CIOs And The Dangers Of Overloading Your Team

If you burn out your team, nobody will be able to get anything done
If you burn out your team, nobody will be able to get anything done

Image Credit: Jorge Franganillo

The CIO of any company is judged by how much his or her department is able to accomplish. Now that just about every department in the company understands the importance of information technology, IT departments are being asked to do more and more every day. What this means for the person with the CIO job is that you are constantly facing the challenge of trying to accomplish as much as you can while not overloading your department.

Why IT Departments Become Overloaded

The IT department, unlike many other departments in the company, exists to serve all departments. Many of the applications that the IT department is in charge of such as email are used by everyone every day. What this means is that requests for support and for special needs projects can come in from anywhere at any time. There is really nothing that an IT department can do to stem the flow of requests.

Things can become even more complicated when the company decides to embark on a large scale IT project. These types of projects, such as selecting, installing, and configuring a brand new ERP system take a great deal of time. A project of this size can easily consume all of the resources that a company’s IT department has to offer. During this time requests for the department to take on other types of projects will, of course, be put on hold. The result of this is that a significant backlog of IT work can quickly start to build up. An exhausted IT team that has completed a large complex project now faces a significant amount of additional work.

Even in the case that the person in the CIO position is managing an IT department filled with superhuman workers, there is still a limit to what can be done. It can be all too easy to grow complacent as your IT department successfully delivers project after project on time. You need to be aware that every IT project has a human cost to it and your department’s human budget is finite. This means that there will be a breaking point where your department’s ability to deliver projects will break down and you’ll have a serious issue on your hands.

What A CIO Needs To Do In Order To Prevent Overloading From Happening

Since what your IT department is able to deliver to your company is how you will be judged as a CIO, it is your responsibility to ensure that your teams don’t become overloaded. The first step in this process is awareness. You know how many people you have in your department and you know how much work you have signed up to deliver to the rest of the company. Are these numbers matching each other or have you over promised?

As the company’s CIO one of your main jobs is to help the company manage its IT project demand pipeline. This is very much a people type of task. What you are going to have to do is to very clearly communicate with the rest of the company exactly what the IT department’s capacity is. Additionally, you will be the one who will be setting priorities with the business units and determining what work gets done. The most important part of this task will be to deal with the people who have requests that will not be getting taken care of immediately. You’ll need to very carefully manage their expectations in order to prevent them from starting to bad mouth the IT department.

Finally, you need to manage the burnout issue within the IT department. This means that you need to work with your IT managers in order to determine the status of the various ongoing projects. What you need to be looking for is teams that are getting close to exceeding their due dates and are starting to show signs of stress. There are a lot of ways to help the IT managers deal with this including funding team building exercises and simply allowing the team to take a break. Another effective technique is to meet with the team and tell them that you’ll work with the rest of the company to get them the more time that they need.

What All Of This Means For You

A CIO who is in charge of a department of burned out IT employees is of no use to anyone. What this means is that as the CIO you are going to have to understand both the causes of IT department burn out and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

IT burnout has a number of different sources. By their very nature, IT departments serve the entire company. This means that anyone can make a request of the IT department at any time. When a large IT project is undertaken, it can cause all other requested projects to be put on hold resulting a large IT project backlog developing. As CIO it is your job to manage the IT project pipeline. You need to set priorities and allocate resources in a way that will both meet the needs of the company while at the same time preventing the IT department from burning out.

Every CIO is responsible for making sure that their IT department operates smoothly. This means that you need to keep your eyes open and make sure that your staff do not become overloaded. If you can spend the time making sure that this situation is avoided, then you’ll have found a way to ensure that the IT department is able to keep propelling the company forward.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: If your department starts to become overloaded, can the company’s other departments help out?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Can you remember back to when the iPhone was first introduced? If you can’t remember, it was June of 2007. Before then, mobile phones were just that – phones. However, the iPhone changed all of this – now phones were mini computers that wanted to connect to the company’s network and all of sudden everyone understood the importance of information technology. IT didn’t do a good job of anticipating how popular the iPhone would be and we’re doing a pretty poor job of realizing the impact of tablets.