Time to Expand IT?
IT departments need to grow with the rest of the company. But, with unique equipment and personnel challenges, it can be a tricky proposition for even the most organized IT manager.
One mistake many IT managers make is to hinder the growth of their department by forgetting to make the customer their highest priority when considering how and when to expand, according to Jon Dittmer, VP of Defense Solutions at ARRAY an IT services company. Dittmer spoke with IT TechNewsDaily about the mistakes IT managers make as well as the considerations that need to be taken before expanding an IT Department.
IT TechNewsDaily: What are the top three things IT managers need to consider before they expand their department?
Jon Dittmer:The most important thing IT managers need to consider before expanding their departmentis the business case for growth. This entails an evaluation of the following:
- The full lifecycle of the growth capability he/she wants to implement . Too often people only consider the development costs, and ignore the long-term impact of operations and maintenance, especially if the growth involves significantly new technologies.
- The impact implementation will have on the IT organization.
- The costs and benefits implementation will bring to the enterprise as a direct result of the addition of the scope in question (e.g., the quantifiable return on investment and a make versus buy determination).
IT: What mistakes do IT managers make that hinder the growth of their departments?
J.D.:The number one mistake IT managers make that hinder the growth of their department is that they forget to make the customer the highest priority mission. Many IT organizations get so caught up in the technology that they forget why they exist. Unless the IT department aligns itself with the customer mission, there is a tendency to look at growth for technology's sake rather than customer benefit and the provision of true value to the overall customer mission.
Another common mistake is that the IT department tends to oversimplify or underestimate the full support requirements for the capability being implemented. It is common for the IT department to focus too much on the development or implementation of a capability rather than the operation and maintenance and transition-out phases.
Finally, the IT department tends to fail to understand or implement performance measures and metrics that give the IT department insight into the performance of a capability. This practice may lead a capability to a “false” failure to satisfy the customer due to a failure to continually tune the capability.
The IT department often assumes that they are performing well simply because they are not receiving any customer complaints—this is a recipe for disaster that ensures offered capabilities will eventually stop meeting customer requirements and drive IT into a constant state of crisis management.
ITN: How important is it for IT managers to be aware of growth happening in other departments of a company?
J.D.:It is absolutely essential that IT managers stay abreast of mission and organizational changes to ensure all new or evolving requirements are immediately identified and met. One of the biggest impacts on performance occurs when IT managers are unaware of technology or a capability that would benefit the customer or that the customer would like to pursue to meet mission requirements. Often, the growth of missions needs in another part of the organization is an opportunity to bring IT to bear on the problem and really help the enterprise.
ITN: During what circumstances would you tell an IT department to hold off onplans for department growth?
J.D.:An IT department should hold off on plans for department growth when they have not performed detailed business planning and/or when the IT department cannot demonstrate the health of their department and performance of the services they already provide. I’ve personally had to make that recommendation before, “does it really make sense to pursue XYZ technology to enhance ABC’s business intelligence when we’ve got a backlog of ## severe maintenance requests keeping that customer from accomplishing the mission?”
ITN: Can an IT department grow independently of the other departments?
J.D.:Absolutely. The key is for the business case to support such growth. If the IT department is truly monitoring the health of the services it provides there could very well be a business case for growth when the rest of the company is in a flat or negative growth mode. We’ve seen this over and over again during budget crises in the Federal space. Often, the IT department can create the capabilities the enable an Enterprise to operate more effectively and efficiently.
ITN: How does outsourcing effect IT department growth?
J.D.:It is relatively transparent when a capability is implemented through outsourced or in-sourced operations. The proper business case—which should include the make versus buy analysis—flushes out the preferred course of action. Objectivity and thorough analyses are key to the decision to grow a department, and establishing the right service level and performance-based agreements are the key to managing operations. The federal market has a nuance it has to manage, and that is the idea that contractors/outsourced providers have to identify themselves differently. That does bring some complexity to our environment, but when executed well – it is all about delivering capability to the constituent or warfighter, etc. To them, it shouldn’t matter.
ITN: It what ways can top management help an IT department growth?
J.D.:The key to the success of an IT department is for top management to ensure the IT department accomplishes full lifecycle business planning and performance management—and then hold them accountable for results. Defense Secretary Gates has the right idea in his efficiencies. Centralization and consolidation IT assets to provide shared services has worked well for industry, but does DoD have the experience and expertise to manage those services? Just as important, do the recipients of those services know how to properly leverage them?