Atlassian Shares 4 things the Highest Performing IT Teams Do That Others Don’t

The numbers tell the story. Learn how to make your IT department one of the best.

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Credit: Atlassian

The numbers speak volumes: High performing IT organizations are two times more likely to exceed productivity goals, according to Puppet Labs 2015 State of DevOps Report. They also experience 60x fewer failures and recover 168 times faster.

But what makes an IT team “high performing?” What practices do the very best teams follow to become more efficient, collaborative, and responsive?

With more than 68,000 customers (and millions of IT and DevOps users), we’ve learned a ton at Atlassian about what separates the best from the rest. Here are our top tips. 

High Performing IT Teams Put Culture First — DevOps Style

Processes and performance metrics are important. But the most effective IT teams focus first on their culture and how they work together both within and across teams.

Our biggest tip? Draw inspiration from DevOps for practices that increase team collaboration, transparency, and trust.  Daily standup meetings are a great way to track progress and priorities and reinforce the team dynamic. Use retrospectives to keep getting better.  And at Atlassian, we use chat and video conferencing in place of email — resolve 50% of all IT requests even faster by gathering the right people in a HipChat room in real time.

For extra credit, hold “hack days” — or marathon days of intense collaboration and brainstorming where the team comes up with new ideas to improve the organization and the business.

They Automate Themselves Out of Their Own Jobs

In DevOps, the very best teams make it their mission to find new ways to use automation to make their own roles obsolete.As a reward, they’re moved to bigger and more exciting roles — each time with the same goal of automation.

At Atlassian, we use JIRA Service Desk to auto-triage email requests — using powerful automation to properly prioritize tickets, assign them to the right queue, auto-approve small purchase requests, and escalate urgent SLAs.

Encourage your team to constantly find new ways to embrace automation, eliminate repetitive work, create repeatable processes, and provide better experiences for customers. Instead of manually triaging and following up on every ticket, challenge them to let the tools do the work so they can get more done.

They’re Lean (And Always Getting Leaner)

Move quickly, be scrappy, and be agile. “Lean” service management is all about eliminating duplicate work, unnecessary administration, and bloated processes to create a more simple, scalable environment for continuous improvement.

Take change processes, for instance. Rather than creating “approval monsters” where each type of change follows a dramatically different set of complex rules, the best teams today are switching to dev-ops style peer reviews instead. In this model, all proposed changes must pass a peer review before going straight to testing and production. It’s a faster and far more reliable way to vet changes and eliminate complexity at the same time. 

Finally, continuous improvement and failure go hand in hand, so set up your IT team to absorb failure, recover, and learn from it.  Post-incident and post-mortem reviews ensure your team members don’t burn themselves out fighting the same issues over and over again, and instead focus on resolving and prevent recurring problems altogether.

They Keep Track of the Metrics That Matter

Resist the urge to measure everything, and look instead for ways to set meaningful measurements that support company and organization-wide goals.

For example, some teams have a big push to reduce call times. Time is money, after all. But it often makes sense to encourage Level 1 support to stay on the phone longer and gather more information, since Level 1 support calls cost $12 - $22.50 on average, vs. $45 - $100+ for levels 2 and 3.

The best teams don’t obsess over every small number: they create a balanced scorecard to track their overall performance against the metrics that matter most to the org and the company — like mean time to repair (MTTR), number of repeat issues, cost per incident, and performance against operational SLAs.

For extra credit, set joint goals with your business stakeholders that align to corporate priorities. This brings you closer to other teams, and ensures accountability against a common company vision.

They Share Success

Finally, truly high performing teams take the time to celebrate their successes and give kudos to other employees for doing great work. At Atlassian, any employee can reward another employee with a small “thank you gift” automatically via a simple JIRA Service Desk request — which strengthens our culture of collaboration and communication even further. Our takeaway? Build a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. At the same time, get rid of legacy tools that are causing you to work harder, not smarter. Your business will thank you for it.

Interested in learning more about high performing IT teams? We surveyed over 600 teams to find out what makes them tick. Find out here.

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