In Part I of this blog, I discussed what I set out to accomplish my first 30 days in a new position as head of IT for Schuff International. The following 60 days is the time when you need to achieve some quick wins and set the tone for the rest of your tenure at the new organization.
I decided to prioritize just 3 things in the 60 days following my first month on the job:
1) Develop effective relationships with business leaders throughout the organization
2) Establish and publish a base level of IT metrics that could evolve into a balanced scorecard
3) Increase capabilities of my IT Operations team since it was lacking people and skills in certain areas
Developing Effective Business Relationships
Like any relationship, business relationships are developed by interaction, being empathetic, treating others with courtesy and respect, and being helpful. In IT, it is easy to become a business prevention unit by trying to control everything with policy and standards, but those days are gone if you want to be successful. In my situation, I had a lot of opportunities to interact with my business peers right from the start as part of our ERP implementation project. I made sure that I got them involved and worked around their schedules for key meetings and decisions. The business doesn’t stop just because I had a large project to deliver so it was important for me to realize that my #1 priority might not be theirs.
Establishing a Base Level of IT Metrics
You must learn to pick your battles and to deliver small wins. I wanted to start measuring and reporting on key performance indicators immediately so there wasn’t time to develop a complete balanced scorecard. My goal was to let my team and the executive leadership team know that is was not business as usual. The IT team didn’t measure or report on anything so there were no indicators or trends on how they were performing. By day 90 I had a monthly IT report that tracked key performance indicators for budgets, critical system availability, Service Desk performance, and application development backlog and progress by project. More importantly, I had a final page on the report that showed my progress towards elevating the overall capabilities of the IT department.
Increase the Capabilities of Your IT Department
This step is probably the most critical and one of the toughest things you will need to tackle. This includes taking a good hard look at the how you are organized and the people on your team in order to evaluate whether you have the right people in the right positions. You will need to resist moving too quickly in this area since mistakes can be costly. You will also need some time to evaluate exactly what kind of leadership and other skillsets that you inherited by taking on a new team. In my case, I knew immediately that I needed to add capabilities and staff in my IT operations area, but it took me 5 months to figure out how I wanted to organize the team and how to transition staff in at least one key area.
The other step I took was to enlist some thought leadership help in the form of a subscription to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB). They are a member based advisory organization who shares best practices and other services to help organizations improve business performance. For IT, they have solution areas based on 20 critical activities that comprise a World-Class IT Organization. I found their best practices, templates, and diagnostic surveys to be ideal for elevating competencies across the IT organization.
The important thing to remember is that you won’t change an entire department overnight, and if you try, you will do more damage than good. For me, I prioritized activities based on delivering some quick wins while taking time to develop a longer term strategy. Once I had the strategy developed and documented, I was able to communicate this vision to my team and the executive management team in a clear and concise manner. If you rush this step, you will most likely be resetting strategy at a later time and giving the impression that you didn’t quite have your act together at the start.