IT Work Split: The New 80/20 Rule

IT Departments Need To Apply The 80/20 Rule To Support Work
IT Departments Need To Apply The 80/20 Rule To Support Work

Pity the poor CIO – he manages a team of professionals that do great work, but he / she rarely gets any credit for a job well done. Why you ask? Well an unfortunate comparison can be made to the maintenance staff that takes care of the building that your work in. It’s great that they keep everything up and working and looking good, but how often do you ever really think about them?

What’s missing here is for CIOs to determine what the right work split is for their team. No matter what we do, there is always going to be some support and maintenance work to be done, but how much is too much?

HP’s CIO Randy Mott was facing this problem when he came on board a few years ago and he’s moved quickly to try to resolve it.

Chris Murphy over at InformationWeek had a chance to sit down with Randy and ask some questions about how he’s gone about getting his team to work on the things that really count.

When Mott first joined HP the IT department was spending about 70% of its time doing support work – keeping the network up, resetting passwords, recovering deleted files, etc. This meant that only 30% of their time was being spent doing things that moved the company forward.

So did Mott do? First he cut his IT payroll almost in half – they went from 19,000 staff (50/50 contractors and employees) down to under 10,000 (90% of which are employees). The thinking here is that if you are just doing support, it really doesn’t matter who doing the job, contractor or employee, as long as it gets done. However, if you are doing mission critical system development, then the person doing the work had better be an employee so that you’ll have continuity.

The way that Mott figured out who to keep and who to let go was by documenting what everyone was doing. Once a week folks would stop and document what they had been working on that week. The thought was that if you don’t have good data on what folks are doing, then you can’t make good decisions about what they SHOULD be doing.

One other key change that HP made is in how they define work. There are only two buckets these days: support or “new development”. No middle ground is permitted so say goodbye to “enhancements”.

In the end, Mott’s been able to get his work split to a 70 / 30 mix. It’s not quite the 80 / 20 that he’s shooting for, but he’s getting close. This approach also allowed Mott to get enough data to be permitted to decommission some popular but high maintenance applications. How many other IT departments wish that they could do that?

What is the work split between support and new development in your department? What would you like it to be? What steps are you taking to reduce the amount of time that your team spends on support activities? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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