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CIO Perspective: Your IT Department Cannot Go Alone Anymore

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As I have discussed in my previous articles, IT is undergoing structural changes in the last two-three years. Cloud computing, Big Data and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) are the three major changes in the corporate IT. Even virtualization is old news.

On the other hand, corporate IT department is struggling with its current workload. Servers are still virtualized (and so are the networks), there are a lot of projects continuing in parallel, there is no decrease in user support calls, not counting the wizardry of keeping hundreds of systems running together to support various business requirements. The burden of the 100% availability requirement from the users is further increasing the stress.

Yet, the board asks to implement the developments as soon as possible to hold on to the competition.

The current conditions the corporate IT departments are working require disparate skills. Even in large IT departments, it is not easy to find the skills right away to employ on the different projects. Smaller IT departments are struggling with the upkeeping of the systems, managing current user requirements and supporting projects. As expectations change, and almost always increase, simply hiring more people does not help.

Fortunately, there are solutions.

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First, there should be strict governance. In the current situation of the overworked, understaffed, overloaded IT department, the requests pour in. IT takes the requests, prioritizes, plans and implements them according to its schedule and the severity of the request. In many cases, the IT department simply leaves the requirement alone and wait for the requester to escalate it, until the priority is changed from the management. In some cases, the IT rushes to requests which people “scream” the most. The result is a long list of high priority requests, negative reputation and unhappy users.

This is utter chaos. The only solution is having strict governance and sticking to it. In order to define what is important at what level, it is important that  all departments across the organization agree on the priorities. If an incident can wait for 1 day, it is not a severity A incident. When all the departments agree on that, more than half of the work is done. The next step is to implement it.

Governance is critical. If you don’t have governance in your organization, one of the building blocks of serious IT management is missing. If you think that governance cannot be implemented in your organization, know that your future life will be much more difficult than today.

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Second, have your best practices for project management. You can have project offices, project people doing their work in your organization but this does not mean that smaller companies who cannot afford such a project management is doomed to fail. Project management is about doing things in a structured, defined way. There is no reason why you cannot have your structure and your definition in your company (within logical and sensible limits and within common sense of course). As a beginning, make sure that everyone receives basic training on project management.

Third, think about partnerships. If you are to implement a new software – say Exchange 2013 -, think about partnering with an outside organization for implementation and partnering with another organization to receive Exchange 2013 training. If you think that implementation is a one-time issue and administration is ongoing, you can find that there could be many benefits of such a partnership: you will not put the additional burden of implementation to your mail administrators, you will make sure that your mail admins are not bogged with the e-mail migration, you will make sure that they receive proper training to do their job and you will make sure that your users will receive a better e-mail service.

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Fourth, rethink about your IT services. Maybe it is all about doing the things as you were doing before? Think if you really need to keep lots of servers and storage systems running in your data center just to deliver a simple email service, while there are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions available at very low prices in the market, such as Office 365 and Google Apps? Think if you really can make some capital investment today to modernize your data center and initiate a move to the private cloud?

It is obvious that from a different point of there are more alternatives to managing the current IT workload and there are more strategic partnership options. However, everything starts with governance. Without IT governance in place, the in-company chaos cannot be stopped and the partners cannot be managed. Once the governance is in place (and I am a heavy proponent of implementing ITIL processes), I believe that the IT services can be carried out, expanded and even polished without overwhelming the IT staff.



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