Part 3 of 4 in a series
Based on my own professional experience, technology departments spring to life from real live business needs. Technology staffing begins by pulling over technophiles from other disciplines. When a needed skill set is missing, short duration contractors may be called upon to augment the staff. Those that seem to fit the bill may be offered permanent positions depending on the staffing goals for technology. In lieu of that, an ongoing contractor relationship would be established to keep the staff management overhead costs low. This is the beginning of the schism between technology value and business value.
The particular skills you need to succeed today will not be sufficient in the long run. Stacking technology strengths on top of existing technology strengths does not expand the potential for exploring new uses of existing technology. For the sake of tradition, ease of management, or short-term tactical goals, the innovative and entrepreneurial vision that spurred the business now fades to routine. With continued disuse in favor of incremental, localized efficiencies, technology makes itself irrelevant as anything but a cost center.
The great news is that with a few changes to your portfolio management, staffing roles, and hiring process, technology can rebuild its strategic relevance in the business.
Take stock of how your staff are spending their days and compare that to the progress being made against the backlog of technology tasks. If the queue never shrinks significantly or grows ever longer, it’s time to cut the dead weight. Anything unplanned and older than 6 months is a prime candidate for elimination. Anything without a currently employed champion should be removed as well. Even tasks begun but unfinished and unfunded should have demonstrable results or be terminated. The backlog is at a manageable size when work is projected to last the next year at current staffing levels. Take a skeptical attitude toward adding more work. The question that must be answered is ‘What must be completed or eliminated from the queue in order to add a new task and maintain the same projected work load?’ This change proves that technology is dedicated to disciplined planning for business driven fitness instead of overtraining with too much tinkering.
Technology cannot shape up without understanding the complement of knowledge within other domains of the organization. Take a look at the informal relationships that might exist between tech staff and other departments. Can that relationship lead to a functional advocate role? Does one of your staff have an interest in visual design and would they be interested in becoming a liason to the marketing department? For more information about this type of role and it’s benefits, see the first of my four part series, A Sense of Absence in Strategy and Innovation. A cross-domain partner can strengthen motivation to reshape the tech body.
Another transformation technique requires collaborating with recruiting resources. By shaping a basic technical candidate profile, the entire recruiting process becomes a stable and repeatable exercise. TLNT expounded upon this in February 2013 so check out Get Rid of Job Descriptions in favor of performance profiles.
Tough regimen isn’t it? But notice these progressive techniques can be used sequentially, individually, or a la carte to get your tech body capable of long term value building endurance. Next we’ll cool down with some final thoughts on aligning technology to the business.