16 Smart Strategies For Running A Lean IT Department

getty The brisk labor market in place before the pandemic may take some time to return. As businesses tighten their belts, many have implemented hiring freezes. For IT leaders, this often means managing an even heavier workload with a smaller crew. Tech leaders will need to find creative solutions to […]

The brisk labor market in place before the pandemic may take some time to return. As businesses tighten their belts, many have implemented hiring freezes. For IT leaders, this often means managing an even heavier workload with a smaller crew.

Tech leaders will need to find creative solutions to keep their departments going until recovery starts to speed up. Below, 16 experts from Forbes Technology Council share their advice on how to run a lean IT department while waiting out a hiring freeze.

1. Enable employee cross-training.

Lean teams need to be cross-trained to support more functions, so arrange training and up-skilling. Helping your team learn new skills so that they can optimize the work they can do for you is essential. Having a cohesive work culture keeps motivation high and employees focused, so pay attention to overall morale. – Hitesh Bhardwaj, Cloud4C

2. Automate as much as you can.

Focus on automating as much as you can with vendor solutions to reduce your team’s workload so they can focus on other areas that need human hands-on attention. With automation, you put yourself and your company in a position to work with a leaner team. Focus on future business needs and how you can automate those projects, as well as the manpower you need for everything else. – Heath Renfrow, The Crypsis Group


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3. Partner with a staffing company. 

Partner with a staffing company to implement a contingent workforce. This way, you can target different talent segments to align with your current needs while taking advantage of the best available talent in the market with low transaction costs. A staffing partner can also help you create a work environment that is agile, collaborative, inclusive and safe to attract and maintain top talent. – Douglas Smith, WGroup

4. Use virtual assistants to manage laptops, and work in shifts.

Have your team connect and manage laptops to solve problems through McAfee, Cisco and other virtual assistants. Also consider having people work in staggered shifts, alternating from home and the workplace, to be able to have connectivity as well as meetings with clients with no interruptions. Having secure assets and connectivity to internal applications is the key. – Lydia Miller, TATA consultancy Services

5. Look into cost savings for long-term managed services.

I recommend managed services. This would cut down on capital expenditure and also rely on the managed service providers to do most of the IT work. Most of the MSPs provide excellent deals due to the pandemic. Take advantage of it by negotiating better rates for a longer-term contract. – Annamalai Ramanathan, BLUSONIC INC.

6. Bring on retired IT pros for part-time work.

The talent pool of retired IT professionals is rich in experience and comes with expectations that are suited to the lean times we find ourselves in. Retirees are typically looking for part-time work that utilizes their experience and that will modestly supplement their retirement income. Companies benefit from this by not having to permanently add full-time workers at high-loaded labor rates. – Philip Samson, ericsson.com

7. Prioritize products with a fast ROI.

Remember that cash is king. It’s best to prioritize only those projects that offer fast ROI (look at cash-to-cash cycles), directly impact customer satisfaction, are absolutely necessary to maintain business continuity and/or propel your organization ahead of the competition. – Guy Yehiav, Profitect (A Zebra Company)

8. Redesign the organizational structure and outsource where needed.

First, we have to redesign the IT organizational structure to make it more efficient and effective in delivering services. We can identify which services—e.g., security operation, desktop service support, etc.—can be outsourced to service providers. Improving staff competency is also important to manage new tech without hiring new talent. – Darron Sun, Hong Kong Housing Society

9. Identify three executive strategies.

In running my teams during this time I have found it critically important to identify three executive strategies that everyone commits to. I make sure that all of the functions and projects subsequently fall into one of the three. Proper alignment of strategies and functions has given us the ability to be lean and nimble and is continually affecting the bottom line. – Isaiah Nathaniel, Delaware Valley Community Health

10. Stick to your core business.

Figure out what your core business really is, then go do lots of that and let go of trying to be the expert at everything. For instance, if your core business is running a health insurance company, why are you owning and operating your own data center on the property? Outsource that to an expert who can manage all that for you better, cheaper and more redundantly than you can. – Missy Young, Switch

11. Accelerate the transition to the cloud.

All businesses should accelerate the transition to the cloud—not only for IT but also for core business operations. Small and medium enterprises should consider partnering for IT services rather than trying to build in-house capability. Businesses benefit through the economies of scale, best practices and talent management that a partner can provide while maximizing focus on core competencies. – Ashish Patel, Architech

12. Leverage edge devices.

Edge devices are getting smarter and can help shift the load from the core to the edge, where additional benefits can be achieved. However, all too often we only look at the money saved up front and end up paying more in the long term. Additionally, make sure you have a robust plan for maintaining those devices via the appropriate tools for firmware upgrades and cybersecurity. – Fredrik Nilsson, Axis Communications

13. Establish a help chain.

Having a help chain can be one strategy for running a lean team. With the connected work platforms and allied toolkits, it is very important to have a help chain established to leverage the benefits of real-time assignment based on the availability and bandwidth of the team. – Vishwas Sutar, Lowry Solutions

14. Monetize APIs and access additional skills as needed.

Productize and monetize application product interfaces as much as possible and leverage a skills-on-demand model—there is some high-quality talent available, and you can have access to multiple individuals/skills to make faster progress. Variable costs are more controllable than fixed ones, after all. – Nitin Kumar, Appnomic Systems Inc.

15. Enable remote work for the whole team.

IT departments need to enable remote work both for their users and for themselves. For their users, this may mean moving more applications to the cloud and bypassing the virtual private network—a potential bottleneck—for these applications. For themselves, this may mean more automation and a strong focus on cybersecurity. – Christian Vogt, Cisco Systems

16. Review hardware maintenance agreements.

CIOs should review their existing hardware maintenance agreements. There are operational and capital expenditure cost-saving opportunities that can be implemented when extending current hardware support agreements. Moving to a third-party vendor will save you additional dollars and provide improved service levels. – Todd Piper, Service Express

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