Most CIOs struggle with a common problem: the insatiable demand for IT work from other departments. Most strategies for dealing with this involve work request intake processes and prioritization schemes. Some may take the extra step of allocating their resources, usually against projects. But if you simply look at the problem statement, the path to a solution becomes more obvious. To balance the load we must match the incoming demand for work against the supply of resources to perform it.
In many IT departments this work comes into the organization in an ungoverned fashion. Minimally, support work may come in through a help desk system, but sometimes not. When not flowing through a defined process, projects may come in via email, hallway conversations, or direct requests to technical staff. This subjects all staff to the dreaded “death by a thousand paper cuts” as work comes from all directions to just about anyone in IT.
There are several keys to successfully balancing IT’s often overwhelming workload:
1. Consider all of IT’s work and staff, not just projects and programmers. As everyone in IT may get involved in the various types of work IT does, narrowing in on just one aspect will not solve the problem.
2. Govern the workload by scale. Tickets are governed by help desk queues, enhancements by targeted percentage policies, and projects by a formal intake funnel. Each of these groupings is governed in a different fashion, each ideally comes through its own intake process, and therefore each needs to have resource allocations planned differently.
3. Plan capacity early. Like any other department that produces tangible product – in our case various technologies – a little planning is in order. Capacity planning is the science and art of aligning all incoming requests with the proper work teams and deciding which ones hit the floor when to make the most efficient use of available capacity. Just like in manufacturing, capacity planning must be done long before efforts like projects are launched. Done properly, this reduces the scramble for resources and minimizes conflicting priorities. It also allows more work to complete without interruption, reducing inefficiencies caused by churn.
4. Track all time. To truly understand the workload in IT, everyone from the CIO on down must log their time. It is simply not possible to segregate the work by one specific IT area or one type of work – no matter how the department is organized. At a minimum, they must log time to the different scales and types of work and to individual projects. Without this critical feedback, even the best planning process is just guesswork.
Above all, IT’s job is to provide information technology that supports and enables the achievement of business strategies and goals. Ensuring that all work is properly governed and planned helps IT stay in alignment and deliver to those goals efficiently and effectively.