A scale for measuring an IT department’s quality February 16, 2006Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management, Technology.
Today I gave my talk on how to measure the quality of an I.T. department at the Lexington Professional Linux User’s Group (LPLUG) meeting. I’ve given it several times over the years, but only to my staff or colleagues in other departments on campus. This was the first time I tried my ideas on a group of people that do not work in my organization. It seemed to go well. If you want to see the PowerPoint presentation you can get it here.
This time I did something different. At the suggestion of one of my managers (Bert), at the end of my presenation I had two managers who work for me comment on how these ideas affect them and the way in which they operate in the IT department. I found that part of the presentation pretty interesting as it helped me see what they gleaned from my previous talks or one-on-one explanations of this homemade scale.
I came up with this idea ten or eleven years ago when I was working at another college as the Network Manager. My original focus and resulting theory was directly related to network technology (support and services). I then expanded it as I considered how I could determine how well the entire I.T. department was functioning and the various levels of operation that I had observed.
Quality control managers will tell you that you can’t control the quality of things you can’t (or don’t) measure. So, when it comes to measuring the quality of an IT department, how do you measure the overall quality? I have come up with a 5 level scale to measure IT Organization’s quality. The scale, which is numbered from zero (0) to four (4), describes both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.
Here is a brief description of each stage in this scale:
- Stage 0: The characteristic of an I.T. Department at this level is the inability to perform routine break/fix operations well. In fact, they do it very poorly. This level doesn’t keep spare parts on hand for hardware maintenance and must request special funding for almost any major technology failure, making each routine failure a crisis. Everyone is at least at this level when they start out. This stage could be called the dysfunctional stage.
- Stage 1: This stage is characterized by the ability to perform routine break/fix very well. I.T. Departments at this level have budgets for repairs (no special funding requests required) and they maintain spare parts on hand for common components that fail. This stage could be called the reactive stage.
- Stage 2: This stage builds on the previous stage and not only performs routine break/fix well, but also practices proactive measures to minimize interruptions in services. They invest in redundant systems and technologies, like RAID drive, dual power supplies, UPS, etc. This stage could be called the proactive stage.
- Stage 3: This stage is characterized not only by the fact that it is proactive, but also that it is flexible and able to assimilate and integrate new technology. Not only that, this stage takes commonly available technologies and combines them in new ways that have never been tried before and provide new value through the integration. This stage could be called the integration stage.
- Stage 4: Finally, an I.T. Department at this last stage not only does everything in the previous stage, but takes it to a new level by not just consuming or adopting existing technologies, but actually creating all new technologies that are then shared with other organizations and used outside of the department that created them. This is the creative stage.
I.T. Departments should strive to be at least working at stage 2 or stage 3. Not every I.T. Group should need to be at stage 4 as it’s really for groups with the right talent and focus and resources to create new technology for other groups to use. Also, a single I.T. Department can in fact have groups that are at different stages and even have groups moving backwards and forwards in this progression over time.
The value of this 5 point scale isn’t just because you can determine the quality level of your IT group, but also because it shows what is needed to move up to the next level. See what happens if you explain this quality scale with everyone in your IT group. Then, come back here and let me know how things turned out.