SES Toronto 2009 Live Blogging – How to Speak Geek: Working With IT Departments

Ian McAnerin, CEO, McAnerin Networks Inc.
Shari Thurow, Founder & SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive
Keith Boswell, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist, Kaiser Permanente
Laura Coltrin, Search Engine Optimization Manager, MySpace

This should be interesting. A relative of mine (in-law) would probably say that you should just learn how to deal with people with Asperger’s. We’ll see how these panelists go deeper.

How to Speak Geek

Keith is up first!

Talking about the danger in the difference between that was sold, and what was built.

The Costs of Poor Communication with IT

  • Wasted time, including problematic delays beyond seasonal targets
  • Bad blood. They might be willing to forgive!
  • Money. Will spend more time catching up instead of optimizing

He’s pointing out that as digital grows, there are more and more situations where this communication has to be strong. This is especially the case because of increased outsourcing, too.

Some Tips:

  • Don’t avoid them. Speak to them. They will be glad you did.
  • The difference in language is temporary, until you get on the same page.
  • Learn, understand, and be comfortable with differences.
  • Praise the machine – thank them!
  • Get to know what makes them tick.
  • Admit what you don’t know to build credibility, avoid problems, and focus on what you do best.
  • Find the IT people who get business more. They exist, and you need to build their respect.
  • Build a long-term bridge.
  • Manage expectations, give advance. Part of building trust.
  • Learn your IT documentation.
  • Get to know, as best you can, what a use case is, object modeling, the platform your digital presence is running on, and ask what they recommend you read up on.
  • Your learning curve should be never-ending.
  • Ask the right, specific questions.
  • Work together to understand project-sizing.
  • Engineers like challenges.
  • Know when it’s time to back down.
  • Show them that affect the borrom line.
  • Keep them involved, and maintain the communication channels. You’ll find out new things, and maintain the trust you built.
  • Seek their advice often. They’re always learning, and might have great ideas they’d be willing to share if you get the dialogue going.

A 12-Step Program for the Technically Challenged

Laura’s up now, and intends to focus on an SEO flavour.

  • Engineers are people, not code monkeys.
  • They should know you by name, where to find you, and be willing to ask questions.
  • Explain why SEO is important. How does SEO fit into the corporate strategy?
  • Learn their language, a little bit. Take note of the things you don’t know, and look it up!
  • Understand the balance between site performance and SEO, a good overlapping point.
  • Know their boss, and develop an advocate/asset.
  • Learn the system, respect the system, and make it work for you. If you don’t, you’ll kill your respect and trust.
  • Try to integrate SEO into their mindsets, and projects
  • See how SEO is prioritized, and get it in the right place.
  • Share knowledge about SEO best practices, to make things easier to implement later. They should know how search engines work, and the technical side of SEO. Wouldn’t hurt to show them you’ve got some technical skill too. Things like how Google sees a page, interlinking, the concept of trusted domains, etc.
  • If you know some cool work arounds for technical problems, they’ll appreciate it. Things like what makes for a good, followable, solid link. Flash workarounds are a good example
  • Explain the value behind the SEO tactics you want to implement. They want to do what they do for a reason. Managing many priorities, they need to know what you’re suggesting is worthwhile
  • Brainstorm with them about how to address problems and new ideas. It shows respect and saves time in cases where there are technical constraints you didn’t know about that affect your ideas.
  • Network with other developers. Might find new solutions to the same problems.
  • Report success.
  • Show appreciation.

A lot of this overlaps with the first presentation. Recurring themes are cultivating respect, and making sure you encourage an exploration of each others’ worlds in a friendly way.

Shari on How to Speak Geek

A bit of musing on being specific, specifically with… titles!

  • Web page titles – super important!
  • Page headings – NOT TITLES
  • Meta-tag titles – You say “title” to a developer, they think “html title tag”.

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