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Re-envigorating IT: A Success Story

Last week I spent several days with a long-term client at their US offices.  The goal of this trip was simple – get as much feedback on the “state of IT” a possible, then develop a plan to remediate any issues and execute. The end result was fantastic – great progress on all fronts and a very happy and more productive team.

The agenda for my days was simple:

  1. Town hall / IT Feedback Session – 9 am day 1.
  2. 1 on 1 Sessions – 10:30 to 1, 3 to end of day (late there!)
  3. Training (Topics TBD) – 1pm – 3pm day 1
  4. Future IT – Exploring Sharepoint – 10 am day 2
  5. Meeting with the IT Outsourcing company – 11am day 2
  6. Training (Topics TBD) – 1pm – 3pm day 2
  7. Closing Session – 4pm day 2

The schedule didn’t seem that crazy when we started to generate it, but by the time it was going, it was clear that this trip was going to be a sprint!  That’s actually a good thing.  By increasing the pace and energy throughout my stay, we could develop some great momentum.

I love doing group feedback sessions, as they let the group build energy and play off each others ideas.  There are only about 20 people in the US office, so we were able to have everyone in the same room.  Of course, the downside of such a meeting is keeping everyone on topic.  The facilitator has to be “on the ball” all the time.

We started the session with some basic ground rules (don’t make Mike cry, use the parking lot for off-topic, be productive only) and a couple of the IT issues I knew.  In the end, we had filled up 2 whiteboards with issues ranging from big (potential network issues) to little (tidiness issues), success stories and areas the team felt the needed training.  The great thing about doing this as a group is that we were able to figure out relative priorities immediately.  The number of times I heard “oh, I have that problem too” …

At the end of the meeting, we created the training agendas.  That’s right, mandatory training built to order.  We did sessions on Microsoft Office 2010, the new phone system, the time sheet and PO systems.

The 1 on 1 sessions helped add to the list, and gave me an opportunity to help users through some of the quick-fix issues.  These sessions were often as short as 10 minutes, with a couple much longer ones.  The focus was simple:  Where can IT help you be more productive, and where is it making you  less productive.

Working with the company’s outsourcing firm was great.  While there were areas they were dropping the ball, we quickly discovered that there were too many communications disconnects.  How the users were passing tasks back (and if they were) wasn’t appropriate for the level of service desired.  You can’t blame the IT people when the end users don’t report issues.  At the end of our session, we had a plan for better managing tasks, a future state for the infrastructure (more cost effective and disaster-resilient) and changes for staffing going forward.

By the time the closing session rolled around, we had solved many of the issues listed and had plans and time lines for most of the rest of the issues.  Training had covered 60% of what was on the list and sessions were planned to cover the rest.  The biggest benefit – there was a great, positive feeling throughout the entire team and a renewed trust in IT.

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