Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Get IT Out of the Driver's Seat!

The IT Team is often perceived as the "No!" Team! In church and ministry offices, staffed mostly by entrepreneurial people, we are often asked about things folks want to try or do that we know may cause problems on the network. So we explain why they can't do that.

We also fix a lot of things because someone didn't ask first. When that happens, we try to educate the person, again explaining why they can't do something they want to.

Changing the "No!" Team
So we're the "No!" Team. How can we change that? At a recent CMA conference a colleague shared his solution that was both simple and effective.

First, keep a running list of the projects, short and long term, that are on your plate. This should include who originated the project and the priority assigned to it by your leadership during their periodic review of the list.

Then, when asked by members of your ministry team to prioritize some new project, don't say yes or no. Instead, show them the list of the projects you're working on and ask which one(s) they want bumped so you can get it done within the timeframe they need.

Sometimes it's The Boss!
This is especially helpful when the new project comes from your senior pastor or CEO! Since they're the ones who have helped set your priorities, they more fully understand your constraints. This lets them make the prioritization decision and gets IT out of the driver’s seat, a.k.a. the hot seat.

What works for you?



Tony said...

Nick, I sure agree with keeping that list, but I also have trouble finding the way to manage that list. It's pretty easy to identify the 5 or 10 BIG things, but there are always a million little things, most of which are the stuff that makes for real customer service. How do you manage your list of all you do?

Nick Nicholaou said...

Your question is a good one, Tony, as usual!

Using Project or MindManager ( to track the big projects is very helpful, but the tracking of individual day-to-day projects is nearly impossible.

Perhaps knowing the day-to-day things will typically take a certain amount of time each week helps to budget your time. For instance, if you typically spend 15-20 hours each week on support and problem resolution (best if justified by your help desk solution) and 10 hours each week on email, that helps set a reasonable expectation for how much time you can spend on the bigger issues.

I also recommend scheduling a certain amount of time for daydreaming! This can be the best problem solving and strategic development time you have, and is a great management tool. Whether it's a couple hours one day/week, or a day/month, getting away to daydream and let God speak without the constant interruptions that hit us at work will be a huge help to your ministry.

Skywalker said...

We started using a wiki in Trac to do exactly this. It's been great!

When staff see their project as 17th on the list, it can be a little discouraging... until they realize 1-16 really are more important. Then they are just left with a sense of gratitude for what we're doing to serve the other departments. The "No!" team turns into the team that gets stuff done.

Great ride, Nick. Makes me wish I was back in HB :)