What if CIOs challenged themselves and their IT staff members to come up with 10 resolutions for the New Year? Here are some goals that might make the list.
1: Improve listening skills
Try as it might, IT is fundamentally an engineering discipline. IT'ers like to focus on things and on words that are spoken or written at face value. Sometimes, though, critical listening kicks in and benefits everyone when IT'ers can "hear between the lines," whether it's detecting someone's frustration or catching the expression of a hidden wish that the system could do something better. Listening skills continue to be a developmental area for IT.
2: Don't be arrogant
It's easy to dismiss a non-IT person's idea if it isn't technically feasible, but sometimes there's a useful gem buried in the suggestion. Even if there isn't, patience and respect for others' input can go a long way toward dispelling IT's reputation for sometimes being arrogant and aloof.
3: Avoid using acronyms
Unless you're surrounded by a group of techies who use acronyms day-in and day-out, it is a good idea to keep acronyms out of conversations. They get in the way of clear communications.
4: Kick the tires on new technologies
Despite the number of IT departments that say they are "leading edge," more than 50% of IT work is spent on system maintenance. At the end of the day, there is very little budget or staff time left to explore new technologies that could be benefit the company in the future. Don't let this stop you. There are plenty of vendors out there that would welcome giving you a test drive of what they've got to offer—and to show you how it could potentially pay off for your company—even if you're not immediately planning to buy.
5: Develop a strategy for reducing system maintenance
Even though system maintenance consumes such a large amount of the average IT department's time, few of them have an active strategy for it. Whether it's outsourcing applications to the cloud, improving quality assurance so applications fail less, or assessing the breakage levels of applications and replacing high-breakage apps, IT departments need to get on top of this area so they can free more staff to work on new projects.
6: Implement green IT in asset management
IT has already attacked data center carbon footprints by reducing the numbers of physical servers and storage devices/cabinets, replacing them with virtual counterparts. But there's still more to be done for green IT. A prime area is asset management, which uses software to track IT hardware and software assets both inside and outside the data center. If asset management software is implemented to track asset use—and then identifies assets that are barely or no longer being used—IT can redeploy these assets or get rid of them. Another asset management area is building facilities and office space, a major energy consumption and expense item for enterprises. Many companies have been successful at saving money and promoting corporate-wide green initiatives when they've used their IT asset management software to track facilities utilization.
7: Commit to staff training and development
The first area to go with budget cuts is IT staff training and development. But with the advent of so many new technologies and projects, IT can scarcely afford to endure learning curves on every mission-critical project. If necessary, the CIO should be talking to the board and the CEO about the importance of investing in key IT personnel by offering proactive technology education and career growth paths. This encourages the most valuable IT contributors to stay with the company for the long haul.
8: Employ end users in QA
Quality assurance is an oft-neglected area in IT. Its task is to check out applications for conformity to technical and functional requirements, but what is missing in the QA process is an app checkout that evaluates the application's fit with the business process it's being inserted into—as well as the user experience and user-friendliness of the application. The best people to do the user-oriented checkouts are the end users themselves. This also engages users actively in the process of testing a new application and helps ensure their buy-in to the app.
9: Update your DR plan
IT continues to place regularly testing and updating disaster recovery plans on the back burner, due to the many projects and user requests that constantly flood the IT workload. Nevertheless, those who have actually been through a disaster will attest that there is no document more singularly important than the DR plan when things go wrong. A poor disaster recovery effort can harm a company's business reputation for the long term—and it can also affect the jobs and careers of those who were supposed to be in charge of assuring that the company could meet any disastrous circumstance it faced.
10: Revisit your data retention policies
The big data age has swamped enterprises with more data than ever before, but not all of it is useful. Although it can be among the most dreaded of tasks, make it a point to revisit corporate data retention policies with business units across the enterprise on an annual basis.
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Other IT resolutions?
What improvement goals have you set for yourself and your team? Share your resolutions with fellow TechRepublic members.
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 of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.