Given the title of this blog, you’d expect that if you’re reading this in 2020 or beyond, it’s content will not be relevant to you.  Fear not, for the advice contained herein is just as relevant in 2019, as it was in 2009, and as it will be in 2029.  What changes are the factors which influence the strategy and approach we take, such as technology advancements, innovation, changes in working styles and general economic conditions.

However, the things which are important remain unchanged, and will do for many years to come.

People, people, people

First, and above all else, is the people.  I have worked for many years as a consultant, defining processes, selecting tools and implementing IT operating models.  The single most critical factor in the success of any programme, organisation change or support model is the productivity and happiness of the people.

We often mistake communications for business change.  This subsequently results in a workforce who aren’t committed to the achievement of a shared goal, lack motivation and are not incentivised to perform.

Despite the fact that several organisations have eschewed the traditional approach to setting and reviewing personal objectives, I’m a traditionalist who believes that without the setting of objectives and reviewing of progress, it is difficult to build highly effective individuals and teams.

So, address this factor as a principle point in any programme or support function, and the others I list below will become far easier.

Optimise your team

I’m no expert on team efficiency, but I know these points to be true:

  • Teams function better when their members share a common goal
  • Teams which have a shared mission and vision have a shared understanding of their purpose and are more likely to drive towards a successful outcome
  • Teams which have measures of success, such as achievement of targets which help them to achieve their team objectives and mission, are more likely to deliver a quicker and more sustainable outcome

Commonly, organisations are coming to the realisation that people and team management are critical success factors in any programme or support team.  As such, in addition to our more traditional process maturity assessments, we are now doing more and more Team Maturity Assessment engagements, where we objectively assess the performance and capability of the IT teams against a predetermined set of criteria.  You can contact us for more information on our assessment services.

Capture Demand

With demand coming from so many sources, in terms of planned strategic work, unplanned work, tactical change, operational change and the change that no-one tells you about until the last minute, you’d be excused for feeling a little dazed and confused.

It’s vital that today’s IT leaders have a seat at the board room table, so they can influence and capture strategic change.  As for the other types of change listed earlier, you’ll need to create processing and governance forums for reliably capturing and efficiently filtering these types of change.

When working with our clients, we regularly highlight the need not only for capture of the various different types of demand, but also the filtering of it in to relevant process siloes, to enable its efficient handling.  We often refer to this as T-shirt sizing.  It describes the concept of:

  • Defining the criteria which describe a project? Is it the number of days, its complexity, risk profile, cost or a combination of these factors?  Within this classification, do we have small, medium and large projects, each with an appropriate level of governance and control?
  • What is a request? What work types can be handled by standard operational processes?
  • What is a change? When do we need to assess and authorise proposed changes to the IT landscape?
  • What do we deal with reactively? Are there sufficiently skilled resources, with sufficient bandwidth to be able to work on this type of work?

Manage transition

With the high volume of change impacting all technology teams, as well as the mix of traditional waterfall and as new agile project approaches, it’s vital that there are robust yet flexible approaches to smoothly introduce and integrate change to the production environment.

Transition processes don’t have to be onerous. To to this end we have found that adopting a “t-shirt” sizing model to projects can help ensure that an appropriate level of governance is applied without slowing down the development and implementation of the project portfolio.  Using this approach, projects are categorised according to the risk, impact, criticality, complexity and other factors to determine the level of governance which needs to be applied.

Optimise Operations

We often forget that the Service Management and production support teams are those impacted most severely by the aggressive change agenda.  Often it can feel like they are being bombarded with a never ending assault of new or changed services, which they are expected to support.  IT leaders shouldn’t underestimate the impact of this, nor be afraid to optimise the support organisation to better cope with this bombardment.  We have recently seen successes in our clients who adopt a more service-oriented support model, moving away from the traditional tower support models.

Adopt a commercial approach

Do you run your technology team like it’s your own business?  Do you have visibility of cost factors and how to influence them?  Do you have a team mission and vision?  Do your teams have objectives?

We strongly encourage a more commercial approach amongst our clients.  It engenders greater accountability amongst the support teams, and can contribute greatly to the effectiveness of the team.

Embrace best practice

There is so much written today for IT leaders to use to tune and optimise their organisations.  ITIL has long been the de-facto framework used by most organisations, and with the advent of ITIL4, there is new guidance to consume.  Along with ITIL, we have SIAM, CoBit and a whole host of others.  However, don’t be bound by adopting best practices without adapting them for your organisation’s needs.  Indeed, don’t just be bound by best practice.  Remember, some best practices may not have been written yet!  Innovate within your own organisation, by capitalising on the capabilities you have at your disposal within your own teams.

Embrace tooling

Technology teams often need little encouragement to adopt a new tool which will make their lives easier.  But how many tools are bought by technology teams only to never be truly optimised or configured for their intended purpose?

By all means embrace tooling, but do so against a tooling strategy, with a defined benefits realisation plan and roadmap which is measured and refreshed on an ongoing basis.

Tune your Operating Model

Don’t be afraid to try new things within your teams, either by improving processes, re-organising teams, refining tools or adopting a more commercial approach as we’ve discussed above.

Einstein believed that doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.  Whilst, innovating, experimenting and optimising your organisation is the path which leads to a highly performing team.  He didn’t say that last bit, that’s what we believe!

In Conclusion

If you’re inspired by the themes explored here, here’s some further reading.

If you do only one thing after reading this article, take a look at your people.  Are they motivated, developed, happy and effective?  If not, take action to address it.  It will pay back double!

To find out how we help organisations like yours optimise their processes, read our ultimate guide to optimisation or you can learn more about other assessment services by reading our Ultimate guide to assessment.