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The steps to hitting the trifecta of IT success

Technology, when applied properly, adds value and helps firms grow.

But first, firms need the Information Technology Three of executive, administrative and technical skills that must be in place to get the most out of an investment.

Picture the IT Three as interlocking gears. Each is critical to the success of an IT program and the overall firm.

The skills

Executive skills are the driving gears because they set the tone, culture and objectives for the firm. Insights, innovation and creativity, particularly in problem solving, come to the forefront through these skills.

Executive skills also fuel firms’ strategic planning and technology. For example, a firm might have a growth objective to expand geographically, adding attorneys or areas of practice. Someone applying executive skills could consider greater use of webinars and improving connectivity or disaster recovery to further that growth and protect investments.

Executive skills ideally are fostered within an individual, IT group or through a third-party consultant. Firms might run into problems when they try to insert these skills on a sporadic basis instead of integrating them into the executive management model.

Administrative skills are focused on project management. They involve scheduling and managing work to keep IT tasks on time and on budget, collecting data and providing a conduit to management so insightful decisions can be made about IT.

Technical skills are where the rubber meets the road. These are technicians or help desk personnel who help users work with the technology. They also share information and recommendations with administrative and executive staff members on how to improve day-to-day operations.

Of course, technical knowledge is essential to keeping systems running, but this skill set also must include strong communication to keep users productive.

Heed the warning sign

“I don’t know what IT is doing,” is a common management statement and a warning sign that one or more of the IT Three is missing or underdeveloped within a firm.

The problem often occurs when a firm hires just one or two IT people without considering the needed skills. IT staff members might be highly knowledgeable about hardware and software, but that doesn’t guarantee they know what the users are doing with the products or what the users really need in order to be productive.

And it’s not just about doing a great job keeping records. Data related to IT system use isn’t helpful unless and until it’s interpreted and shared with team members who understand the firm’s big picture.

Also, remember that a firm’s IT function won’t meet its potential without the involvement of someone with a creative business mind and an understanding of how IT innovation drives the firm’s improvement. In other words, an effective IT function needs all of the attributes found within the IT Three: innovation, creativity, service, interpretation, communication and technical capabilities.

While all three skill sets must be present, the specific mix that is required depends on the needs of an organization at any given time. A period of dramatic growth or a complete change in IT systems, for example, might demand a high level of all three skill sets at once. On the other hand, an organization that is upgrading its IT equipment might just have a temporary need for the technical skill set.

Getting the IT Three

Firm administrators or managing partners can’t assume all three skill sets reside in one person or even within one IT department. But they can take steps to recognize which skill sets are needed and at what levels they should be implemented. I recommend this three-step process:

  • Step one — Take a 10,000-foot view. This requires asking questions of IT staff members and the management team to identify the available skill sets in an honest, straightforward manner.
  • Step two — Identify the options and consider what can be done to add the needed skill sets or strengthen what already is present. Options may include adding staff members, training people, or using contract or temporary personnel.
  • Step three — Execute a course of action, create a timetable and set a budget. Revisit the program as needed to ensure it still is on target.

Bill King is the senior vice president of Centurion Data Systems in Pewaukee.

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