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5 dysfunctional IT relationships -- and how to repair them

Dan Tynan | Oct. 2, 2012
Sys admins are from Mars, developers are from Venus, and legal is from hell -- here's how to heal friction among IT factions

Bottom line: As a junior developer, you need to learn more patience, while your bosses need to retain some flexibility. Otherwise, development turns into a fiefdom where hot new talent inevitably leaves and nothing innovative ever gets done.

Dysfunctional IT relationship No. 3: IT vs. legal

 I'm an IT manager at a midsize enterprise with a lot on my plate. Yet every few days the legal department hounds me about something -- compliance, e-discovery, cloud service-level agreements, yadda yadda. It's keeping me from doing what my employer actually pays me to do. How do I get the lawyers off my back so I can get some real work done? Beleaguered by legal

Shakespeare may have been onto something when he wrote, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." But without legal covering your company's back, your employer would probably be in a world of hurt -- and you'd find your job even harder to do.

A big part of the problem is that many corporate lawyers don't understand what IT does and have no idea what they're asking for, says Craig Carpenter, VP of marketing and general counsel for Recommind, a maker of e-discovery software tools. For their part, tech pros often see legal requests as a nuisance, even though one liability suit can bring the company to a screeching halt.

For example, legal might come to you and say they need all email for these 50 people from 2008 to 2012, and they need it tomorrow, says Carpenter.

"IT looks at legal and says, 'You have no idea what it's going to take to comply with that request,'" he says. "Legal looks at IT and says, 'You have no idea of the downside if we don't.'"

To bridge the gap, large enterprises need to dedicate a staffer who understands enough about both technology and legal that he or she can act as liaison between the two groups, Carpenter says.

"They don't have to experts in both fields, but they do need to understand what it means to extract metadata from both archives and live Exchange sessions," he says. "They need to know what legal really means when it says it needs to collect all emails from these 10 custodians. And they might be able to help legal understand that it's about to make life a living hell for 10 email admins and perhaps they don't really need all of the data they're asking for."

At the very least, says Carpenter, organizations should host off-sites with both teams so that they can have a regular meeting of the minds. The good news is that relations between tech and legal are improving. Surveys commissioned by Recommind indicate that two-thirds of enterprises have their legal and tech teams meet at least once every three months, and slightly more than half describe the relationship as positive.


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