IT Best Practices

Who should be on the retained IT team?

A number of key roles should be retained in-house to ensure that your organisation keeps the knowledge and control of its IT systems necessary to ensure:

  • Co-Continuity of service to the business, its customers and partners
  • Alignment of IT systems and services with business needs
  • Control of costs
  • Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements
  • Independence from third party vendors, suppliers and service providers

Depending on the size of your organisation some of the roles described here may either be amalgamated into a single post or expanded into a team. Part of the job of managing a retained IT function is to ensure the flexibility of staffing by ensuring retention of knowledge so that the team may be expanded or reduced according to the needs of the business. The CIO is still the person with ultimate responsibility for the ICT landscape in the business, even in an outsourced world. (S)he represents the ICT function on the board, and sets direction and strategy for the ICT delivery in line with current and future business needs. The CIO also bears financial responsibility, owns the ICT budget and will either sign off on business cases or approve their submission to the board. Historically, many CIOs have been technologists. In today's changing landscape the CIO must be, or become, equally comfortable with business strategy , finance and contract management. A Chief Technology Officer (CTO) supports the CIO in a larger organisation by specialising in the technology space. It is the CTO's role to plan the technology roadmap to deliver on current and future needs in a timely, efficient and cost effective manner. The Enterprise Architect, or architects, support the CTO in key specialist areas:

  • Applications
  • Data modeling
  • Networks and communications
  • Server and Storage infrastructure

Business Analysis, as a role, is still essential in the retained IT model. Alignment of ICT to the business is critical, as is the periodic review of ICT provision in line with evolving business needs. The Business Analyst is often the main interface between stakeholders and the ICT world A strong programme office is essential for the day-to-day management and control of cost. Where significant change is occurring the programme office, led by the programme manager, may be a large organisation with a significant number of staff. On the other hand, if the organisation is in a stable period the programme office may be a residual function monitoring quality of service delivery and cost. Notice that we haven't said anything about helpdesks, service management or system administration yet. These functional roles, and many others, may be provided by internal staff or outsourced, and part of the role of the retained core ICT management team is to decide on the most appropriate strategy for the business in the short term, review it in the medium term then adjust or change the balance between in-house and partner-provided services to best meet the needs of the business. Finally, the retained IT team must have access to representatives from the vendors and partners who provide equipment or deliver services. To make this an effective relationship, the business needs a long-term relationship with a dedicated account management team who Know the customer's business intimately:

  • Understand the solution landscape
  • Are able to recommend more effective/efficient ways to deliver services
  • Approach the customer relationship from the viewpoint of mutual benefit
  • Are able to escalate issues effectively in the supplier / partner organisation

Regular meetings with the supplier representatives should form an integral part of the review of service delivery and customer satisfaction. Such reviews should take place monthly as the bare minimum, with weekly or even daily reviews when problems need to be addressed. In conclusion, building a retained ICT organisation is making the transition from doing things oneself to making sure things are done. They're not the same. Transitioning to a retained ICT model is, for the organisation, not unlike the transition an individual makes when developing from a hands-on delivery role to a management position.

Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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