Drive Digital Business Initiatives When Your Mid-size IT Department is Lean
In today’s business landscape, digital business initiatives are front and center. C-suite leaders champion transformation initiatives, and business unit heads look for ways to grow their presence. Digital business drives productivity in the office and the customer experience on the sales floor, across industries. There’s an increasing pressure to digitize.
According to IDC, medium-size businesses were projected to spend $229 billion on IT initiatives in 2018. With fast evolving technologies, competing demands and a constant push for growth, IT departments are under pressure. Mid-size companies in particular are being asked to accomplish significant mandates and big outcomes with lean teams and tight timelines. Here’s a closer look at how to successfully drive digital business initiatives when your mid-size IT department is lean.
Read on to learn:
- How IT talent shortages impact digital business initiatives
- Tips for combatting burnout when you have a lean IT team
- Smart strategies to automate core processes and lighten IT workloads
- Why staff augmentation, outsourcing and other staffing solutions that can speed up IT projects
- A framework and questions to prioritize IT projects for maximum impact
Lean IT Departments: The Mid-size Reality
Mid-size firms are innovating, growing and evolving as fast as their larger peers in many cases, but with fewer resources to do the work. According to Gartner, 63% of organizations identify a shortage of skilled IT workers as a top strategic challenge for this organization. The problem is even worse for high-demand areas such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, where the time to hire can stretch into months, according to CIO. The message is a tough one: mid-size firms already run lean departments; onboarding the staff they need when they’re ready to make a hire can be challenging.
Lean departments also face challenges with burnout and overwhelm, as small teams work to balance everyday responsibilities, high priority projects and the latest digital business mandates. According to LinkedIn, technology is the industry with the highest turnover rates. Even when you find great IT staff, retaining them can be a matter of significant concern. In mid-size IT departments, individual contributors are often experts at managing large workloads, and the highest performers may be at the greatest risk of burnout. One study reported by CNBC found that 23% of workers report feeling burned out very often or always, while another 44% experience burnout sometimes.
Leveraging Services and Solutions to Reduce Workloads
A key factor that lean mid-size IT departments have to face is the need for pulling staff in too many directions. Managing networks, cybersecurity, emerging technologies and routine processes like maintaining servers and devices takes time. Manual management puts a ceiling on what your team can get done, no matter how talented, focused and committed they are. As a result, business leaders are looking to invest in infrastructure that helps minimize these issues. For example, managed cybersecurity solutions actively monitor your network for threats and help mitigate crises before they occur. Eliminating the responsibility of monitoring and threat response from your team’s workload — unless a serious issue comes up that requires their attention — is one way to save time. Leveraging networking solutions, such as SD-WAN, that use rules-based approaches to allocate bandwidth is another example of this approach at work. These efficiency gains across the organization and across diverse IT workloads can help your team reclaim hours each week to focus on higher-value activities.
Embrace Creative Staffing Solutions
Your budget may mandate a lean full-time team. However, there are solutions that can get you access to additional capacity or expert skills without adding too much to your expenses. Increasingly, organizations are looking at staffing models such as staff augmentation to scale up or down flexibly as digital business initiatives demand. A staff augmentation partner will identify the resources you need and embed them into your team. The partner pays for the employees’ benefits and manages those employees long term, so they don’t add to your headcount.
Today’s IT landscape offers a number of different options to help you get more done, while keeping a smaller team. As you evaluate digital business initiatives, consider whether solutions like consultants, freelance workers, outsource partners or staff augmentation agencies could be a faster, cost-effective way to get projects done. By looking at ways to add capacity that align with your budget and business goals, your firm captures a secondary benefit of reducing the stress on your existing team — which can improve engagement, performance and employee retention.
Practice Ruthless Prioritization
Recently, I had a conversation with a mid-size IT director who described his organization’s approach to digital business. When he joined, the company had identified over 100 target digital business initiatives. He met with senior leaders and asked which were priority, and he was told “all of them.” His team included three full-time people to support a company with multiple offices and 200 employees, and there was limited scope for funding projects. After assessing the situation, he led a process that forced the company to ruthlessly prioritize their initiatives. To pare down priorities, ask the following questions:
- What budget and time resources do you have available? Then map each initiative you’re considering and determine whether you’re under, over or at capacity.
- Which areas are the highest strategic priority, through the lens of the company’s business goals?
- What initiatives will have the biggest business impact on productivity or the customer experience?
- Is there data to suggest that specific initiatives should be a priority, such as repeated customer requests or emerging industry best practices?
- Are there initiatives that could be leveraged to make additional progress? For example, upgrading your network might have a specific benefit on multiple fronts, making it a higher-leverage activity.
- Does a prospective project represent a quick win?
- Does the project align with your longer-term digital business goals as a proof of concept that could pave the way for more support, resources, staffing and funding?
Once you’ve evaluated these areas, it will be easier to prioritize digital business projects in terms of their urgency, impact and cost. There’s no single way forward, but grasping this information helps with internal IT planning and structuring discussions to garner higher levels of executive support.
Digital business initiatives can transform the way mid-size organizations do business. From higher productivity and efficiency to a stronger customer experience, investing in your digital presence is at the heart of future growth. This often happens in the context of lean IT departments, so business leaders and IT managers need a variety of strategies to prioritize investments, get appropriate staffing support and automate selected workflows for more strategic focus across your IT team. With the right planning and investments, even a lean IT team can get more done and meet your company’s biggest digital business goals.
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