IT is not simply about repairing computers, it is the core of the business process. Without technology, there would be no business. Without a solid IT department, the technology would fail. And without good management, the IT department will break. So how does an IT managee ensure that his/her department is running as smoothly as the infrastructure? Here are 5 ways a good IT manager can help turn a broken IT department into a successful one.
Step 1: Get to know people.
Companies are not nameless, faceless entities. They are composed of people. Regular, ordinary, people. And each one of those people puts their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do. Everyone deserves the same respect, from CEO’s to Custodians. Each person is a part of that company, plays a critical role, and should not be looked up to or down upon. If this concept is lost at anytime, failure is imminent.
Step 2: The 30 Degree Rule.
Every good pilot knows that, if you want to turn the plane around, never to bank more than 30 degrees. Why? To keep the passengers calm and ensure the contents of the cabin aren’t shifted too much. The same is applied with any change in your I.T. department. Change must be applied gradually, remaining steady and consistent.
Step 3: United We Stand
Get the managers working together as a team, instead of as individuals. Identify the major objectives, and formulate a Process Improvement Roadmap based on the needs of the business. Example objectives may include:
- Enhancing strategic linkage between I.T. and the business
- Improving project execution
- Maintaining high-performance operations
- Improving customer satisfaction
- Marginalizing capital expenditures to compare favorably with industry benchmarks
- Synergizing the organizational headcount
- Improving project work flow
Step 4: Plot the Course
Once the destination is clear, and the road-map drawn, start plotting the course details. Write out detailed objectives with measurable outcomes for every I.T. employee, starting from the top down. If motivation is a concern, consider working with the HR to devise a system that quantifies performance against measurable objectives and offers rewards. In my experience, a key component to this type of program is a variable pay plan for each person in the I.T. department. It helps recognize and reward mutual dependencies, and allows people to see in the money they take home how their work contributes to the company’s success.
Step 5: “5Y” the Roadblocks
With any sort of change comes the possibility of roadblocks. In fact, it’s best to accept early on that challenges will need to be overcome. When one is encountered, use the Five-Why (5Y) method to determine the root cause of the problem. Here’s a good example from Wikipedia:
- My car will not start. (the problem)
- Why? – The battery is dead. (first why)
- Why? – The alternator is not functioning. (second why)
- Why? – The alternator belt has broken. (third why)
- Why? – The alternator belt was well beyond its useful service life and has never been replaced. (fourth why)
- Why? – I have not been maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule. (fifth why, a root cause)
- I will start maintaining my car according to the recommended service schedule. (solution)
Remember that some problems don’t stop at only five why’s. Some problems can go into six why’s, ten why’s, or more. Keep in mind when using this system, however, to validate the answer for each “why” before moving on to the next one. This will help eliminate inconsistencies, and lead to a more through problem resolution. In our example above, one would have to physically open the hood, test the battery, see that the belt was broken, and check the service life of the belt against the vehicle maintenance record. Remember, there’s nothing worth doing that isn’t worth doing right the first time.
Repairing a broken I.T. department takes time, patience, and a willingness to do what’s ethically right. Do not cater to ego or political clout. As an I.T. department manager, it is your job to ensure that I.T. is viewed as a fundamental enabler of the business instead of a tolerated liability. Establishing a solid foundation is paramount to achieving first-rate operational systems and processes.
Finally, once your process has been running for a while, conduct a series of cost analysis surveys for outsourcing major I.T. operations. If the costs for outsourcing are greater than 25% of in-house expenditures, you’ll know you’re doing it right!