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7 Habits of Highly Effective IT Departments

Guest post from Azmi Jafarey. Azmi was named 2013 CIO of the year by Boston Business Journal and Mass High Tech. You can hear more from Azmi on his blog:

IT DepartmentHow many business books do you know that 26 years later can claim to be fully relevant? Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” remains just such a potent landmark. Re-reading it, I was struck by how useful the 7 habits can be for IT Departments.  Here is how to fit the habits into behaviors that lead to success for IT and the business.

1. Be Proactive

  • Anticipate what your network and systems may do, and plan for it. This is a broad call to arms – preparing for malware threats, doing back-ups, having an automated system for managing patches, doing capacity planning, knowing your baseline behaviors to detect anomalies, etc.

2. Begin with the End in Mind

  • Don’t just start projects – have targets with timelines and plans to hit them. Work backwards from business deliverables. The vectors of tasks should all add up to the resultant value you are after.

3. Put First Things First

  • Don’t guess – develop plans, use checklists, test. Brush up on your project management and take the time to approach new projects in the right sequence of first getting and understanding the business requirements, then looking at timing needs, available skills sets and dollars, and then commencing with your planning.

4. Think Win-Win

  • Business and IT have to be true partners working jointly towards competitive advantage for the business. This means that IT has to have a deep understanding of business goals and business processes. The business has to be cognizant of IT’s limitations and policy needs such as those around security.

5. Seek First to Understand and Then To Be Understood

  • The role of IT is to enable business outcomes. Thus, the first thing is for IT to understand what the business objectives are for a project, and then to understand the specific business requirements. Technology comes much later – and there the task of IT is to have the business understand exactly what they will be getting, how it will function and what the limitations are. Establish this to-and-fro and you have the basis for fruitful collaboration and results.

6. Synergize

  • Covey is clear about the benefits of positive teamwork – and IT should be, too. What is important is for the team work not only to exist within IT but to extend to the business. Shared ownership, supplemented with collaborative problem solving and clear communications, develops the IT-Business synergy that translates to results and competitive advantage.

7. Sharpen the Saw

  • There is the old adage of the woodcutter who says that he is too busy cutting down trees to sharpen the saw. Stop! Sharpen the saw. We are in an age of technological acceleration. The quality of your decisions is a direct function of how much you know. For IT this means vigilance, reading, training and trying as the pre-requisites for success.

Clarity and commitment are what the 7 habits are all about.  Follow them and you have effective IT!