A few weeks ago I joined the IA Institute board of directors. At the IAI, you run to be part of the board and later the specific roles and responsibilities are defined (first electing a president, a treasurer and a secretary to satisfy our non-profit legal requirements, then assigning particular responsibilities to the other directors).
When we first started discussing roles, my main desire was to become the IAI Ombudsman. Having ran for the board on a platform of transparency, I thought the Ombudsman role would be a good way to introduce an initiative-agnostic role that remained 100% accessible to the membership and was able to directly respond to their needs.
Regardless of my desire to play the role of an open channel of communication that helps things get addressed, someone needed to take on the oversight of the Institute’s IT and Membership (which is corresponds to customer service, tech ops, and all systems). I volunteered to take these on because they seemed to be the most related to the things I wanted to do as an Ombudsman.
A problem became apparent to me right away: an Ombudsman, by definition, is supposed to be independent, neutral and impartial to do their job well. From the IAO Standards of Practice:
1.1 The Ombudsman Office and the Ombudsman are independent from other organizational entities.
1.2 The Ombudsman holds no other position within the organization which might compromise independence.
I have been trying to reconcile how I could play the Ombudsman role while being the director responsible for infrastructure oversight and the reality is that it’s just incompatible. Having spent the past few weeks learning about how the Institute runs, what the various systems are, who does what and what is currently understood as needs of the membership, it was not a big leap to figure out I needed to re-frame my role.
I thought lots about whether I should withdraw from the board so I could become the Ombudsman, but seeing where the current infrastructure is today, I think being the director of infrastructure is a better match for me and for the Institute *right now*. To address my concerns on the Institute’s transparency and foster a culture of openness, communication and accountability, we need systems and tools that support people working that way.
I know I have the right skills to lead that charge (as I design systems for a living) and I am interested in the kinds of infrastructure issues the Institute has today (more on that in a future post). There is plenty of work to do so I decided to write a job description to help me focus the time and energy I’m volunteering and so anyone knows how to use that time and energy. Please help me refine!
Director of Infrastructure
The director of infrastructure is responsible for overseeing the planning and development of systems and technologies needed to support and maintain the services and initiatives associated with the Information Architecture Institute.
Evaluate the short and long-term value and impact of technology decisions.
(When someone chooses to deploy a CMS, create a new feature or tweak existing services, I should be able to assess how this affects our overall infrastructure in terms of technology, cost and effort, and help them make the right choices).
Ensure infrastructure projects are properly managed and executed
(When we need to do something that contributes to the Institute’s infrastructure, I need to make sure projects have a clear purpose and sufficient resources to succeed, in addition to support and encourage contributors to move things along).
Keep the Institute and members abreast of infrastructure improvement plans
(During my time in this role, I need to involve institute members and keep them informed about what’s going on and set expectations about the direction things are going to ensure it’s in line with what everyone needs.)
Assess the infrastructure wants and needs of new initiatives
(When a new project comes around, I should offer advice and guidance so project champions are aware of what’s available to them and what they can build on)
Direct the Institute’s resources towards the highest value opportunities
(To get things done, I need to be mindful of the cost and benefit of utilizing our staff versus reaching out to the community for help and support)
Assess the organization’s ability to maintain core systems operational
(Evaluate, on an ongoing basis, how well the Institute can maintain it’s various services and advise the board of directors on areas of opportunity and risk)
Ensure a smooth role transition to the next director of infrastructure in office
(By the time I’m done with my term on the board of directors, I will have a transition plan for the next person who will take this role to ensure quality knowledge transfer and continuity of permanent efforts)
My goal is that my platform of transparency, vision and empowerment is well translated in the openness, communication and accountability of this role. Any thoughts, edits and additions much appreciated.