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How to prevent IT department overload

Minda Zetlin | May 21, 2013
Managing the flow of an infinite supply of worthwhile projects through a finite IT operation takes finesse. Here's how to avoid the backlog and the chaos.

Mazda also gets the most benefit from its contractors by having one or two representatives of each service provider on-site, so they can get to know the company. That's important, because Mazda has its own methodology for tech projects and insists that contractors follow it.

Some contractors have become virtual employees, working on-site on an ongoing basis. "There are enough projects that we always keep them fully occupied," DiMarzio says. "We want to keep them on our account rather than someone else's account." And when IT is ready to hire someone full time, they're ready and usually willing, says DiMarzio, adding "I've converted some contractors to employees." Minda Zetlin

"I typically am involved in conversations about projects that have to be delayed -- but our business leadership is also involved," says Todd S. Coombes, executive vice president and CIO at ITT Educational Services, a postsecondary education company based in Carmel, Ind., with 140 campuses around the country. "Our group of high-level executives works together well, and we're all in the discussion before a decision is made. Typically, I don't have to deliver the message at that level. I may have to at a lower level, and I don't mind because I have the backing of my boss."

When you do have to say no to a project, your goal should be for the person who hears that no to feel good about the rejection. This is especially true if you're seeking to reduce or eliminate shadow IT operations, which are typically set up by business executives who decide to take matters into their own hands when they can't get IT to provide a desired technology quickly enough. "If they hear no without having bought into how that no was arrived at, they'll get it from someone else," Handler warns.

The key is transparency. "If you have a CIO deciding what gets done and what doesn't, the people who get their projects done will be happy," he continues. "The people who don't get their jobs done, if they think the CIO was fair and really thought it through, and if they understand the reasons for the decision, they'll still be happy 80% of the time."

You might be able to enhance that dynamic by getting your company's executives to literally sign on to the process, he adds. "If you get people to agree to both the objectives of the process and the process itself, they will tend to accept it because of a phenomenon called 'commitment consistency,'" he says. That effect doubles when people agree to something without feeling forced and have done something active to signal that agreement.


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