As Information Technology departments change the way they provide services to their internal and external customers, some often overlook a major contributor to the success of their initiatives - their people. Traditionally, Information Technology departments have been organized into silo’s so SAN specialists were on one team, Intel specialists on another, network specialists yet another. These towers worked well for the 1st and 2nd generation platform worlds we were in (1st generation being mainframe, 2nd being client server). People had deep expertise in one skill, but were very light across the rest of the Information Technology services being provided within an organization.
Over the last few years, the Information Technology landscape has evolved. As a result of the internet (“thank you, Al Gore”) and the ability to move data quickly, traditional Information Technology services don’t necessarily have to be in an organization’s data center. IT organizations can manage servers and applications inside their data centers, at a cloud provider, in a client data center, with PaaS providers, via mobile, etc. Organizations that have stuck with the traditional tower mentality are less efficient in today’s new world and many are struggling to exist under the weight of changing roles and responsibilities. This new IT world is different and we need to adjust our staffing models to accommodate this change.
So the next logical question is, what should this new model look like?
From a People perspective –
We need people that know more than a single skill. Now this doesn’t mean that we go out and hire new team members that know everything from programming to infrastructure, database to security etc. But what it does mean is that we change the way we hire and look for some of these individuals that can work across the IT organization. It also means we need to look internally and reassign and cross train. Our internal people know the company best which has many benefits - we just need to teach them the new skills.
From an Organizational perspective
- Take an inventory of your people and teams:
- Is there overlap in skills and tools?
- Are you doing reporting, monitoring, etc. in each tower?
- What are the skill sets of your people?
- Is collaboration real across your towers?
- Determine and articulate your strategy
When you are determining the structure of your organization, you have options. You may determine that focusing teams on products may be the best structure. Those team members then are accountable and have a sense of ownership in the products they service. Or you may focus teams on particular clients or a target market. This allows them to understand and learn to anticipate the needs of the client or segment.
If you are moving from a silo organization to a more product or pod approach, the key thing to remember is that you can’t communicate enough about the change. Clearly communicate the who, what, where and how about this change. You owe it to the business you are serving as well as the employees and clients. Set milestones/timelines for implementation and hold people accountable.
Provide mechanism for feedback:
- Your employees, internal and external clients are your best providers of information to improve your business.
Be open to adjustments and change:
- It is pretty hard to make this type of change and not have the need to tweak it a bit.
Don’t forget, most of the towers and people within the organization are change adverse. Make decisions with that in mind. Also, you have an obligation to maintain the satisfaction of your clients as you are making these people changes, so they need to be made in a manner that doesn’t negatively impact the client experience.