No matter the size or sector of your business, an IT team or department is vital to your company’s success. Long gone are the days where the IT team would live in the basement and only emerge to fix your computer or install new software – we’re looking at you, ‘The IT Crowd’ ! These responsibilities are just the start of the IT department’s remit, and they’re much more integral to the business than you may realise.
If you’re just starting your business or are looking to expand, it’s important to understand how IT teams work, how you should structure them and how they can help your business grow.
IT stands for Information Technology – a broad term that covers many aspects within a company. There are also many different types of IT team, which we’ll go into more detail about later.
In general, the IT department is responsible for providing business infrastructures, network and operating systems. The IT team enable employees to communicate and collaborate with one another, provide the functionality they need to perform their job, facilitate the flow of information and automate tasks. Essentially, without the IT team, the rest of the company would find it very difficult to perform their duties. IT teams also deal with a lot of data handling and management, operational applications, network and equipment requirements.
Aside from these functions, IT teams have different additional responsibilities and requirements depending on the company. When looking to build an IT team, it’s important to assess what your company needs are, what experience and skills you have and what type of systems you have in place. Once you’ve figured this out, you will understand what type of team you want and the expertise that will best benefit your company.
As mentioned above, there are many different types of IT teams and jobs depending on your business’ needs. It’s important to mention that some IT teams are permanent fixtures within a company, while others might be temporary depending on certain projects or requirements. There are 4 main types of IT teams: Operations, Support, Processes and Projects.
An operations team is focused on maintaining, monitoring and managing operations, technology and infrastructure of a company. This covers networks, services, systems and web services. These teams are very important as they make sure that everything is performing properly to support day-to-day business operations. An operations team is a permanent fixture in the business, as they are constantly monitoring and supporting the company’s operations.
Similar to operations, a support team takes care of the services and systems within a company, typically computers and other equipment used within the business. These are permanent teams as they help keep business operations up and running and test, evaluate and fix any computer or network issues.
Process teams are tasked with managing and improving IT systems to solve specific business problems and procedures. Business processes span a range of company functions, like data, security, operations (ops) and development (devs). Due to this overlapping, process teams may often work and collaborate with Ops and Devs teams as well as external contacts and customers.
Project teams are in place to work on a specific problem, release, change or implementation. These teams are typically made on a temporary basis per project. These can be assembled by hiring people on a fixed term basis or taking other IT team members and moving them on to a specific project. These teams are typically disbanded after the project is completed or moved on to a different project.
Other IT roles and responsibilities include cloud computing, data management, security, specialist support, development and testing and automation.
The first thing to do before structuring any team is to consider your business size. For example, if your company is small or a start-up, chances are you might have a few employees who carry out multiple roles. If your company is larger, you’re more likely to have more teams and more employees focused on specific roles and priorities.
As your business grows, you require more people to take care of specific tasks and this is definitely the case with your IT department. As you add more and more employees or contractors to the business, so does your dependence on your IT team. This dependence covers a lot of tasks – whether you’re in need of more computers, or you need to keep up with security with permanent and temporary staff coming and going.
It’s so important to define your teams within larger IT departments. While the people within the IT department may have a lot of the same knowledge, that doesn’t make all of them experts on specific parts of the company. Separating your IT people into teams helps develop a structured department and helps you differentiate what IT teams jobs and priorities are.
Start by looking at your business needs and processes and then define the teams you need. Within your IT department, you’ll need a Head of IT who oversees everything and then separate distinct teams within the department. Think of the 4 types of IT teams that we mentioned above (Operational, Support, Processes and Projects) – these are examples of separate teams within IT.
It’s a good idea to define who primarily supports the internal workings of business and those who concentrate on the external side of things.
Now that you’ve got your teams, you’ll need to define job roles, tasks and priorities. Job roles like support specialists, technicians, developers, analysts and engineers are typical types of IT jobs that help businesses with their internal and external procedures. Although we’ve mentioned that it’s important to separate and structure your IT department into teams, it’s important to recognise where some work and tasks will overlap. When this happens, you need to accommodate and communicate with each other. Each team within the department needs to work together and be integrated with the whole business to create a well-functioning team.
Finally, it’s important to identify any gaps within your team. This is something every team should do, not just IT. When putting together your IT department, make sure you look into every aspect and what or who you might be missing. Ask yourself regularly how your team is doing and assess how projects and processes are working. It’s also helpful to ask other people in the company if they know who to go to if they have any IT issues.
With any department in your company, your IT team should be structured properly and included in all business operations. For any business to thrive, it’s important to make sure your departments and employees are all working together coherently and effectively. So, now you know how to structure your IT team, you can start creating a strong team that will help contribute towards your company’s success.