IT teams are evolving. The old model of a finance/IT director was once supported by infrastructure and application managers, with a host of network engineers and developers. It must now change to meet new industry challenges – a wider-than-ever skillset is needed. Can your internal IT team cover all bases?
The CIO role is complex. Officially the 'I' stands for information, but it includes infrastructure, intelligence, integration and innovation. In a large organisation, some of these might be individual job descriptions, or they might be bundled into other roles.
Of course, every organisation is different. The number of people you need to fulfill all the roles depends on the size of the organisation, the market sector in which it operates, and to some extent on location and legacy. Here are three roles most mid-to-large organisations need in IT.
1. The IT architect
The IT architect uses IT to meet specific business requirements. IT architects focus on the cost/benefits of investments in IT. This requires skill in planning, implementing, and managing infrastructure and applications.
2. Business intelligence analysts
Business intelligence (BI) analysts use data to improve efficiency and profits. They may work for an organisation or play a consultancy role. Data mining the organisation's records, they can understand where the organisation stands, where they can improve and where they can reduce costs.
3. Chief compliance officer
The chief compliance officer is primarily responsible for overseeing and managing all regulatory compliance issues within an organisation. Compliance with data protection and ensuring privacy and security in IT are all so important that this particular aspect may be a separate role.
Once you have your star players in place, 'right-sizing' every department of an organisation is every organisational leader's aim. Right-sizing an IT department is like the football manager's skill of 'running a bench'. Too many players are a drain on resources and hinder the work by creating extra layers of management. Too few and the game can’t go ahead.
No one wants their star players sitting on the bench – they want them involved in the game, winning matches. But when things go wrong, it's no good having an empty bench or a line of second-division players not up to the challenge.
In football, the manager makes sure the whole squad trains together. Come match day, if the game’s a ‘friendly’, less-experienced players are tried out in the starting lineup.
In a big match, they’re brought on near the end once the result is not in doubt. However, a CIO has a lot less wriggle room than a sports manager. Every day is a big-game day and the opportunity to move staff around is severely limited.
For many, the answer is to right-size the IT department to cover normal operations – to have skilled people doing all the key jobs and just enough slack to cover holidays and unexpected absence. But this often means that IT staff have little experience of dealing with rare events, especially security issues.
It also means that there simply aren't enough bodies to handle big but short-term projects, such as major infrastructure or software/operating system changes. In either event, a well-designed managed service agreement with an IT consultancy is essential.
Orchestrating this changing mix of in-house professionals and outsourced services is a huge job, some of which can be outsourced. A carefully designed SLA with a good managed service provider (MSP) can take a lot of weight off the CIO's shoulders.
Project or flex?
Depending on the size of an organisation and the skill set of its IT staff, an MSP can be deployed in two ways. If you are confident your IT staff can deal with any likely crisis, then you may only need an MSP occasionally – to oversee a short-term project then walk away once it is completed. However, a flexible SLA is more common, giving the organisation confidence that there is someone ready and able to step in in a crisis without running up unnecessary costs when things are operating smoothly.
A good MSP is looking for a long-term relationship with its customers. It will appreciate that the relationship needs to evolve as an organisation's infrastructure and their business evolves. Organisations should beware of MSPs that don't want to have that type of relationship.
Planning and negotiating the right SLA for your organisation is essential to ensure you have the right team in place. An empty 'bench' is a major risk, but no one wants expensive consultants sitting out the big match day after day.
As every football manager will tell you, starting a big match day with a weak side is always to be avoided. But so is signing up the most expensive stars if your core team have all the skills they need to beat the competition. It’s all about striking the right balance.
Sourced from Simon Mitchell, CEO, LinuxIT