Aligning IT and operations

If yours is a systems-dependent operation — and whose isn’t? — you’re probably often frustrated by your IT department’s seeming inability to complete projects quickly. But there are ways to make IT and management work together harmoniously, according to Jim Huguelet, chief information officer of Aquascape Designs Inc. (ADI), a manufacturer/distributor of products for residential water features. Speaking at software provider Ecometry Corp.’s annual conference in June, Huguelet outlined how since joining the company in 2003 he transformed its IT functions using a five-pronged plan of attack:

  1. Included IT as part of the management team. This — along with the creation of a CIO title — was a first for ADI, and critical to getting the operation back on track, in Huguelet’s view.

  2. Created and communicated a simple IT work model. Historically ADI’s management had never recognized the difference between operational and project-based work, creating unrealistic expectations that IT could not meet. To solve this, Huguelet developed a model describing the different types of work and disseminated it throughout ADI. He also set expectations that each type of work would be managed differently.

  3. Implemented a help-desk software package. Two years ago ADI had no central list of open operational requests, and many projects got “lost” for months at a time. Huguelet installed a program called 360HelpDesk from application service provider 360Facility. All operational requests were documented and tracked, weekly measures were instituted, and IT staff started receiving bonuses based on the number of tickets opened and closed.

  4. Created a department project plan. To provide visibility into the project workload, Huguelet created a plan showing each project IT was working on, its tasks, the staff assigned to it, and its estimated completion date. Again, he instituted weekly measures and rewards for achievement.

  5. Set up a project governance process. Huguelet established a five-person IT steering committee to review requests for projects, which had to be formally written up and needed to include goals, requirements, and expected benefits. For each proposal, IT wrote a project plan that listed the amount of work required and its estimated ROI. This plan became the basis for making a decision as to whether to proceed with the project.