The IT department tends to be full of buzz. For most IT professionals, workdays are spent alternating between ongoing tasks, time-sensitive issues, and long-term projects. You’ve got networks to protect, infrastructures to maintain, and systems to update—not to mention tickets to address, support to dole out, and trainings to teach. There’s really no typical schedule for IT, and even the best-laid plans can fly out the window in the event of a data breach. Some days can feel like sprinting on a treadmill—racing around the office to put out fires—leaving little time to focus on IT strategy.
Without proper IT management, teams can easily devolve into chaos. Consider the numbers from Innotas’s annual Project and Portfolio Management Survey, which found that over half of IT projects fail. Obviously, a failed project is a sign things aren’t going great. With that said, it can often be surprisingly tough to measure the effectiveness of an IT strategy.
On a sales team, for example, the results are extremely clear. In IT, it’s a little harder to measure. Success is about more than the number of tickets answered, but what other factors should fit into the effectiveness equation? Answering this question is key to building a better, more cohesive IT team made of colleagues who work together—both within their own team and across the business—to add to the bottom line.
1. Put people first
It’s an IT team’s job to manage technology, but doing that task well requires managing people. Most IT management and senior IT staff spend their time focused on people management, rather than in the technological weeds, and that requires a completely different skill set—fixing a slow server and assisting an employee who works slowly are not the same thing. Incompatible software and incompatible coworkers also require different techniques to reconcile.
Thinking about how to cultivate an effective team from a people perspective is an important part of any overall IT strategy. It may seem counterintuitive, but to drive IT productivity, people need to come first.
2. Set goals for an IT strategy
Goal-setting should be at the center of any IT strategy. You need to know where you want to go to get there. Management should develop a combination of short-term and long-term goals that provide an overarching sense of direction and can be tracked along the way. Big goals feel more attainable when broken up into smaller chunks.
Goals can take different forms. Some may be fairly straightforward and easily measurable, like achieving a certain response time when handling support tickets; others may be tangible, as in completing an email migration or implementing a new payroll system. And still, others may prove vague, such as “enhancing communication” or “improving employee security behaviors.” The most effective IT strategies include goals addressing all the above—corporate contribution, user orientation, and operational excellence.
You should prioritize goals to optimize all IT team members’ time. For instance, if a security vulnerability rears its head, fixing it should be a top priority, as failing to do so could derail the rest of the roadmap. In addition, goals need to be agile. It’s never a good idea to stick too rigidly to a plan when things can change at a moment’s notice, as they inevitably do.
You’ll also have a hard time achieving your goals if your team doesn’t understand what’s expected of them, so communicating goals and expectations from the outset is important. The more open your communication, the better. Employees should feel they can provide feedback and ask for support when needed. Meetings can, of course, be valuable, because they bring everyone on a team together to provide updates and discuss how things are going, but beware holding too many meetings, as they can prove disruptive and a waste of time.
3. Emphasize business value
For IT management, part of measuring your team’s effectiveness is also about your ability to communicate and convey business value to the rest of the organization. Other leaders, like the CFO, respond well to numbers, so whenever initiating new IT projects, consider how and why the move makes financial sense and make sure to emphasize wins.
For example, maybe you want to upgrade your organization’s printers to newer models with embedded security features. Try making the case that printers are an overlooked endpoint increasingly targeted by hackers and the average cost of a printer-related security breach is $500,000. Also, automating printer security will save the IT team time, freeing them up for mission-critical tasks.
IT management is all about empowering people to effectively manage technology. You’re crafting the overarching vision, providing each team member with direction, and supporting them every step of the way. Listen to their ideas and concerns, be open to new ideas, and prioritize a positive work atmosphere, along with organizational goals. No one said it would be easy—but investing in people will pay off.