4 lessons on how to develop a new business department

Starting a new department can be a necessary risk. Here are 4 best practices for success.

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As companies grow and develop, so do the departments needed to facilitate different functions. IT, quality assurance, training, human resources, and marketing are all examples of this. Creating a new department is an exhilarating experience for many managers because it's an opportunity to develop something out of nothing, and there is enormous potential for creativity, recognition, and promotion.There are managers, though, who refuse these department innovation assignments, preferring to stay in roles that are already established in the company because creating a new department can be risky. If it doesn't achieve recognition and acceptance as quickly as stakeholders expect it to, those managers could lose their job.

However, if you are a manager with an entrepreneurial bent and you want to innovate a new department, there are several best practices from business startups that you can take with you as you develop a new business union.

1. Understand who your stakeholders and investors are and what they expect

A company starts a new department for a reason—there is a perceived need for the new department, and that need has reached the point where there is resolve to create it and fund it. If you are the one heading up the new department, you should make it a point to understand who your stakeholders and investors are and what their expectations are. It will be your job to meet or exceed those expectations.

2. Recruit strong people

You will beat the drums for your new department as it develops a reputation and a place within the organization. You can't do this if you are also doing all of the daily work. This is why it is important to recruit strong people into your organization and to develop an excellent working team.

3. Understand the company's pain points

If a company wants to establish a separate quality assurance department, there is probably a reason for it. Perhaps the company has been experiencing product or process failures. If a separate IT department is being called for when IT used to be a function within finance, it might be because the tasks of technical IT and daily IT security have outgrown the resources and skillsets of the finance department. If marketing is the new department being called for, it might be because sales has realized that it only wants to sell—not chart demographics, develop strategic plans, and organize promotions and campaigns. The sooner you get a handle on what the company's pain points are, the sooner you'll know where the new department can produce both value and pain relief.

4. Focus on developing a brand

A new department, like a new company, must develop an identity and also deliver value that its customers want. It is up to the new department's manager to develop this departmental identity and to create the value that the department can bring to the other departments within the company. Once others within the company see what the new department can deliver and what it is all about, the department can begin to root itself into the corporate fabric and assume its place among the other company departments.

There are many similarities between creating a new department within a company and launching a startup. As a manager of a new business entity, you have to cultivate trust in your constituents, develop a brand and an identity for your organization, and build credibility. Value is created when you continuously demonstrate that you can eliminate pain points and move the company forward. At the beginning of the process, promoting the new department—as well as developing it—will be primary functions. If you can recruit strong performers and build a cohesive team, the job will be that much easier.

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Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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