By Sanjay Khatnani and Vijay Khatnani, Managing Partner, J2 Solutions
A truly effective IT department can mean the difference between driving business-aligned IT decisions that keep your business ahead of the competition and a reactive IT function that’s focused on tactical operations and troubleshooting.
J2 has managed numerous large-scale technology projects. With that, we’ve also witnessed our fair share of successes and failures when it comes to IT operations and effectiveness. Having been on both sides of the equation, we’ve seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t.
In part one of this two-part series, we’ll offer solutions to some of the most common bottlenecks that can get in the way of smooth IT processes and programs.
Best Practices to Alleviate Common IT Bottlenecks:
- Build a Team With Focused Priorities
You can’t have two day jobs, at least, not in the world of IT—not if you want to do anything well. We hear so much talk these days of multitasking as though it’s a sought-after skill to be harnessed and praised. Perhaps in some aspects of life this may apply, but the management of your IT projects isn’t one of them. That’s why building a dedicated project team is so important.
In our experience, when members of your IT project team are focused on more than one priority at a time, the process can easily break down. Though it may be tempting to tackle a number of priorities at once in order to “get it all done,” we advise against it. Any interruption can eat into the mindshare of your team members, making them less productive in the long run as they flip-flop between tasks, projects, and priorities. But when you have a focused team whose sole concentration is on the project at hand, you’ll benefit from smoother process flows, greater overall productivity, and more efficient project outputs.
- Walk Before You Run
In the interest of expediency, project teams often get ahead of themselves as they jump from A to Z in short order. But your eagerness to get your product out the door faster will likely create the opposite results.
Think of a house being built. Would you start work on the second floor bedroom without first pouring the concrete that sets the foundation? Would you hang the drywall before the studs are in place? Same principle applies here—but absent a physical structure like a house, it may be harder to see. When you get ahead of yourself and move too quickly while skipping steps in between, you’ll find yourself back-tracking later to fix mistakes that could have been avoided had the right process been followed.
Instead, take a step back, take a breath, and take each step one at a time. Yes, you want to move quickly and no, you never want to fall behind. But by pacing the project accordingly, you’ll be able to attack your deliverables in bite-sized pieces, avoiding potential complexities down the road.
- Position IT as an Asset, Not a Roadblock
The IT department exists for a reason. Yet some organizations succumb to a phenomenon known as Shadow IT, which occurs when a part of the organization uses, acquires, or creates IT systems, software, or other technologies without the approval of the sanctioned IT function. The cold hard truth is, it’s easy enough to do; anyone can simply go online, find a system to solve the immediate need, and bypass the red tape and delays often associated with the IT department.
But keep in mind: this “quick fix” is rarely the right choice for the business. In fact, devising a non-compliant, short-term solution in a silo and without the appropriate expertise will create bottlenecks, drive up costs, and squelch innovation.
In many cases it comes down to an issue of perception; if the organization perceives the IT team as a barrier to the goals they’re looking to accomplish, they’ll simply circumvent them altogether. On the flip side, when the IT department positions itself as a trusted advisor, and one that is agile enough to meet specific demands as they arise, the organization will view the function as an asset, not a roadblock. When the business units bring IT into the fold before any steps are taken, they ensure continued IT innovation across all systems and alignment with the overall business strategy.
- Don’t Strive for Perfection: Think 80/20
Voltaire wasn’t wrong when he said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” The pursuit of perfection can stifle progress. More importantly, it’s simply impossible to achieve. What may be perfect to you may not be perfect to anyone else.
Enter the 80/20 Rule. Joseph Juran, a prominent figure in the study of management techniques and principles, coined the term, “the vital few and the trivial many.” He theorized that in the course of any business process, a few (20 percent) are vital and many (80 percent) are considered trivial when it comes to driving the most impactful business outcome. In other words, you can often do more with less, and in our experience, we’ve found this to be true.
We’re not suggesting that you strive to produce a sub-par product. Instead, identify and focus only on items of the utmost importance and let go of the rest. That may mean forgoing your image of a perfect output in order to drive the greatest results, on time and within budget.
Stay tuned for part two next month when we delve into the significant role an organization’s culture plays on optimizing the effectiveness of an IT department.
In the meantime, we want to hear from you. What bottlenecks have you encountered in your IT departments, and how did you overcome them? Leave your comments below.