March 29, 2018
As IT departments change the way they provide services to their internal and external customers, some overlook a major contributor to the success of their initiatives – their people. Traditionally, larger IT departments have been organized into silos. 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 of the past. Staff had deep expertise in their respective areas, but were very light across the remaining IT services being provided within an organization.
Over the last decade, the IT landscape has evolved. Traditional IT services don’t necessarily have to be in an organization’s data center. IT departments can manage servers and applications inside their data centers, at a cloud provider, in a client data center, with IaaS and PaaS, even via mobile. 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. Today’s IT world is different and we need to adjust our staffing models to accommodate the evolving roles in IT.
So the next logical question is, what should this new model look like?
IT Staffing From a People Perspective
IT departments should be acquiring professionals with multiple skill sets to deliver greater value to their businesses. Small companies often cross-train IT staff without necessarily identifying the practice or focusing on it as a priority. Having a limited number of workers simply requires that each person have a range of skill sets to get daily IT tasks accomplished. Regardless of size – whether enterprise, mid-market or small – IT leaders should be developing teams with multiple skill sets to help insulate the department from inevitable uncertainties that could put businesses at risk.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we go out and hire new team members that know everything from programming to infrastructure, database to security. But what it does mean is that we change the way we hire and look for individuals that can work across the IT organization. It also means we look internally, reassign, and cross train. Our internal people know the company best. This has many benefits. Taking the time to train on new skills will enable IT to address challenges, deliver more to the business, and improve engagement and retention.
IT Staffing From an Organizational Perspective
How do we approach this staffing shift?
Take an inventory of your people and teams
Begin by assessing the skill sets of your people. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the team and what is the potential for cross training. Look for overlap in skills and tools. And determine how to play to each individual’s strengths and interests. Cross training will be most effective when a team member has an interest in further developing skills in certain areas. Also, evaluate what collaboration looks like across towers or areas as this will provide insight into development opportunities. Once your inventory is complete, you can begin to formulate your strategy.
Determine and articulate your strategy
When you are determining the structure of your organization, various options exist. You may determine that focusing teams on product areas may be the best structure. Team members are then 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 teams to understand how to anticipate the needs of the client or market segment.
If you are moving from a silo organization to a product or pod approach, communication will be critical to your success. Clearly articulating your strategy, how you will get there, who will be impacted, the tools that will be available, and milestones / timing must all be kept top of mind to ensure a healthy transition and an empowering environment.
Some additional learning from those of us that have made this staffing switch:
- Provide a mechanism for feedback while you go through the transition. – Your employees, internal clients, and external clients are your best sources of information as you continually look to improve your business.
- Be open to adjustments and change. It’s difficult to make this type of staffing transition so understanding you’ll need to tweak along the way is important. Don’t forget, most people are change adverse. Making decisions with that in mind will help make your life easier.
- Maintain client satisfaction. We have an obligation to maintain the satisfaction of clients as we are making staffing changes. Changes need to be made in a manner that doesn’t negatively impact the client experience.
The Benefits of Multi-Skill IT Staffing Models
- Hiring and developing people with multiple IT skill sets saves payroll dollars because you don’t need a dedicated person for each area. Well-rounded teams can fill in for each other, which is particularly critical in smaller organizations, as well as respond to issues more rapidly and effectively.
- Employees who are cross-trained are more engaged than workers who perform the same job day in and day out. Studies have shown they enjoy their jobs more. Because they are challenged to learn and apply new skills, they feel motivated and empowered to make collaborative decisions which are often better decisions for the company.
- Building teams with multiple skill sets also helps create a culture of collective success. When an application is down, for example, the team can draw on their shared pool of knowledge and technical skills to quickly solve the problem. In doing so, they build confidence and trust in one another, and take greater pride in the outcome.
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