Resolutions Your CIO Will Break – and What They Should Do Instead

The New Year is here and with it comes the flood of well-intentioned blog posts, emails and other announcements that things are going to be different this year. These posts, full of noble goals, will quickly be forgotten. Research has shown that at least 8 out of 10 of New Year’s Resolutions fail. Many are discarded within just a few days.

IT leaders are just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to failing to see their resolutions through to completion. One reason for that may be that while well-intentioned, their goals perhaps ought to be tweaked.

Here are a couple of hypothetical IT resolutions and their upgraded versions for IT Leaders to consider for this coming year:

1. Killing Off Shadow IT vs. Implementing a Flexible SaaS Policy

Shadow IT is not going away. The ubiquity of SaaS solutions makes procurement, deployment and regular use of shadow IT easier than ever. More than 80 percent of users admit to using at least some shadow IT resources on a regular basis.

This growth remains a grave concern for CIOs everywhere. Not only do they have rogue lines of business (LOBs) purchasing IT services, but they have data that is being exfiltrated into the cloud in ways that no one anticipated. The security concerns alone are enough to make IT leaders want to go on the warpath. Thus 2016 is the year to finally kill off Shadow IT, right?

Knocking back Shadow IT is the ultimate Sisyphean task. Not only will it require a huge expenditure of effort but it will alienate end users who are only trying to get their jobs done. This is a fight that IT leaders will not be able to sustain over the long haul.

A better alternative is to develop more a more flexible and responsive policy toward SaaS solutions. Make “yes” the default answer when it comes to LOB users wanting to try new things (or they will go behind your back and do it anyway). At the same time, to mitigate common security concerns, give users the tools they need to do things like encrypt files before putting them in the cloud.

2. Hiring More Staff vs. Implementing Change Management

A common perception in many IT departments is that they are understaffed. The daily deluge of tickets, phone calls, requests and e-mails has them buried in work from sunrise to sunset. Frequently they are running from crisis to crisis, never having the opportunity to knock out any of what they planned. Half-completed tasks are the norm and stress levels are sky high.

On a recent project at a software company, we encountered this issue. If the client had been asked to come up with resolutions, this would have been at the top of the list. Every member of the team, including the VP, was convinced that they desperately needed to increase the size of their team just to keep up. End users were outraged by the lack of support from IT. The team needed to grow their headcount right away and they needed those new hires to hit the ground running—so everyone needed broad experience and deep technical skills.

What actually happened? At the end of the day, they hired only one additional entry level support engineer.

What changed? The entire IT Team got focused around working smarter instead of harder. Effective but lightweight change management policies were put in place around production infrastructure. After just one week of having a Change Control Board, the firefighting stopped and stress levels dropped. IT staff were able to actually plan out their work and accomplish some long-deferred projects that enhanced services for the company and its customers.

Seeing this in action made believers out of skeptics who were convinced that growing headcount was the only solution. Today they are regularly discussing issues like technical debt with their developers and thinking about adding new hires to expand capabilities rather than just demanding more firefighters.

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