End of year is an excellent time to review budgets, think ahead to the new year, and complete everything still pending from the old year so you’re ready for January 1. But for CIOs, end of year is also a time to step back, reflect, and perform a tune-up for the months to come.

The IT tune-up is like a vehicle tune-up. In the latter, critical systems are checked for safety and wellness, and the vehicle is deemed roadworthy as soon as these systems are reviewed and, where necessary, remedied. Applying the vehicle tune-up principle to IT can be equally fruitful.

What key IT areas should reviewed in a CIO’s tune-up assessment? Here are six of them.

1: Project and work reviews

How did IT perform overall on key projects and work responsibilities over the past year? In which areas was performance exemplary and where did IT fall short? In the areas where you believed the department underperformed, what were the causative factors? The goal in this review is to isolate performance trouble spots and to determine the steps that can be taken so they don’t remain troublesome in the next year.

SEE: IT leader’s guide to making DevOps work

2: Team assessment

Did you have the talent necessary to take on all the work and projects your team was asked to do? Where were you understaffed? Were there areas where you were overstaffed–and from which you could potentially move personnel to other areas requiring additional resources in the new year? Were employees who demonstrated promise given growth and training opportunities? How well did you do in hiring new employees and in retaining those you already had onboard? Were staff members happy and collaboratively engaged with each other? This is a time to identify “over-performing” employees and areas of the departments to see what clicked for them and to determine whether some of the keys to their success can be applied to areas of the department that lagged in performance. For lagging staff areas, a tune up exercise should identify the root cause problems and then seek help as needed to improve performance.

SEE: Job description: Business information analyst

3: Tools evaluation

Did new (and continuing) tools and solutions produce positive results in IT? Or did they end up as difficult-to-use shelfware that incurred license fees but delivered little? For software (or hardware) that fell into the latter category, the year-end review should be a housecleaning exercise so that these assets are eliminated. The tools that delivered big results should be assessed for any additional value they can bring in the coming year.

4: Customer service assessment

Increasingly, IT is being evaluated by end users in terms of the quality of service it provides–not just the hardware and software solutions. How did your staff support end users? With which departments did you enjoy excellent working relationships–and where were you struggling? How do you fix troubled relationships going forward? Remedies for trouble spots could involve reassignments of IT personal or the development of fresh approaches when working with disgruntled users.

5: Budget performance

Were there areas where you under-budgeted and for which you will need to reevaluate your spend for the new year? Conversely, were there areas where you didn’t require the budget you had allocated? Both the over- and under-spending areas of the budget may require tweaking.

SEE: Year-round IT budget template

6: Your own performance

Your personal performance review might have been stellar, but when you self-evaluate, you’ll likely find areas where you can improve. This might be in budgeting, or in how you structure projects, or even in how you interrelate with end users and with your own staff. If you can identify your own personal trouble spots and take proactive measures, you and your staff, your stakeholders, your superiors, and the company will all benefit.

What we know about IT at end of year is that there are always tasks to be buttoned up, a new year to turn the page to, and many thoughts about what went well and what didn’t go as planned. End of year is also a golden opportunity for CIOs to self-assess themselves and their overall department performance with a year-end tune-up they can perform on their own to ensure that their departments are roadworthy for the drive ahead.

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