5 IT Talent, Staffing Fails To Avoid

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What was the biggest mistake your IT organization made in the past 12 months?  We’ll focus on five of the biggest mistakes made in Talent and staffing  category—and offer some advice on how you can learn from the pain of your peers.

Forgetting To Connect IT To Customers

Allowing IT to feel disconnected from customers was a challenge one healthcare organization had to overcome. According to this survey respondent, IT team members were not engaged in understanding how the work they were doing was directly affecting the cancer patients, caregivers, and clinical teams working at the organization.

This is a mistake we’ve seen at many organizations, and speaks to the root of why IT often flounders when it comes to communicating its business value.

Here’s how this survey respondent said the company rectified the error of its ways: “Once this was identified, significant changes were made enhancing the connection between IT employees, the mission, and unique care model offered at our hospitals. We made monthly rounding in the hospitals mandatory for all IT employees, and improved our clinical systems by listening to our clinical teams and patients’ needs.”

The company conducts its own internal surveys every year to measure the emotional engagement of all its employees. As a result of the changes made in IT, the internal surveys showed the number of IT employees who were “highly emotionally engaged” increased 16%, while the number of IT employees who were “disengaged” decreased 8% compared with the prior year.

Taking Too Long To Find The Right Talent

How do you know when you need new talent to complete a project? That was the challenge facing this survey respondent as the company embarked on a new analytics project.

“We knew we would need to make significant investments in true business intelligence specialists and data governance experts (specialties that are not typical to our industry). While we did make those investments, we are realizing we should have made the investments sooner.”

The issues go beyond basic skill sets, though. According to the survey respondent, “The required changes in process and data management have shown us that we need different approaches in our change management strategy that focus on generational differences in our workforce (e.g. Millennials vs. Baby Boomers).”

It’s easy to look back with 20/20 hindsight, but when you’re in the thick of a project it can be difficult to recognize you need help and act quickly to bring in new team members. Likewise, it’s easy to forget how long a talent search can take.

So, how can you avoid making the same mistakes?

For starters, build in an honest assessment of your personnel and skills right at the start of your project. This is as important as the technology choices you’re making. Also, never underestimate how long it can take to hire someone. Unless you’re going with contract workers, finding the right employees, onboarding them, and getting them up to speed is not usually a swift process. Last, always remember that people hate change so if you’re rolling something out to multiple business users who span all sorts of job functions and age ranges, identify some users you can bring in early in the process to help you understand their perspective and unique needs. This will give you the information you need to facilitate a smooth change management process.

Underestimating Levels Of Service Required

Don’t be fooled by cloud-based products such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) which may, at face value, appear to be easier to manage than your old on-premises data center.

Here’s what happened to one survey respondent: “As we transitioned additional IT services from our on-premises data center to various IaaS/SaaS cloud externally hosted solutions, it became clear traditional system monitoring tools do not provide the needed insight to ensure high service levels for our internal customers.”

And we all know what happens when your internal customers are unhappy.

To address the challenge, this survey respondent said, “We are rapidly developing the skills and implementing tools to allow us to monitor external services and maintain desired system performance from cloud services.”

Assuming The New Boss Is The Same As The Old Boss

After years of getting beat up over budgets and made to feel like IT is nothing but a drain on enterprise resources, it’s easy to understand why CIOs and other leaders would feel demoralized. There’s no reason to expect a change in the upper reaches of your company’s leadership will make any difference to your day-to-day operation.

Here’s what happened when this survey respondent, who works at a government agency, assumed the new boss would be the same as the old boss: “The most significant mistake to our IT organization for the prior 12 months was misjudging the value of IT to our current organization and City Manager. Specifically, this led to our failure to request a significant budget increase for additional staffing to meet the future demands of our organization.”

Now, this person was leaning on precedent. “For the past decade, our IT Salaries and Benefits budget tended to increase a moderate 1%-2% annually,” the respondent wrote. “Conservative spending was always championed throughout the organization.”

But, fresh blood can bring a fresh perspective. “Our new City Manager views IT as central to his goal of developing the organization, and launching new initiatives that offer significant community impact.”

How can you avoid making the same mistake? Do your due diligence, for starters. When you know a new boss is coming in, learn what you can about them, ask around your peer network to see if anyone has ever worked with the person. And, be proactive. Ask for time with the new boss. Even a 10-minute meeting gives you enough time to ask the right questions about how the person views IT as it fits into their broader strategy.

Putting Software Ahead Of Staffing

Under pressure to keep the business happy, it’s far too easy to try to fix a problem by bringing in new software. But sometimes the issue is really one of staffing.

Such was the case for this survey respondent tasked with improving the company’s supply chain management system. “The management team identified weaknesses with supply chain processes, especially as relates to contract management, procurement strategy and inventory control. Thinking a new software solution could help rectify these issues, we spent several months exploring supply sourcing applications and preparing a RFP. But the root cause was actually a staffing shortage.”

In this case, the survey respondent had an understaffed IT department in which skill sets were not matched to roles, leading to IT professionals who were performing tasks not suited to their areas of expertise.”

How did this organization resolve the problem? “We performed an in-depth evaluation of current resources, realigned staff and updated roles and responsibilities as well as created a robust reporting structure which enhanced the team’s performance.”