When you finally make a commitment to going back to the gym (how many times now?), how do you decide what you’ll need in your gym bag for a successful workout? In packing that bag, you have to think both strategically and tactically.
Strategically thinking, are you going for a long workout? Are you going somewhere afterward? If so, you may need a change of clothes, grooming products, and shower shoes. Tactically, you’ll need some basics for any workout, such as a water bottle, a healthy snack, and a towel.
Much like packing your gym bag for the type of workout and schedule you’re planning, the IT director of an association needs to think both strategically and tactically every day to get the job done.
So, what do IT directors pack in their “IT bags” to be effective?
To get a good workout at the gym, you typically have the choice of working out on your own, with a trainer, in a small group, or in a class. A combination of these methods is usually more effective because it allows you to vary your workout routine. In the same way, IT directors must vary their work to adapt to the daily changing needs of their organization.
In some associations, IT directors are the top technology leader in the organization and, in other associations, they may report to a CIO. IT directors oversee IT managers and IT staff members. They coordinate and implement systems and services that keep essential data and technology solutions available to the rest of the organization. IT directors serve as a primary point of contact between the professionals in the IT department and those in operations, business, customer service, membership, and other departments.
Some people outsource their workouts in the gym by getting a trainer or taking advantage of special equipment or classes that will help them achieve their fitness goals. IT directors must also think about the resources that will help their organization achieve its goals, like sufficient investments in technology, staffing, and professional development for staff.
The most valuable resource of all is people—the right IT talent with the right technology skills. IT directors can rely on in-house talent or outsource talent by hiring consultants or professionals on an interim basis to scale up or down as the project load demands. Having the right people in the right jobs for the IT organization is of utmost importance.
Here are some roles IT directors might have in their IT bag depending on the complexity of their organization.
Executive sponsor. Someone in senior management with the authority to deliver the necessary resources (including budget and staff time), remove internal obstacles, and hold team members accountable for their responsibilities.
Professional project manager. Emphasis on “professional.” Staff or consultant.
Business analyst. Someone who helps the organization analyze needs, gather requirements, and develop solutions.
Quality assurance experts. People who look at the administrative and procedural activities implemented in a system so requirements and goals for a product, service, or activity will be fulfilled.
Network support. This critical team focuses on the maintenance of an existing network. They’re either part of the organization's internal IT support team or technical support staff of a third-party network technology provider (frequently a managed services provider or MSP). Network support may extend from testing and troubleshooting problems to regular maintenance.
Help desk support. Customer-focused people who provide guidance and troubleshoot problems and training for the organization’s computers, electronic equipment, and application software, often outsourced to an MSP.
Application support developers. Specialized talent who support all facets of the software development process, including the research, design, programming, testing, and—sometimes—data, reporting, and training on computer software. In a competitive job market, such talent may best be accessed by outsourcing rather than trying to recruit and retain in-demand experts.
Vendor/consultant partners. The technology provider’s team and any consultants helping with selection, implementation, portfolio management, and so on.
When you join the gym, you have to sign a liability waiver stating that you’re aware of the dangers and risks of using the gym’s equipment, and you won’t hold the gym responsible if you get injured while using their equipment. In addition, gyms carry insurance to cover liabilities.
IT directors have policies in their IT bag that protect the organization from liability issues and provide standards for the organization to follow. They need to take the lead on developing specific IT policies and contributing input to other organizational policies.
Here are some important policies every IT director should consider.
Security. Information security policies and standards explain how the organization protects its IT assets and data while complying with all relevant laws and regulations.
File storage protocol. Establishes data storage resources, defining and communicating acceptable use of storage. The IT infrastructure is configured to optimally support these technology requirements.
BYOD. An internal Bring Your Own Device policy governs employees’ use of their personal devices (laptops, tablets, and smartphones) for work, particularly to access privileged company information and applications.
PCI. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a proprietary information security standard for organizations that handle branded credit cards including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB.
GDPR. The General Data Protection Regulation governs the personal data processing activities you conduct for European Union (EU) customers and members.
Disaster recovery/business continuity. A set of policies laying out a systematic approach for safeguarding the vital technology and data managed by the IT department.
Data governance. The processes, roles, policies, standards, and metrics that ensure data is used effectively and efficiently to enable an organization to achieve its goals.
Gym staff often have specific skillsets: weight trainers, aerobics instructors, yoga teachers, CrossFit trainers, dieticians, massage therapists, and so on. Some may even be trained in multiple areas. As an IT director, you must have the right people trained for the right roles—and pay attention to cross training where it makes sense.
Is your IT team able to carry their weight in each of these skillsets?
Cloud. An IT market study from Deloitte Consulting said that 60% of enterprises are expected to move their IT systems to the cloud by 2019 as a part of their digital transformation initiatives. As the primary value proposition of cloud continues to shift from “cost/efficiency” to “innovation acceleration,” multi-cloud strategies should play a crucial role in this transformation. Does your internal staff have the right training to support cloud computing or will you need outside support?
Security. As the market for information security talent heats up and the skills shortage continues, those who have the right combination of credentials and experience are in high demand. As you’re developing the cybersecurity skills of your IT team, consider these two key certifications: Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP).
Help desk. Standard help desk procedures often incorporate the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) methodology, which is a set of practices for IT Service Management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business. Trained staff in this area should have a minimum of an ITIL Foundations certification.
Application development. On the application side, developers typically need a bachelor's degree in computer science and a strong knowledge of computer programming. They must be able to identify the needs of customers and create applications that answer those needs. They must be able to clearly communicate their ideas to coders, teammates, and management. Make sure developers have the appropriate experience in the coding language you use.
Back at the gym, a good workout calls for not only what you’re carrying in your gym bag, but also the equipment you need to use. If you’re planning an aerobic workout, you need appropriate shoes, a mat, and a music player to help you get your heartbeat up. You might also need a jump rope, stationary bike, stretch bands, or a yoga ball. You get the picture.
Because the IT director is managing many “hands-on” activities, their list of tools is extensive.
The infrastructure and help desk team might use these technology tools.
- Megapro 13-in-1 ratcheting screwdriver
- Chargers of many varieties
- Network and console cables
- USB flash drives
- USB to LAN adapter
- Display adapters (VGA to DVI, VGA to HDMI, etc.)
- External hard drive (at least 1TB)
- Hard drive recovery tool/adapter
- Cable tester
- PC repair toolkit
The help desk team may also use screen share tools such as ScreenLeap, TeamViewer, or Join.me.
The project management and QA team might use:
- Microsoft Project, Clarizen, Smartsheet, or Teamwork
- Calendars tools such as Outlook or the calendar tool in your project management software
- Workflow tools like Microsoft Visio or Balsamiq
- Facilitation tools could include dry erase markers, white board, flip charts, permanent markers, tape, index cards, painter’s tape, sharpies, markers, phone camera to capture a work session’s output, sticky notes in several colors, and labels and dots to help identify decisions or critical information
The application support team might use project management software such as Microsoft Project, Clarizen, Smartsheet, or Teamwork. Data modeling tools such as VisioFlow or TrackVia and debugging tools such as VisualInspector or XMLSpy are also worth looking at for development.
The IT director’s bag is indeed varied and sometimes complicated.
Much like choosing the proper workout, equipment, trainers, and personal gear to get the job done at the gym, the IT director must select the right people, policies, talents, and tools to get effective results for your association.