Decision Maker

Are You Failing Your IT Team?

From not embracing change to segmenting groups, here are some ways in which IT leaders are setting up their teams for failure.

It certainly stirred up considerable debate when fellow Redmond magazine columnist Greg Shields recently served up a list of reasons to fire your IT staff. I'd like to turn the conversation around. In many cases, it is management that's failing their IT teams. Here are some questions to consider:

Have you created a culture that opposes change?
The Windows 8 "Start Screen" debate is the perfect example. There are many legitimate business reasons to not deploy this, or any other OS. "We have no ability to train our users to use a new OS' user interface" is not a legit business reason. It's an organizational failing. What will you do when something radically different comes along and offers a major competitive advantage? Will you skip it because it doesn't look the same as what you've been doing? Make sure you're giving your IT team the resources they need to successfully deploy crazy new things, when it's the right thing to do.

Are you focused on continually reviewing new technology?
DirectAccess is a good example of this. DirectAccess version 1 was overly complex. Microsoft has since moved the needle significantly on this important technology. It solves real problems, but too many IT teams wrote it off in the past. They haven't been encouraged to give it a fresh look. Make sure your IT team is continually aware of operational deficiencies, and make sure they're incented to continually look for new solutions. Make sure your team knows you're looking to them to present solutions, not just push the buttons to implement them. Be receptive to what they bring you.

Are you encouraging automation?
Let's be clear: No IT pro worth his or her salary enjoys performing repetitive, manual work. A lot of them, however, are telling me they're just not getting the support they need to invest in automation. Invest -- that means you can expect a return. Automation isn't just sending your folks to a PowerShell class. It's about setting measurable goals for eliminating manual effort through a committed journey of automation. Make automation a priority. Check your team's skill set and measure their results.

Are you stuck in your own datacenter?
Plenty of businesses have legitimate reasons for not moving certain services to cloud-based offerings. However, no business can legitimately state that nothing can be safely outsourced. Too many businesses ignore the fact technology vendors are always moving the needle on what can be done. Office 365 offers a government-compatible version, along with other industry-specific offerings. Times change -- what couldn't be outsourced yesterday may be an option today. Make sure you're not condemning your team to a lifetime of daily tech management, when outsourcing is the right answer.

Are you open to arguments?
As a decision maker, you have to be able to tell the difference between an IT team that's arguing against change because they simply don't like it or fear for their jobs, and an IT team that has a legitimate gripe. If you're hot-to-trot about VDI and your IT team is suggesting that maybe RDS is a less expensive, higher-density solution, you should listen. Conversely, challenge them when they tell you something can't be done. If remote app delivery is the goal, challenge them to make RDS work before you move up a notch to more-expensive approaches like VDI. Explore the possibilities as a team, validating your approaches independently of the vendors trying to sell you stuff.

Do you encourage fiefdoms?
One of the worst things I've seen in some IT teams is a strong division between functional groups. It's sometimes so bad that they have internal SLAs and processes for simple stuff like getting an IP adress. Don't do that to your team. Manage your team, but don't make them jump through hoops just to get their jobs done.

Do you encourage growth?
This isn't just about sending folks to training classes, although that's part of it. Make sure you're giving your IT folks learning opportunities -- even ones that might only have a long-term benefit. And you should be a bit suspicious of team members who don't take advantage of those opportunities. What's the point of an IT person who isn't interested in new technology?

About the Author

Don Jones is a 12-year industry veteran, author of more than 45 technology books and an in-demand speaker at industry events worldwide. His broad technological background, combined with his years of managerial-level business experience, make him a sought-after consultant by companies that want to better align their technology resources to their business direction. Jones is a contributor to TechNet Magazine and Redmond, and writes a blog at ConcentratedTech.com.

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