In a previous article, I described the work IT leaders need to manage: incidents, service requests, change requests, and projects. Since there is always a backlog of work to accomplish, prioritization is critical.
How can we prioritize effectively in the IT department?
We start by understanding that there is not a separate set of priorities for IT. The priorities of the organization are the priorities of IT. We must be able to say that IT is always performing the work that is most important to the organization.
The prioritization processes we set up for incidents (a.k.a. Help Desk tickets) and service requests are straight forward. What isn’t straightforward is prioritizing change requests and projects.
We must involve the larger organization in the prioritization of larger tasks. Projects with capital spending will get reviewed outside of IT. But what about the rest? Do we set up an IT Steering committee, or some such thing, to review every change request and project request that comes in? These types of committees end up being a waste of time for the members because of the level of detail needed.
The better approach is a two-step process. First, set up a team with IT and non-IT members to prioritize the larger efforts. Second, train the IT staff to use a higher level framework when prioritizing everything else.
A high-level prioritization framework needs to have the following elements.
- A clear understanding of the goals and priorities as set by the organization’s leaders.
- A regularly updated understanding of what challenges the organization is facing.
- A clear understanding of each of the organization’s departments and how they fit into the larger picture.
Not everyone in IT needs to have this framework. As the IT leader, you should certainly have it. However, it helps if others on the IT team also have it. There are lots of tradeoffs in prioritization that come up every day. The better your team understands the framework, the better those decisions will be.
Prioritization is a challenge in IT. Understanding the larger organizational picture is a critical part of that process.