Oftentimes, leaders in the IT department are well trained in the technical side of their position, but they had to learn their management skills on the job. While it is always good to promote from within, it can be challenging for an IT professional to make the adjustment from service technician to team manager.
We’re going to share some ideas and best practices to help you manage your internal IT teams to ensure that all technical projects and issues are handled with efficiency and professionalism.
A Clear Chain of Command
The military teaches us the value of having a well-defined hierarchy in an organization. When employees know who is in charge, it prevents miscommunications, whether your IT team is two technicians or 20. Within the bounds of the department, it is also important to understand when and where technicians can be autonomous in their decision-making.
The department manager should develop the team’s protocols and strategies for everything from common issues to larger projects. Allowing the technicians to follow the company procedures on their own or authorize reasonable processes creates an environment that encourages ownership on projects.
Communications Procedures, Inside and Out
It also important to develop a communications procedure, both for internal purposes and for interactions with the department’s clients.
Internally, good communication informs technicians of the work expectations and responsibilities. Keeping a coordinated calendar and a workflow plan will keep technicians on task through larger projects. It also enables your team to know one another’s obligations and availability.
Externally, effective communication provides the clients with a sense of organization and timely response. Even with the general population becoming more and more tech-savvy, employees are not necessarily knowledgeable in commercial networking or business systems and security. By providing a comprehensive communications system, you can avoid many of the frustrations that come with dealing with clients.
Create a collaborative attitude with your clients that allows for comfortable communications. The key is focusing on giving team members everything they need in order to get the job done well.
First, it benefits your team by encouraging them to engage clients proactively, advancing the organization’s purpose and efficiency. Second, it gives the clients the sense that the IT team is part of the greater team and dedicated to the overall success of the organization.
Effective IT managers maintain open channels of communication between users and the technology team to allow the unit to be nimble in the prevention of and response to security issues. That positions the IT team to be an ally that acts quickly when they encounter a security issue.
Project and Task Tracking
It is also imperative that the IT team have end-to-end tracking of their tasks and projects. With clear, uniform tracking, any team member has the ability to pick up where another team member left off.
On small projects or regular tasks, this provides a record that can be referred back to at any time to prevent repetitive actions that waste time and money. On larger projects, end-to-end tracking allows team members to exchange ideas and maintain continuity of service. It also prevents project overlap — when a task is performed twice because one person does not know where his or her predecessor has left off.
Establishing a satisfaction follow-up procedure for clients will provide them a method to voice any frustrations they encountered during a project. This gives management an opportunity to find ways of improving the overall system.
More importantly, seeking input from clients helps them feel empowered about the technology. It also provides IT management with a tool by which to gauge technician performance and client communication.
In conjunction with the satisfaction follow-up, a unit performance matrix will allow management to evaluate team members both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Motivation and Rewards
This brings us to the next best practice: maintain your team’s motivation by rewarding effective, efficient work.
Even when your budget does not allow for financial rewards, there are lots of ways to enrich motivation and reward team members for doing good work. Often thought of as the “carrot and the stick” approach, managers have long wrestled with methods of getting the most work out of their staff. Time and experience has taught us that employees respond more productively when rewarded for successes than when they are penalized for shortcomings. Obviously, there is a time and place for addressing behavior that is detrimental to the safety and success of the organization, but honest mistakes or lack of knowledge in certain situations should never result in the punitive penalization of the employee.
Foster a team attitude by creating internal competitions for efficiency that encourage positive competition. Team members will find recognition within the group and want to improve the way they work together. Knowing the unit’s overall goals and objectives helps employees rise to meet and overcome challenges.
Finding fun ways to stimulate team building will make the work environment more collaborative and enjoyable, which will increase the team’s productivity and ability to meet deadlines. Give them a break from network computing and let them work on a pet project, like building a prototype for customized enclosures.
Remember, special IT projects can often require team members to work outside of normal operating hours. If team members are deeply invested in the team’s success, there will be no problem getting them to commit to project requirements.