How To Structure Your IT Team To Maximise Productivity and Growth
Virtually every business relies on technology to function. That means your IT department is one of the most valuable parts of your organisation. Whether it’s fixing issues quickly to keep your business up and running, keeping would-be cyber-attackers at bay, redesigning your entire IT infrastructure or anything else, your IT team is essential for the success of your business.
However, running an IT team is challenging. Increasingly, you need specialist knowledge across your team to cover all bases, notably in security. Not every business has these specialists – and they’re expensive to hire. It’s why many organisations choose to outsource some or all of their IT team rather than manage everything themselves.
You also have to structure your IT team in the right way to get everyone pulling in the same direction. In this article, we’ll share our top ten tips for getting your IT team structure right, so you can maximise team productivity and business growth.
1 – Understand the Key Roles in an IT Team
There are numerous ways to structure your IT team, and every company will have slightly different roles attached to different responsibilities. However, here are some roles that you’ll find in most IT teams:
- IT management team – Manages in-house teams, some companies have a separate strategic manager and an operational manager that runs the day-to-day functions
- Customer-facing staff – Desk-side work
- Helpdesk – Provides initial user support alongside desk-side team
- Support engineers – Support Business As Usual (BAU) systems, including configuring, monitoring and maintaining the company servers
- Project engineers – Work on implementing new systems
- Solution Architects – Design and build new IT systems that align with the organisation’s existing IT infrastructure
When outsourcing, many organisations subcontract out project and design work (which doesn’t need to be done often) and retain in-house staff to support this work. Desk-side and management staff are also often retained, while other support work is outsourced.
2 – Identify the Skills Required for Each Role
Each role in an IT team requires different skills. For example:
- Technical skills – Most roles require a level of coding ability
- Certifications – Certifications are official recognition of an IT professional’s skills. Some are issued by vendors, such as Microsoft Certifications, split into associate and expert levels. Others come from industry bodies, such as Certified cyber security Professionals by NCSC (1)
- Data analysis – Data is the fuel that powers productivity and growth in your organisation. You need people who know how to collect, analyse and utilise it to identify improvement areas
- Problem-solving abilities – When IT issues are a puzzle, you need someone with the right kind of mind to solve it
- Communication skills – IT specialists must engage with people at all levels of the organisation, not just fellow techies. This can often require diplomacy and the ability to explain complex concepts in plain English
Unsurprisingly, professionals with these skills can be hard (and expensive) to hire. It means that many organisations struggle to scale when working on large projects. You can hire in contractors, but how do you know if they’re any good?
3 – Create a Clear Organisational Structure
When designing a structure for your IT team, you need to consider several factors. You need a well-defined hierarchy, including reporting lines, roles and responsibilities, so everyone knows who’s in charge and where they stand. You should also consider cross-functional collaboration.
There are many ways to structure a team, and many organisations will adapt existing models to suit their unique situations. The traditional ‘central model’ is still popular, with a management team at the top and other teams (e.g. support, security, network) – each with their own centralised structures – reporting to them. An article by McKinsey notes the ‘federated model’, where you create teams of IT professionals with skills across the board, such as assigning a security specialist to a group of developers (2).
4 – Implement Efficient Project Management Methodologies
There is no shortage of project management systems available that aim to help streamline IT projects and maximise productivity. Prince2 is the most common methodology for IT projects in the UK, alongside PMP for the US and other territories.
In software development, perhaps the most popular are Scrum and Agile. Scrum gets developers working in two-week ‘sprints’ where they pull out all the stops to complete a set amount of work quickly. Agile is more about process improvement, making teams flexible in the face of change. A subset of Agile is Kanban, which uses boards to visualise the project management process, including defining project goals, assigning tasks and tracking progress (3).
5 – Develop Strategies for Continuous Skill Development
Technology moves fast. It’s essential for your IT team and your people themselves that they stay ahead of the curve and keep up-to-date with industry trends. That means continuous learning. It’s so important that training is an ongoing process in your organisation. If you only train your people on something once, they will likely forget what they learned. In addition, your team members must stay up-to-date with their certifications, which also requires continuous learning and exams.
Upskilling is another aspect of IT team management you might prefer to outsource rather than run yourself. Some areas of IT are too specialised, notably cybersecurity, where the technology moves fast and the stakes are high. You need experts to bring the rest of the team along, but do you have them on board already? Does your team have the time and capacity to upskill in addition to their day-to-day duties? If not, partnering with an MSP – one with certified cyber security experts in their team – may be a better option.
6 – Leverage Technology and Tools to Enhance Productivity
To get the most out of your IT team, you must invest in tools that enable efficiency and collaboration. Tools reduce hours spent on repetitive manual tasks. They also make your people more effective at their jobs, such as identifying issues in the network faster and more accurately.
