In the digital age, a company’s IT team is one of the most important facets of their business. This is especially true in the SaaS world. If you’re selling software as a service, you must have a strong, well-organized IT team structure backing you.
Where we begin:
How is Your Current IT Team Structured?
Start by asking yourself this question.
What’s your IT team structure? Do you even have a defined structure?
Consider way back when, most companies didn’t even have an IT department. I know, it’s hard to believe. But as technology advanced, companies realized they needed a guy (or gal) to fix their tech. And as things continued to advance even more, they needed a whole team of guys and gals to help. Lo, the “IT Department” was born.
Back then, the IT team was just a group of people who did IT stuff. As far as structure, there wasn’t much. Unfortunately, as companies grew and evolved, IT teams stayed largely the same. Just a group of people doing tech stuff. But that just doesn’t work anymore.
If your IT team doesn’t have an organized and specific structure, you’re seriously throttling your business.
Is Your IT Department Separated into Teams?
Separating your IT folks into teams is the first step in developing a structured department. The “jack of all trades” sort of department is a thing of the past. In order to effectively support your business, you need specialists. The tech specialties you choose and the teams you develop will depend on your individual business and its needs.
IT team structures for a B2C business varies from a B2B set up. Likewise, what you’re selling is a factor. Physical products, digital products, services, advertising, software, all need different kinds of IT teams backing them.
How to Define Your Teams
Let’s take a look at a tried and true IT structure that could work wonders for your business. This model works especially well for B2B companies in the SaaS (software as a service,) PaaS (platform as a service,) and DbaaS (database as a service) space.
1) Program Management
The program management team is not just part of your IT structure, but an integral part of growing your overall business. This team manages your projects — anything from implementing new equipment or technology to developing new products.
When projects involve a third-party, one or more members of your program management team will act as the face of your company. They’ll manage the internal and external aspects of projects and liaise directly with people outside of your organization.
A program management team will also keep an eye on your business processes to identify areas of inefficiency or a breakdown in the customer journey.
This team is generally made up of one or more project managers working alongside an IT operations manager and the CIO.
2) Technical Team
The technical team is comprised of individuals (or sub-groups) with particular expertise, like network architecture, system integrations, security, and various areas of development.
This is a team of builders. The technical team develops and builds new tools for your staff or new products for your business. They’re also tasked with making sure the technical infrastructure of your company is up and running smoothly and securely.
In addition to builders, some members of the technical team are front line warriors. These are the tech support gurus who help your internal staff and, in some cases, your customers with their day-to-day requests and problems. Safelite Autoglass is a good customer service example of how technology, training, and personnel come together.
3) Data Team
Information – data – is what the data team is all about. A team of data analysts and database administrators handles all the information coming in, going out, and being stored. Imagine the massive about of data your company deals with. But instead of a warehouse full of alphabetized filing cabinets, your data team is dealing with electronic bits of information.
The data team’s job is to ensure your company’s data is stored in a way that’s easily accessible, secure, and orderly.
4) Functional Team
The functional team is usually made up of business analysts and business process owners. Though some of their tasks may be similar, this team should not be confused with the program management team.
Members of the functional team often do the “leg work.” You’ll see them speaking with members of the business and key stakeholders to gather requirements, understand business needs, and map out processes.
This team helps the other IT teams understand the way a new system might work or the need for an enhancement. The other teams then use this knowledge to build new software, create software enhancements, or update the company’s technical infrastructure.
The functional team also handles drafting training materials and often conducts user training sessions.
Integrating Your Various IT Teams
We’ve told you to separate your IT department into functional teams, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t work together. In fact, each team must work together.
While each team has a different focus, everyone should be working toward the same goal. This is best achieved by identifying areas of overlap. In this case, “overlap” doesn’t mean two people are working on the same task. Instead, overlap means points of integration.
Finding those points of integration is the next step in building an efficient, thriving IT structure. The most successful IT departments are those who understand the importance of each teams’ contribution. Highlighting integration points and fostering communication around those points is essential.
Where are Your Gaps?
Your IT team might not mirror the structure we’ve described above. And maybe that’s okay for your business. But it’s important to address any gaps in your current IT structure.
Ask yourself some pointed questions, like these:
- If I have a request, do I know which team can help me?
- Are my employees and customer getting the technical support they need?
- Do our technical projects run smoothly? If not, why?
- Are my various IT teams working together seamlessly?
- Is my IT department helping my company’s growth?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to take a step back to re-evaluate.
And a final, very important question is this: Is my IT team a cost center?
If the answer is “yes” then some major changes may be in order. Your IT staff are there to support the business, of course. But they’re also likely among the most highly-skilled members of your entire organization. If you’re not using that skill to drive profit, you’re missing out.
IT professionals are no longer nerds staring at computers all day. They’re creatives and innovators. Structure your IT staff in a way that feeds their creativity and encourages innovation.
Turn IT into a Profit Center
There’s not much you can do to turn your IT team into a profit generating machine overnight. But there are small steps you can take that will help you realize growth.
1) Integrate IT with the Rest of the Business
When we think of IT staff, we often have images of guys working in a server room or in some back office disconnected from the rest of the business. If you want your IT team to get excited about what they’re doing, include them in with the rest of your staff. The simple act of working near and around folks in other areas of the business will fuel those technical brains with bigger and better ideas.
2) Loop in IT Right from the Start
It’s a mistake that keeps on happening, even with huge, well-known corporations. CEO’s or other company leaders come up with grand ideas. They spend money on research and even begin the early planning process, without involving their IT teams.
Down the road, when it’s time to do the work, the IT team is brought on board. What happens next? Maybe the project goes ahead, it doesn’t. Leaving IT out of the early planning stages can mean big problems down the line.
We’ve already told you, your IT team is creative and innovative — why not tap into that when making strategic plans? Not only that, the IT staff can share technical knowledge early on that can red light a project before you’ve invested time and money.
Structuring the Best IT Team
The big takeaway here is this: Your IT staff should be appointed in well-defined teams that will best serve your business. You don’t have to copy the structure of Google, Amazon, or other tech giants, but take a page from their playbook. The best IT teams are separated by expertise and task, but all working toward the same goal.
Focus on developing an IT team that not only supports your business, but pushes it forward, by creating innovations and driving profit.