Critical Ingredients for Running Your IT Department

Running Your IT Department

Given the title of this article, you’d likely expect that if you’re reading this in 2021 or beyond, it’s content will not be relevant to you.  However, fear not, because the advice contained herein is just as relevant in 2020, as it was in 2010, and as it will be in 2030. What instead changes are the factors that influence the strategy and approach we take, such as technology advancements, innovation, changes in working styles, and general economic conditions. Whereas the things that are important to running an IT department remain unchanged and will do for many years to come.

Below are nine critical ingredients for running your IT department.

Running your IT department well involves people, people, people

First, and above all else, is the people. I’ve worked for many years as a consultant – defining processes, selecting tools, and implementing IT operating models. Finding that the single most critical factor in the success of any program, organizational change, or support model is the productivity and happiness of the people.

Here @SteveBMorgan shares nine critical ingredients for running your IT department in 2020 and beyond. #ITSM Click To Tweet

For example, we often mistake communications for business change. This subsequently results in a workforce who aren’t committed to the achievement of a shared goal, lack motivation, and are not incentivized to perform.

Despite the fact that some organizations have eschewed the traditional approach to setting and reviewing personal objectives, I’m a traditionalist who believes that without the setting of objectives and reviewing of progress, it’s difficult to build highly effective individuals and teams.

So, address this factor as a principle point in any program or support function, and then the others I list below will become far easier.

Optimize your team

I’m no expert on team efficiency, but I know these points to be true for running your IT department:

  • Teams function better when their members share a common goal
  • Teams that have a shared mission and vision have a shared understanding of their purpose and are more likely to drive toward a successful outcome
  • Teams that have measures of success, such as achievement of targets which help them to achieve their team objectives and mission, are more likely to deliver a quicker and more sustainable outcome.

Commonly, organizations are coming to the realization that people and team management are critical success factors in any program or support team.  As such, in addition to our more traditional process maturity assessments, we’re now doing more and more team maturity assessment engagements, where we objectively assess the performance and capability of the IT teams against a predetermined set of criteria.

Capture demand for running your IT department better

With demand coming from so many sources, in terms of planned strategic work, unplanned work, tactical change, operational change, and the change that no one tells you about until the last minute, you’d be excused for feeling a little dazed and confused.

In my experience, it’s vital that today’s IT leaders have a seat at the boardroom table, so they can influence and capture strategic change. As for the other types of change listed above, you’ll need to create processing and governance forums for reliably capturing and efficiently filtering these types of change.

When working with our clients, we regularly highlight the need not only for the capture of the various different types of demand, but also the filtering of it into relevant process siloes, to enable its efficient handling.  We often refer to this as “t-shirt sizing”:

  • Which criteria best describe a project? Is it the number of days, its complexity, risk profile, cost, or a combination of these factors? Within this classification, do we have small, medium, and large projects, each with an appropriate level of governance and control?
  • What is a request? What work types can be handled by standard operational processes?
  • What is a change? When do we need to assess and authorize proposed changes to the IT landscape?
  • What do we deal with reactively? Are there sufficiently skilled resources, with sufficient bandwidth to be able to work on this type of work?

Manage transition

With the high volume of change impacting all technology teams, as well as the mix of traditional waterfall and new agile project approaches, it’s vital that there are robust yet flexible approaches to smoothly introduce and integrate change to the production environment.

Transition processes don’t have to be onerous. To this end, we’ve found that adopting a “t-shirt sizing” model to projects can help ensure that an appropriate level of governance is applied without slowing down the development and implementation of the project portfolio.  Using this approach, projects are categorized according to the risk, impact, criticality, complexity, and other factors to determine the level of governance that needs to be applied.

Optimize operations

We often forget that the IT service management (ITSM) and production support teams are those impacted most severely by the aggressive change agenda. Often it can feel like they’re being bombarded with a never-ending assault of new or changed services, which they’re then expected to support. IT leaders shouldn’t underestimate the impact of this, nor be afraid to optimize the support organization to better cope with this bombardment. We’ve recently seen successes in our clients who adopt a more service-oriented support model, moving away from the traditional tower support models.

Adopt a commercial approach

Do you run your technology team like it’s your own business? Do you have visibility of cost factors and how to influence them? Do you have a team mission and vision? Do your teams have objectives?

We strongly encourage a more commercial approach among our clients. It engenders greater accountability among the support teams and can contribute greatly to the effectiveness of the team.

Embrace best practice

There’s so much written today for IT leaders to use to tune and optimize their organizations. ITIL has long been the de facto framework used by many IT organizations, and with the advent of ITIL 4, there’s new guidance to consume. Along with ITIL, we have SIAM, COBIT, and a whole host of others.

However, don’t be bound by adopting best practices without adapting them to your organization’s needs. Indeed, don’t just be bound by best practice. Remember, some best practices may not have been written yet! Innovate within your own organization, by capitalizing on the capabilities you have at your disposal within your own teams.

Don’t be bound by adopting best practices without adapting them to your organization’s needs. Indeed, don’t just be bound by best practice, says @SteveBMorgan #ITSM Click To Tweet

Embrace tooling for running your IT department better

Technology teams often need little encouragement to adopt a new tool that will make their lives easier. But how many tools are bought by technology teams only to never be truly optimized or configured for their intended purpose?

By all means, embrace tooling, but do so against a tooling strategy, with a defined benefits realization plan and roadmap that is measured and refreshed on an ongoing basis.

Tune your operating model

Don’t be afraid to try new things within your teams, either by improving processes, re-organizing teams, refining tools, or adopting a more commercial approach as I’ve outlined above.

Einstein believed that doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. While, innovating, experimenting, and optimizing your organization is the path that leads to a high performing team. He didn’t say that last bit, that’s what we believe!

If you’re inspired by the themes explored here, here’s some further reading:

  • Read our transition management blog
  • Find out more about our assessment services
  • Find out more about our optimization services
  • team maturity assessment.

If you do only one thing after reading this article, please take a look at your people. Are they motivated, developed, happy, and effective? If not, take action to address it.  It’ll pay back double!

If you do only one thing after reading this article, please take a look at your people, says @SteveBMorgan #ITSM Click To Tweet

Steve Morgan
Director at Syniad IT

Steve is the Director of Syniad IT, an independent IT consulting organisation, specializing in the design, build, implementation and optimisation of service integration and management (SIAM), IT service management (ITSM), and IT transformational change programmes.

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