Building an Agile IT Group

Building an Agile IT GroupLike the data center in most organizations, IT groups have been undergoing a transformation over the last few years. IT leaders have constantly been on the lookout for new systems, technologies, people and skills to meet the ‘do more with less’ mantra while continuing to build out the capabilities required of their teams.

Thankfully, CIO’s have had the good fortune that cloud computing and virtualization were available to help transform IT operations and the data center. Combining these new technologies in innovative ways has allowed organizations to cut costs, improve flexibility and just generally ‘do more with less.’

Virtualization has allowed organizations to expand their data center capabilities without requiring enormous outlays of capital for new hardware and physical space by allowing companies to decommission underutilized servers and replace them with optimized virtualized systems.

Similarly, the cloud has given organizations access to an almost limitless amount of processing and storage power with low costs, relatively high reliability and a great deal of agility. Companies have been able to quickly and efficiently expand data center capabilities with little capital expenditure or long term commitments by turning to cloud vendors and platforms.

Both virtualization and cloud computing have completely transformed data center planning and operations. They’ve also planted the seeds of change within the IT group itself by forcing IT professionals to think more about adding business value rather than narrowly focusing on the technologies they are managing and implementing.

Many organizations have been pushing data center transformation projects while neglecting the transformation of the IT group itself. These companies have transformed (or are working to transform) their data centers from a monolithic, underutilized liability to an agile and valuable asset, but they’ve often failed to push agility as a core concept for IT professionals working within their IT groups.

In order to continue to improve and provide value, CIO’s need to be thinking about their people as well as their technology and systems. They need to think about how to include concepts like agility, business value, cross-training and laser focus on customer satisfaction into the fabric of the IT group.

While I can’t provide a ‘recipe’ for CIO’s to use to create an agile IT group, I have provided a few guidelines that have worked for me (and others) in the past. These guidelines are:

  • Focus on the User: Many times, IT is given a set of requirements and they go off to build a system to meet those requirements. Rarely do we take a step back to look at the requirements from the user’s point of view. Rarely do we spend more than a few minutes talking to the actual end users who have commissioned the work. Rarely do we see the stress and strain they are under to do their jobs. A focus on the user will help IT professionals understand the need for agility and flexibility in their jobs.
  • Rethink your Operational Delivery Model: Use the cloud and virtualization to rethink and rebuild your delivery capabilities so that your team can more easily say “yes” when asked for help from the business. If your IT staff can say “yes” easily, it will become second nature for them to continue to say ‘yes’ whenever they can. And saying “yes” is what agility is all about.
  • Invest in Skills and Training: If you want your team to change, you really need to focus on training and skill development to ensure your team has the capabilities and knowledge to perform their jobs in a fast-paced environment like an agile IT group.
  • Cultivate and Eliminate: Cultivate the skills, ethics and abilities that you want to see in your agile team while eliminating those that you don’t. This may mean hiring and firing but not everyone is cut out for an agile IT group so you shouldn’t try to force people to ‘fit.’

In order to compete in the future, CIO’s and IT professionals need to remain agile. They’ll need to continue building the agile data center but they’ll need to also focus on building an agile team to get the most use from the agile data center.

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.