribution to your project, the better. IT is responsible for business-critical issues such as data privacy and security, which your project will need to address. Talk to them about your project and develop an understanding of their key issues and 'pain points'. This is about mindset, putting yourself in their shoes and viewing their issues as genuine business challenges (not barriers), to be worked through systematically.

4. Put suppliers and your IT team in touch

Once you've decided on your supplier, facilitate direct conversations between them and your IT team. This is about balance – you should be able to take a step back and trust your IT team to work out the issues, but also remain aware of progress through regular updates. There's no need to micro-manage, particularly if it's not your area of expertise – in our experience, this just slows down the implementation.

If the client we are working with also uses Slack as an enterprise collaboration tool, we recommend setting them up on a shared workspace with our technical team. This is a great way of putting teams in direct contact, allowing them to collaborate easily. They can screen share, troubleshoot issues and de-bug issues live. If you've got an enterprise collaboration tool, explore the possibilities for collaboration externally and use it to your project's advantage.

5. Get involved in testing

With every new client we work with, their live site is mirrored on a staging site. We can test safely in this environment without affecting the stability of their live solution. Testing new technology is a critical part of a successful implementation process, and therefore an area where we invest plenty of effort. It's something we firmly believe L&D should be involved with, and not rely on IT to complete.

The benefits of L&D's involvement in testing is invaluable. We find that L&D's wider business knowledge uncovers issues and challenges which can impact accessibility in different parts of the organisation. Our aim is to deliver a solution that can be accessed easily by everybody, and which gives all employees the best possible experience. As Kirsten says:

"There's always a way we can resolve technical problems - we've got lots of experience in finding solutions for a myriad of technical challenges. With enough time and direct access to the right people in your business, we can work together to deliver the best possible solution that fits with where your organisation is now in terms of technical capacity and capability, and where it wants to be in the future."

[1] With SSO, employees have one set of login credentials to your network rather than separate usernames and passwords for each system. SSO is our preferred method of access. It makes things much simpler and far more convenient for your employees by removing the barrier of signing in every time they want to access learning. In our experience, it has a strong, direct and positive impact on usage.