My news feeds, as I write this, are full of talk of a Cabinet reshuffle. Prime Ministers and Presidents move core team members around (and in and out) to try to ensure that they have the right people in place to deliver strategic goals. Sometimes, whole new portfolios are created to meet new demands. Sound familiar?
To deliver business expectations, you too must assemble a cabinet of complementary talents.
So, with a constantly changing IT landscape, with evolving and unpredictable business needs, how do you keep this crucial team relevant? Here are five ways.
1 – Regular Gap Analysis
In a fast-moving environment, it’s amazing how quickly your team and business needs and goals can drift apart. Gap analysis is about understanding where your IT operation and business are versus where you want them to be and then bridging the gap.
Gap Analysis is something that you can carry out yourself, there are plenty of templates online but, for maximum effect, calling in an independent pair of eyes could be a good idea. If you haven’t spotted the gaps before there is no guarantee that you will just because you decide to look for them! A trusted partner with a fresh “external” perspective can often see gaps and advise on available fixes.
2 – aaSk For Help
The IT “as a Service” market is at its most vibrant and dynamic and is constantly evolving. One of my favourite challenges is to try to find a Project Management or IT service that isn’t catered for “as a Service” – I haven’t ever found one!
So, whatever your capability or competence gap, you’ll find a patch in the “aaS” market from individuals to an entire end to end Project Management Office.
3 – Don’t Replace Like For Like
One of the issues over time is that you replace like for like.
My friend runs a business that started over thirty years ago. Back then IT was a back office support function – the guys you’d call if your PC wouldn’t boot up or dot matrix printer was jammed. Imagine how IT’s role has changed over those thirty plus years. A lot happened in that time, the internet, tablets and smartphones, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), the cloud … IT became a strategic business partner.
This firm is thoroughly served by its IT team – they anticipate need and actually drive innovation that generates revenue – but this wasn’t always the case. Five years ago the firm realised that they’d been hiring IT talent based on a template that was out of date. As staff had left they’d been replaced with candidates who most resembled departing talent in terms of skill sets and attitude, rather than actual needs of the business.
This had been fine when a mis-spooling dot-matrix was all that was at stake, but not when delivery of actual business goals depends upon the talent on your team.
4 – Involve Non-IT Stakeholders As Part Of The Hiring Process
One of my CIO friends is having huge success with this pledge that she made to the business a few years back. Having identified that IT no longer just supported the business – it had become the spine of the business – she decided to involve stakeholders from other relevant parts of the company where necessary and possible.
For instance, when an IT hire would spend most of their time delivering services to the transport department she made sure that the Transport Director was part of the hiring board, and so on.
She has extended this to discussions about temporary requirements that are met through various “as a Service” sources creating huge engagement across her stakeholder network. Furthermore, she has found this to be a two-way street meaning that her IT team is consulted earlier on strategic matters, increasing IT’s importance within the organisation.
5 – Encourage Openness And Honesty And Don’t Swerve Tough Decisions
We carried out a gap analysis for a client a couple of years back and one of the observations was that three key members of the project team were not delivering in line with the needs of the business. To contextualise this, they were still performing at an acceptable standard based on expectation levels when they were on-boarded – but in the intervening years the market was placing different demands and these team members hadn’t adapted.
This observation was met with a surprising response – everyone was expecting it! The CIO, the project leaders, even the team members themselves – they all knew what the problem was. It was a classic elephant in the room!
Dragging the issue into the light allowed for an open discussion and for a solution space to open up. Training of two of the PM team members sharpened their focus, the other decided that this wasn’t the right role for them and left and any capability gaps were patched up with talent from the PMaaS market.
This issue had been ongoing for the best part of three years, but no-one had addressed it! Few businesses can afford their IT operation to function this way so be open and never swerve the hard decisions!
In conclusion, you carefully build your IT crew around your business needs and strategies by hiring in core talents, competencies and capabilities. You have a healthy mix of doers and dreamers, leaders and collaborators, visionaries and analytical thinkers and, the truth is, that when you hired them, each was a perfect match for the role they filled.
A perfect team of experienced IT professionals with exactly the right skills and attitude – the trouble is that your business needs and the markets that you trade in are never static and staying totally relevant can be hard. Thankfully, it isn’t something that you need to do on your own.
About the author:
David Cotgreave MBA, BSc (hons), PRINCE II, is Professional Services Director at Stoneseed, with over 20 years’ experience in IT Consulting.