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Well-managed information technology departments have five essential elements that — when properly implemented — support their organization with dramatic results. They are: planning, people, applications, infrastructure and processes. 1. Planning: Many IT departments lose focus on planning and priorities as they move from one fire to the next. Planning begins with understanding the firm’s business objectives and aligning IT infrastructure, applications, people and processes to meet those objectives. Planning should be dynamic, fluid and ongoing, but not change so frequently that people lose focus of what needs to be done. IT leadership should have and communicate a clear vision (which should not change frequently). Projects should be tied to metrics (i.e., something that can be measured or quantified) and those metrics assessed against the plan. From this process, the planning can be modified as needed to support the other four elements. 2. People: This is more than paying a competitive wage and perks — it’s coordinating people with your planning and project portfolio. First, identify the projects to support your business and IT organization. Then match your staff’s individual skill sets and desires. Perform skill assessments and “fill the gap” when necessary — by offering additional training, outsourcing or hiring new talent. Of course, it takes time to develop, outsource or hire. This is the hardest element to put into place, yet the easiest to neglect or postpone. But if you do not think proactively about “filling the gap,” projects can be put in jeopardy. Keep momentum: people must be recognized, rewarded and challenged as they develop their skills. 3. Applications: Understand how your current applications fit into your long term planning and strategy. Research how applications fit within planning and strategy, not the reverse. Too often, managers focus on a tool (such as client relationship management software) and let the application drive the business. Rather, firms must let business processes drive choice of applications. On the technical side, ask questions, including: How does it integrate within the firm’s technology portfolio? What is the product’s upgrade path? How does it compare with others in the market space? Is the application’s core technology aligned with your IT organizations skill set? 4. Infrastructure: Applications cannot function without a solid infrastructure, including facilities. Invest wisely and long term in a solid, scalable infrastructure. There is nothing worse than buying the latest applications, hiring good people and using solid processes — without the foundation of a good infrastructure. This includes both voice and data technology. Your software should be assessed to meet your long-term business needs; so should your infrastructure. Conduct regular audits of your local and wide area networks and telecommunications systems, and at the same time, assess your vendors and their ability to meet your long-term plans both domestically and globally. 5. Process: The process element is encapsulated within all the other elements. Firms should have solid processes in place to support their people, infrastructure, applications and planning efforts. These can be as simple as backups, help desks and staff reviews. Or as complex as an ongoing review of strategic plans. Much lip service is given, but bureaucracy and resistance to change can undermine or kill good processes. But solid processes are essential, inherently efficient and effective, and have the ability to change as needed. Good process will support the other four elements.

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