Accountability can be a tough word, just like fulfillment. I’m often amazed when I ask a client how is your performance measured and what’s your daily routine? Maybe it’s because they think we’re going to immediately talk about systems, or hardware and software inventory, or some technology concept they don’t care to understand.
My clients are midsized organizations that either struggle mightily with technology or have competent IT staff and want to learn what they can do better. Both types want to move to the next level and are either desperate or smart enough to have realized they can’t continue to do things the same old way.
When I speak with someone in IT, it’s generally the same story over and over. Performance is measured by some vague notion of if the staff seems happy and uptime of the network. There are no real measurements and most people only remember the occasional bad stuff. Even though these IT folks have great responsibility and access, they don’t have: a budget, training, or any real authority. Every day is just another fire drill or the same menial tasks.
For owner’s or members of operations, you would think that I had sucker-punched them in the nose. There’s a look of astonishment as they might have a notion of what a Job Scorecard is, but have not put it together and analyzed the things they do on a daily, monthly, or annual basis. For these management teams, it’s very common for them to suddenly realize all their time spent on e-mail is a huge disconnect from customers, while most other remaining tasks are meaningless in helping the firm grow too. When you point out that they have no strategy for information technology, it’s a painful awakening that the number four business expense has largely been ignored – not to mention security, business continuity, productivity, or competitive advantage.
The general approach is to shove technology under the responsibility of the Chief Financial Officer. The main thought is to control costs. However, there is no technology vision or expertise. Both mundane and dire technology situations are all handled reactively with IT personnel supposed to just “handle it” with no budget, know how, or authority. Oh by the way, we have to keep business running so in addition to your normal schedule you’ll work nights, weekends, and holidays as needed too while the rest of the staff is off. Now you can understand why so many IT people have poor attitudes.
Invariably something is down, data is lost, or there is a major security breach. Revenues are lost as contracts are broken and brands are damaged due to bad publicity. Severity of these problems is generally based upon: lack of controls, documentation, and education. The three biggest complaints and fears that midsized businesses have are:
- They don’t know what IT does, struggle with oversight, and worry about risk and reliability
- They are held hostage as little is documented or tested for any type of business continuity situation
- They know both their IT and staff are lacking basic knowledge keeping the firm less productive
In his best-selling book Scaling Up, Verne Harnish outlines several organization ideas including the One Page Plan (OPP) and the Job Scorecard. The OPP is a useful drill for anyone in operations or management to analyze what is unimportant and they should stop doing, as well as truly important tasks to help the business grow and start doing. You also get to account for family, faith, and friends. The biggest improvement is often adjusting to a better email paradigm shift.
The next major improvement is giving some true accountability to IT (and possibly the rest of the staff) by eliminating old job descriptions and corresponding verbose and mostly pointless annual review reports. When clients do their first Job Scorecard for IT, they quickly realize they don’t have enough staff, tools, or budget to achieve the accountability required for the firm’s strategy.
The example above shows what one client decided. They didn’t have a monitoring tool or case management system. Further IT had no time to document anything or perform server maintenance, between responding to user issues and struggling to complete projects. The client decided to implement managed services, since there was no budget to hire more IT staff or build and maintain two new business systems. For half the cost of a full-time employee, the network was monitored and documented with audited oversight for IT and proven business strategies going forward. Unnecessary costs were eliminated and IT personnel could focus on helping end-users and strategic initiatives for management.
The ABC scoring for reviews was short and simple. True measurements were available for performance. Employees were better informed and more productive. Best of all, the IT staff did more meaningful work while putting in fewer hours and helping the firm do more business.