IT equals constant change. The rapid pace of growth and change is often reflected in ad hoc organizational designs. Managers rarely have the time to plan (or reassess) IT org design requirements. Soon you’ve got staff wearing multiple hats that conflict with one another. Internal priorities become unclear as staff headcount grows and reporting chains become murky. New hires are simply thrown into the mix, left to deal with the existing internal politics and unclear boundaries. So things get done, but the execution is no longer world class. Finally, service delivery issues increase and retention degrades, creating the need for a focused org design discussion.

Here are a few major downsides to not planning your organizational design properly:

  1. Shadow IT: We’ve talked about shadow IT before. What was not discussed was how unplanned organizational design contributes to shadow IT. Without clear direction from management, it is easy for other areas of the business to add their own quasi IT roles over time. Pretty soon you’ve got IT professionals working throughout the organization, but they aren’t working together or using the same standards and processes. Suddenly you’re supporting infrastructure and applications that are expensive, incompatible, and don’t fit into your carefully developed IT roadmap. No one wanted to create conflict and chaos but it happened anyway.
  2. Unclear Responsibilities: From a management perspective, without a solid organizational design, it’s hard to hold people responsible for the outcome of their efforts. You may find that no one person is really in charge of a particular area but that a lot of folks have their hands in the mix. Decisions around critical infrastructure and applications may be made at the wrong level and with little communication across the organization. That doesn’t bode well for the ability of IT management to provide direction and support the business.
  3. Low Staff Morale: Unplanned organizational design can sabotage you in other ways too. Looking beyond job descriptions, a broken design can also stunt your staff’s professional growth and create unnecessary daily frustrations. Talented IT professionals are in demand even in a bad economy. You don’t want to lose yours when you can fix the organizational design to make their career paths a bit clearer and ensure that decisions can be made quickly and intelligently. 
  4. Difficulty Growing: None of us have a magical crystal ball to tell us what the future holds for IT. Skillsets that have not yet been defined may be necessary to succeed in tomorrow’s environment. Platforms that seem solid can vanish quickly when something better pops up. Being able to understand how that new technology and the associated skillsets fit into your IT organization is critical. You don’t want to just keep adding branches to the chart if you don’t have to. At the same time, smart management needs to know where to prune those branches.

Having an unruly IT department may have been okay in the past, but given the critical role played by technology and the dependence of most organizations on IT, not having a plan poses risks to your organization. 

Want to learn more about organizational design and leverage our experience in creating world class IT organizations?  Reach out to SAI so we can get the conversation started.