The news is filled with announcements of lay-off after lay-off. Big Tech is not the only industry facing tough economic times. Managers across industries are being called upon to do more with less. That is a tough message to deliver, it is an even tougher message to receive! How can you and your team be expected to do more if you’re already working at full tilt?
Remember your ABCs
Your ABCs are essential, but they are more than just the alphabet. Think back to your days in school. Some of the most critical ABCs were the ABCs (and the Ds and Fs) that were a part of the grading scale. Think about the work you are doing today. If you are like most IT professionals, a good part of your day is spent on KTLO tasks and projects… Keeping The Lights On. This involves monitoring, maintenance, refreshes, and break/fix. If your business colleagues were your teachers and were responsible for giving you a grade on those tasks, what would be the grade?
Think of it this way. When was the last time anyone ever called your help desk or stopped you in the hallway to thank you for delivering their email? Never? Well, what happens when the email system is down? I’d wager that your phone rings off the hook! Thinking back to our grading scale, the best grade your business colleagues will ever give you is a C, and when email is down, you’re getting a big red F!
On the other hand, if you deliver some new functionality that drives the business forward, chances are your teacher, (and colleagues) will give you an A, and even the toughest graders will give you a B or a C. When trying to do more with less, most teams will focus only on the KTLO work, thinking it is mandatory or required. The teams that thrive during belt-tightening times do it by focusing on the work that will get them that A!
The Three Questions
So? How do you do more ABC work than the CDF? You do it by asking three simple questions about the CDF work…and, of course, acting on the answers!
Question 1: Is this task, project, or service something we still need to be doing? If the answer is no…stop. doing. it! Seriously, we often find that some of the work our IT department is doing is no longer needed. We are only doing it because we thought our business colleagues needed it or because we thought it was necessary.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in abandoned legacy applications. Even small shops can find applications that have been replaced and not retired or were implemented for a function the company no longer performs. I was CIO for a non-profit. Fundraising was not a major function for our company, but we did have an application that enabled us to track donors. We were surprised to learn that the fundraising area had started to use a SaaS-based application and no longer needed the on-premises application. Sunsetting the application also allowed us to reduce the server we had been maintaining.
Question 2: If this task, project, or service still needs to be performed, then ask, “Is my team the right team to be performing it?” If the answer is no, find the team that is the most suitable and begin to transition the work to them. Many times, the other department will be grateful because they knew all along, they were the right team, and because of that, they could do it better.
A CIO at a large retailer told the story about the music in the stores. If you have ever worked in retail, you know the music in the stores is very important. Initially, the IT team was responsible for the music players (hey, they were on the network!). Over time, they became responsible for switching out the content and even making some of the content decisions. When the CIO realized what the team was doing, she immediately began to work with the Marketing team to take over those responsibilities.
Question 3: Assuming the work still needs to be performed, and your team is the right team to perform it, the final question to ask is, “Is there a better, more efficient way to perform it?” Most of your “CDF” work will fall into this category. This is where it is time to get creative. Automation can certainly provide a better, more efficient way to perform much of the KTLO work of running an IT department, but to really move the needle, you will need partners.
Looking at your portfolio of work in this way can help you to transform your department completely. For our first step, we used this methodology to justify the migration of email to a cloud provider (imagine no more Exchange upgrades!). We then partnered with an as-a-Service provider to re-envision our disaster recovery architecture and, ultimately, our production server environment (DRaaS and IaaS).
More Partners, Fewer Vendors
As a CIO, I was often frustrated by the parade of sales reps in my office saying, “We want to be your partner.” Too often, that was code for, “We want to sell you something.” On the other hand, I was guilty of saying, “I want more partners and fewer vendors.”
It got me thinking, just what did I mean by a partner? We weren’t going to sign some sort of joint venture agreement and become partners in the legal sense. We already had shared risk/reward in most of our agreements. So, what does it mean to be a partner? I boiled it down to three things, trust, transparency, and respect. But, if I want to receive trust, transparency, and respect from my vendors, then to be partners, I must treat them with trust, transparency, and respect.
Back to doing more with less
When you need to do more with less, turn to your trusted partners. If you have gaps in what they do, seek vendors you can partner with. Look for vendors who approach the relationship with trust, transparency, and respect.
If you have had to downsize your department, look to a managed services provider to help fill the gaps and perform the KTLO work, you know, the CDF work. Partnering with a Managed Services Provider (MSP) can be an effective way to extend your team, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.
Advantages of an MSP Partner
MSPs provide access to specialized expertise that may not be available within your organization. They can offer flexible, scalable solutions customized to meet your specific needs. By partnering with an MSP, you can reduce your labor costs, eliminate the need for expensive training and certifications, and gain access to the latest tools and technologies without purchasing them outright. MSPs can also help reduce downtime and increase productivity, which can translate into significant cost savings over time.
Moreover, partnering with an MSP can help you to focus on your organization’s core competencies. Outsourcing some of your IT functions to an MSP allows you to free up your internal team to focus on higher-priority tasks and strategic initiatives. This can help improve your overall efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
When considering partnering with an MSP, it’s important to choose a partner that understands your business and industry. Look for a partner with a proven track record of success, solid references, and a deep understanding of your specific needs and goals.
The ABCs of doing more with less
In the best of times, you want your team to focus on the ABC work, the highest-value work. In tough economic times, partnering with an MSP to do the CDF work can be a strategic advantage for your team and your company.
Partnering with an MSP is an effective way for technology leaders to extend their team, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. By focusing on the positive aspects of partnering (mutual trust, transparency, and respect), you can establish a strong partnership with your MSP and achieve more with less, even in challenging times.
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