I have been accused in the past of using a “gotcha” question. For those who do not know what that means, a “gotcha” question usually has no incontrovertible answer. “What is the meaning of life?” is probably the most popular example (although most of us know that answer to be 42). My accused gotcha question to IT decision makers is simply: “How do you know IT had a successful month?”
The answer I’m usually given is short sighted and incomplete, a combination of uptime/fire fighting/upgrades and SLAs. The best answer is, “We met or exceeded all of our defined objectives.” Getting everyone on board with that as the best answer though, can be problematic. The traditional mindset of IT is to be focused mostly on tactical tasks; keeping the lights on stuff. While that will get you to a certain level of IT Nirvana, eventually it will lead to a lot of problems.
Process is the key to creating a technical operation where proactiveness and metrics are king and fire fighting, swashbuckling and all nighters are eliminated. In my experience the ideology that most effectively supports a proactive technical operation is the confluence of five key components: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Live.
My buzz phrase for this is “Goal Oriented Technical Service Operation.” Implementing this correctly takes time and effort, but in the end you will have a technical operation that is aligned with your business objectives and is focused on making targeted improvements. Let’s take a closer look at each step you need to take to be successful in pivoting your ideology.
This is so simple yet, so many people don’t bother thinking it through. Why does technology exist within your company? What are your objectives? These should be a mix of strategic and tactical items. Determine how technology needs to impact the business along with what components are needed to be successful in that endeavor.
Once you have defined what technology means to your company, you need to establish specific and measurable points of data to track IT success. For 200 years, baseball players were measured against three stats: batting averages, home runs, and RBIs. National economic health is measured using GDP growth. IT should be measured just the same. You can easily come up with a few targeted pieces of data to measure IT success. A few examples I have used in the past are:
- Less than 30 minutes of support time per month, per end user
- Less than 20% of time spent on unplanned tasks for senior technicians
- X Replacement PCs per month
- X Training sessions per month for end users
Once you have all this targeted information, you need to do something with it. The world has gone dashboard crazy but in this case a good dashboard makes a lot of sense. Review data that is below metric thresholds and require a root cause analysis. Getting to the core of an issue is critical, you will need to understand the data, in context, to be able to recommend improvements. Making recommendations is easy, but making targeted improvements with assumed outcomes is hard.
Every step up until this point will help you acquire information about your IT department that is actionable. If you understand your current IT state and your future IT state, along with all the variables in the equation, you can begin to make targeted improvements. Then, you can continue to track those improvements against your expected outcomes. It is important to show improvements in context to executive leadership. Articulate how success is defined, the components required to be successful, and how you have been continuously making improvements.
If anyone has ever gone through a similar process to this, you know the last thing you want is for all your hard work to get filed away somewhere and never be seen again. You need to take these items and communicate them across the board from leadership to IT to end users. You need to make sure everyone understands what IT is trying to do, how they are trying to do it, and if they are being successful. Keep it top of mind for all your IT staff;make sure they understand WHY what they do matters by explaining their impact on the overall success of the business.
It is crucial to make IT a productive department within your business. You can simply do that with the above process and procedures. But, you also need to make sure you hire the right type of IT person. I always want to hire IT people that are smart enough to know what they don’t know and confident enough to ask for help. We want people who are self confident, not people with egos. If you get the right people with the right mindset on your team you can get everyone to understand how these five simple steps can help you make IT a high performing, valuable component of the business.
If you have some of these in place but not all of them, try auditing your technical operations for maturity. Don’t just focus on infrastructure nuts and bolts! Focus on the entire technical operation—the people, process, and technology. Every IT department has room for improvement— so get started on improving yours!