"If you can get an organization to move faster by creating a separate [Web development] group, then you should do it," says Brian Farrar, chief operating officer at the Chicago consultancy Xpedior Inc.
This pragmatic directive can be found in Senior Writer Susannah Patton's feature, "Amicable Split," in which happy companies such as Staples Inc. talk about how smart they were to segregate Web development from the established IT department by creating autonomous Web teams. How expedient. How new wave. How short-sighted.
I think this kind of approach will ultimately be harmful to organizations; it's a kick in the teeth for those IT professionals who joined these companies with the implicit agreement that they could develop their careers there; that they would work hard, do the grunt work and eventually move up to tackle leading-edge and exciting projects. Staples is proud that it transferred 30 people from legacy IT to join 65 newly hired, goatee-sporting Web developers ensconced in hip new offices painted yellow and outfitted with beanbag chairs and a foosball table. So the remaining separate-but-unequal 470 IT people are content to maintain back-office systems for the rest of their Staples careers? Did the Staples want ad in The Boston Globe promise them exciting, dynamic careers in legacy land? I doubt it.
At CIO, we faced a similar choice this year when we launched a new magazine, Darwin (www.darwinmag.com). Like you, we have a perpetual staffing shortage. Like you, we needed to get the product out in a hurry to keep pace with the competition. But our philosophy, framed by Editorial Director Lew McCreary, is to give our existing staff the chance to take on these challenges whenever they arise. We see these as built-in career-growth opportunities. So Darwin was launched by a group of volunteers from our core editorial staff, none of whom had experience creating a magazine from scratch. They did it right here in our boring, old, gray-and-mauve offices, surrounded by their colleagues. And the rest of the staff contributed indirectly by working harder to make up the man-power deficit, producing the largest CIO issues ever this past spring.
When Darwin debuted, on schedule, June 1, one of the first toasts at the launch party was to the editorial staff as a whole--we were proud we did it ourselves, together. Who will you toast at your Web launch party? The elite squad hired to develop the site in near isolation, the outsourcer paid to do all the creative work? Will you even invite the legacy IT group?
If you do, don't be shocked if they don't show up.
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