Here are some areas where investment is essential:
- Project management software – Keep your team organised and focused on individual tasks and the big picture (e.g. Microsoft Project (4))
- Collaboration platforms – Enable your team to communicate over voice, instant messaging and videos, fostering better relationships and smoother collaboration (e.g. Teams)
- Automation tools – Take repetitive tasks out of your team’s hands so they can focus on what they do best (e.g. Microsoft Power Automate (5)
- AI tools – Artificial intelligence tools can speed up your IT professionals’ workflow by steering them in the right direction in coding and problem-solving
7 – Promote Effective Communication and Collaboration
You’re building a team here, not just a collection of individuals. It’s essential to keep communication channels open so your team members can share information and work faster together. It’s also an opportunity for you to share the vision for your IT function and ensure everyone buys into your plans.
Take a multi-media approach, creating a permanent record of what you did and why. Transcribed recordings of meetings can provide context that a formal design does not, while important information about an issue might not be captured in a chat or ticketing system. Having a method of drawing these disparate data sources in one place is key to creating a modern collaboration experience.
This can be a mix of in-person and virtual team meetings using collaboration tools like Teams. However, as a recent CIO article recommends (6), don’t fall into the trap of holding too many meetings and having meetings for the sake of it. If you’ve assembled a team of highly skilled and intelligent people, let them get on with the job.
8 – Prioritise Employee Wellbeing and Work-Life Balance
While you want your IT team to work hard and produce excellent results, you don’t want to burn them out. Here are some ways you can promote a healthy working environment in your IT team:
- Let them work their way – As much as you can, give your IT team members control over how they work, including flexibility around hybrid and remote work
- Don’t overload your people – Keep staffing levels in your IT team stable, so your team members don’t have to do other people’s jobs as well as their own. In addition, ensure they’re well-trained so they don’t struggle to do their jobs
- Create a positive workplace culture – Ensure people feel comfortable and safe at work by fostering an open culture. You want people to feel they can come to you with problems without fear of blame
- Provide opportunities for personal growth – Help your staff improve themselves so they can progress professionally and personally. For example, enabling them to get more certifications makes them better at their jobs today and ready for the next level of their careers tomorrow
- Treat them well – When you treat your staff well, they enjoy their jobs, are more productive and stay with your organisation longer. It’s not a coincidence that companies like Google, which provide free meals for their employees, have been so successful
9 – Measure and Evaluate Team Performance
Measure the results of your team (and its individual parts) to ensure you’re on the right track and identify areas for improvement. Determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your organisation’s goals, track them and share results. If you outsource your IT function at any point, keep the same KPIs in place to evaluate your MSP’s performance.
What metrics should you track? That depends on the nature of the roles in your team. For example, companies often use the following to evaluate the effectiveness of their IT support staff:
- Lost business hours – How often were IT services unavailable?
- First Call Resolution Rate (FCRR) – What percentage of tickets were resolved on the first contact between the user and IT support
- Cost per ticket – Team operating cost divided by number of tickets (calculated on a monthly basis)
Use these metrics during regular performance reviews with your individual team members. Sharing positive and negative feedback with your employees is essential, but make sure you recognise good performance publicly while keeping negative feedback private.
10 – Adapt to Changing Business Needs and Emerging Technologies
In a rapidly evolving IT landscape, staying agile and adaptable is essential. You need a strategy to keep up-to-date with changes in the technology world, whether new solutions could benefit your IT team, and how to incorporate them into your team’s workflow.
For example, a vulnerability management system can continuously audit your IT infrastructure, ensuring your networks and applications are safe. A system like this could be invaluable for your team, saving work hours and adding punch to your cyber security. However, if you don’t know they exist and don’t have the time to evaluate the offerings from a range of cyber security companies, how can you gain the benefits?
In addition, the needs of your business can change over time, for example, if you grow or introduce new products. Your IT function needs to adapt to support these changes. It can often require bringing in new skill sets.
Seeking expert help
You can see that running a productive IT team takes considerable work and investment to overcome a wide range of challenges. It’s no surprise that many organisations decide they would get better results by outsourcing all or parts of their IT operation to a managed service provider (MSP) like Doherty Associates.
Here are some of the many benefits:
- Access to the latest technologies – MSPs stay ahead of the technology curve and can incorporate the latest solutions to streamline your business
- Expert advice – Your MSP will get to know your business and guide you towards solutions that can drive you forward
- Performance – Companies that work with MSPs experience less downtime, better security and find it easier to comply with regulations
- Reduced IT costs – With an MSP, you only pay for the services you use. Plus, you get access to a range of skills that is hard (and expensive) to hire in yourself
- Less stress – An MSP takes IT (which you may not be 100% comfortable with) out of your hands, so you can focus on what matters to your business
Remember, you don’t have to outsource everything IT-related to an MSP. Many organisations find success by partnering with an MSP to support their existing IT team when needed. Select an MSP with the right skills, a good track record and the best certifications at the right price, and you’ll reap the rewards.
To find out more about how Doherty Associates could help support your IT team, visit our Services page.
1 – NCSC – Products & Services
2 – McKinsey – Crafting the optimal model for the IT architecture organisation
3 – Asana – What are Kanban boards? A beginner’s guide
6 – CIO – 11 Ways to Improve Your IT Team’s Productivity