05 Nov 2009View Comments
During the first incarnation of the internet and up to the 2001 dotbomb, the media depicted a certain type of dot commer, illustrated best by programmes such as the BBC’s Attachments. These IT staff were young, fashionable, driven mavericks. They also operated in the business equivalent of dog years - that is, they would squeeze seven years into one.
That was a fairly accurate assessment in my experience, but things have changed. The web as a channel has matured since 2001, and this has been further accelerated by the Web 2.0 environment. The result is that many online businesses have changed their expectations of what constitutes good IT.
IT leaders are now expected to take fewer risks, be more grown up and less radical, while retaining some creativity, pace and entrepreneurial spirit.
So what are the key requirements of today’s internet IT team? Or come to that, any high-growth small business? There are many, but in the interests of brevity I will highlight just one example from each of the three drivers for change: process, people and systems.
Process: know your organisational maturity level and match your IT maturity to it
Organisational maturity is a measure of the level of discipline, rigor and process within any business. At one end of the spectrum is the anarchic, chaotic, creative and often dictatorial organisation that flies by the seat of its pants. At the other is a business so involved in process and bureaucracy that it takes six months, five signatures and three steering groups to issue a new pencil.
It is important to understand where your business fits on this scale, and match the maturity of the IT department to the rest of the business.
If you want your IT department to be less radical and more grown up, you wil l need to move the maturity level of the business concurrently. The IT department will only be successful if it is aligned.
People: balance analysts and entrepreneurs
High-intensity IT demands generated by rapidly growing organisations require an IT director to assemble a team with the right psychological composition. Maintenance specialists do the same things over and over again, analytical types look to do the same things differently, while entrepreneurs do different things.
All three approaches are valid at certain times but need to be balanced to achieve the right mix of change and continuity. The number required of each employee type will vary according to the business requirements and how “IT mature” the business is.
My advice would be to recruit your key intellectual property (entrepreneurs) from inside, use a mixture of sources for your analytical capability by combining a core permanent team with temporary staff during times of high demand and outsource commoditised maintenance wherever it makes sense.
Systems: avoid the seduction of new systems
New systems can be traps for unwary IT directors. There are several reasons why an otherwise sound individual might replace a legacy system without robust justification. These include technical snobbery the IT director might want to seem new and current; technical vanity the IT director will certainly want other people to think he knows his stuff; and finally the IT director might believe that skills pertaining to an old system are difficult to come by.
If snobbery is an issue, the director should give the technology a makeover with web services or a service-oriented architecture. If it’s vanity, the director should hire an expert to prove that he is a great delegator. And if you cannot find the staff, or the technology is obsolete, there are a multitude of IT service companies who will help resolve the problem.
Joking aside, when presenting a business case to a board for approval, the IT director needs to be aware of his own motivations and ensure that the justifications put forward to support the proposed investment are sound and well informed. He must be certain that he hasn’t fallen into any of these traps.
Graham Benson is IT director at online fashion retailer M&M Direct
Does Google know too much about you?
The trend towards non-desktop-based devices is enabling more flexible working practices and behaviours
Date: 29 May 2013
THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO ILLNESS. Business intelligence is enjoying an upsurge of interest. In an era in which businesses and organisations...
Date: 11 Jun 2013
The enterprise mobility summit will examine how organisations can manage the increasing array of endpoints which are enabling mobile computing in business....