Ensuring IT`s SurvivalBy Winston Shines | Posted 2009-09-29 Print
Four steps toward a healthy, sustainable IT department.
In this era of insolvent banks and auto companies on the brink, it’s essential that you, as an IT executive, take four major steps to ensure both your survival and the survival of your IT department.
First, you must quantify the number of calls the IT department receives from inside and outside the company. This leads to the second step, which is to know your users. Third, make sure the IT department’s goals are aligned with those of the business. Fourth, analyze your purchasing of IT goods and services.
Knowing how many calls your IT department gets and how fast it responds to user requests is the key to your survival and that of your department. Admittedly, finding this out requires you to do some research. But this data will enable you to spot trends and will prove useful when you’re requesting or buying resources for your department.
You should know how many calls, e-mails, instant messages and verbal requests for help your department gets. However, just having this data is not enough. On a regular basis, you need to let your chain of command know that you have gathered this data and are using it to improve your organization’s performance.
In addition, knowing how many IT help requests you get from your company will acquaint you with your users and the resources they need to do their jobs so that you can align IT with the goals of the business. This will enable the IT department to provide outstanding customer service.
You should also find out what the users like and dislike about your department, and record the results. This should help in handling budget requests or resolving IT bottlenecks if members of your team are not doing their jobs.
It’s also essential to be aware of everything that’s going on in your department. For example, it’s important to know if your network has been hacked. A good way to think of security is to look at the components of risk. They include assets (hardware, software and information), as well as threats and vulnerabilities.
You—or someone on your team—should know how many employees there are at your company. You can get this data from human resources (HR). Your department should also keep track of the number of PCs and wireless-access points in your facility.
It’s important to have a policy in place to work with HR to keep track of when employees start and when they leave the company. Many intrusions on networks happen because PC accounts are not deleted after an employee leaves, and the former employee—or someone who knows his or her password—uses that PC account without permission.
The final step in knowing (and serving) your users well is to have a backup/continuity plan for data and explain it to your users, starting with the CEO. This, once again, relates to aligning the IT department’s goals with the company’s business goals.
If you don’t know what your company’s business goals are, you had better find out—pronto. This involves being a good steward of the financial resources invested in your department and having the numbers to prove it.
A PC on an employee’s desk is an investment in worker productivity. You will be better able to make the case for increased productivity to your CFO or CEO if you have numbers on the current productivity of employees and can show how a new investment in hardware or software could make your workers more productive.
When you know your company’s business goals, you can use IT assets and people to help achieve them. So keep track of the goals you have met, as well as the goals in progress and how you plan to meet them. Make ROI, systems availability and legal compliance the starting points in aligning business goals, and then segue into knowing your users.
Also, you should know how your business relates to IT and your industry’s competitive marketplace by doing competitive benchmarking. In short, be aware of who your competitors are, what software and hardware systems they are using, and how much they spent on them. Then compare them to your IT systems. You can gather this intelligence by networking, joining IT organizations, reading IT publications, and taking relevant classes and seminars.
Finally, if a new idea works and fits in with your company’s culture, don’t let the not-invented-here syndrome shoot it down. We all need innovative ideas to ensure IT’s survival—and our own.
Winston Shines is a principal consultant at Maximillian Bryan & Marcell Technologies Internationale LLC, a consulting firm based in Detroit.
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