- Document all projects, big and small – Start with a policy of documenting every project, no matter the size or complexity. Develop a project intake template that includes the project purpose and benefit, scope, time frame for delivery, resource requirements, and cost. That way, projects can be seen, side-by-side, for easy comparison. Add the priority once that's determined.
- Require a business case – The vast majority of IT work is not mandatory work, even including many hardware and software upgrades. In order to set the stage for prioritisation, demand that every new request includes a business case and proposed deadline. This allows for a more objective prioritization process, one that relies on real data and not generalisations like ""major business impact"" or ""needed ASAP.""
- Implement a priority score – Using the project documentation and business case, develop scoring criteria and a matrix that allows each project to be appropriately scored. The matrix should include a business value component as well as a risk to the business, including organisational disruption and change. Use the matrix to score projects of all sizes so that everyone can easily understand what should be worked on and why.
4. Stop, collaborate and listen
Make having shared discussions and feedback a delight, not a chore.
These days, team members are scattered. Many are working remotely, and particularly in IT, workers are often outsourced or off-shored. Because your co-workers may not even be working for the same company, you can't just swing by and share design ideas or help someone work through a coding error.
IT teams also rely on the ability to share their work and manage version control. Sure, you probably have a number of ways to track your work.
You may be good with spreadsheets or great at email organisation, but others might lack that skillset or prefer other document management methods. The result is more time spent managing work than actually getting it done.
With documents and conversations flying around, here are a few suggestions to present information in a unified, constructive manner:
- Value collaboration – In order to improve collaboration and sharing, it must be valued. Take some time to survey both IT and the business to understand where there are breakdowns in the process. As you implement improvements, be sure to demonstrate how they can help workers communicate and share with greater efficiency.
- Keep communication and work in one place – Conversations about work, whether in person or digitally, should be tracked in the context of work. That is, team members need to be able to access the conversation that is associated with the document or work product in order to better understand and contribute to the discussion. Keeping them together provides a more complete audit trail and allows other team members to quickly join the conversation.
- Consolidate tools – Get rid of the email chains, spreadsheet trackers, and all of the many ways you document and share project information. Consolidate your communication and document sharing tools to minimise the time and effort team members spend searching and replying.
5. Target chaos, reduce stress
Unclutter schedules for happier employees and more successful projects.
Sixty-three percent of workers have high levels of stress, resulting in extreme fatigue and a heightened sense of feeling out of control. In addition, one-third of workers lose an hour of work per day due to stress.
IT request queues can be overwhelming, and one of many fallouts from an overtaxed staff is less than optimal performance.
When so much emphasis is placed on churning out endless amounts of work that benefit the enterprise, it's easy to forget about the tax incurred on the people producing it. It's a fine balancing act to keep your team happy and still get them to do what you need.
The way to win the hearts and time of your team mates is make sure they are working on tasks that contribute to the success of the business – not administrative overhead.
Here are a few suggestions to avoid the dreaded burnout:
- Build a balanced schedule – Theoretically, there are eight hours in a workday. Realistically, few people work eight hours non-stop. Today's IT workers need time to stay up to date on the latest trends and technology. Today, 30 percent of people have no time at all for research and reflection at work. Set time aside for this and you will be rewarded with more innovation and productivity.
- Understand the urgency of every request – We all have co-workers who abuse the "high priority" email option. Although it sometimes seems that every project is a matter of life and death, not every new work request is urgent. You need to know which requests can be put on the back burner when last-minute emergency requests, such as a network crash, come into the pipeline.
- Ask about availability – No one wants to create additional stress, but sometimes the only way to know if a team member is available is to ask. Make sure to effectively communicate to the team what every team member is working on and whether they have any available bandwidth.
In IT, the workflow challenges in your workplace can be tamed and even mastered as you gain greater visibility into work planning, prioritisation and resourcing. You can win every battle, and even the war, against the dragon of work chaos.
The best part of it all? If done right, you won't even need a dedicated month to go home on time.
- Bryan Nielson is the Chief Marketing Officer at AtTask, a provider of cloud-based enterprise work management solutions.
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