How to Manage a Rapidly Growing IT Team

Maintaining IT staff performance and efficiency during rapid growth requires careful planning and structure. Here's how to expand your team without missing a beat.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

May 1, 2024

5 Min Read
Team of business people sitting in a modern office and talking during an work meeting
Jonathan Erasmus via Alamy Stock Photo

These are boom times for IT organizations and their leaders. As all types of enterprises look to collect customer insights, streamline services, and gain a competitive edge, IT teams are expanding rapidly. Yet with rapid growth comes the danger that poorly managed expansion can lead to oversights, lax planning, missed deadlines, and general confusion. 

When an IT organization experiences sudden expansion, the structure that served it well previously may no longer be adequate to handle increasing demands, observes James Velco, founder and principal at IT services and consulting firm TechNoir CIO Solutions, in an email interview. "Fixed roles and rigid hierarchies leave no room for shifting priorities or smoothly absorbing new responsibilities." 

Room to Grow 

The key to keeping pace with rapid growth lies in structuring an IT team that embraces new technology and training to stay current, says Diane Rafferty, managing director, national technology group, at employment placement firm Atrium, via email. "If you don't offer training on the most up-to-date technologies, your team will have to do more with less." 

Leadership must clearly define expectations, yet leave room for movement, Velco says. "Autonomy inspires ownership of roles and collaborative problem-solving beyond defined bounds," he explains. Structures alone don't scale, Velco notes, but processes do. "Implementing agile frameworks like Scrum or Kanban encourages frequent reassessment and adjustment." 

Related:How Developers of All Skill Levels Can Best Leverage AI

When it comes to preparing for team growth, Daniele Gemignani, CTO at no-code business process automation solution provider Pipefy, is a strong believer in mentorship and leadership development programs. "For teams with a mix of seniority levels, pairing junior members with more experienced mentors can accelerate their development and readiness to take on more complex tasks or leadership roles," she says in an email interview. "Investing in leadership development ensures that your managers are prepared to handle the challenges of a growing team, from conflict resolution to strategic planning." 

Warning Signs 

Missed deadlines, especially if they're becoming more frequent, is a key indicator that a team may not be accommodating rapid growth, Rafferty says. "You may also notice a rise in workload complaints or other signs of dissatisfaction from team members," she notes. If these signs are left unchecked without acknowledgment and resolution, turnover may become a key issue adversely impacting scale and growth. 

Related:Why Your Enterprise Should Create an Internal Talent Marketplace

As an enterprise rapidly scales up, maintaining tightly defined divisions of labor may become increasingly difficult. "People wear multiple hats out of necessity, yet receive no support for those extra functions," Velco says. A lack of coordination arises easily within such constrained conditions. "Responding cohesively to evolving needs and changing circumstances outside domains becomes difficult," he says. "Silos form instead of cooperation." 

Keeping Pace 

Rafferty believes that training and technology modernization are essential to prevent team members from becoming overwhelmed with work. She observes that legacy systems don't scale easily. They also put companies at risk as team members begin storing vital system facts in their heads. "The consequence of this is that when a person leaves, so may the information," she says. 

Use gap analysis to identify specific skills or roles that are missing within the team, yet necessary for supporting growth, Gemignani advises. "Consider a combination of core in-house teams for critical functions and flexible staffing through contractors or outsourcing for projects or specialized skills." 

When coping with rapid expansion, culture can play an important supporting role, Velco says. Internal support services can help ease the strain on overburdened teams. "Rapid growth strains stamina; wellness initiatives boost morale," he states. Open communication and encouragement can also help pressured teams work smoothly and effectively. "When staff members feel valued for diverse skills and flexible service, a commitment to shared success sees teams through the change," Velco says. "The right structure, adapted right, turns growing pains into gains." 

Related:CEOs Deploy CIOs for Digital Leadership

Planning Tasks 

Gemignani views IT team growth management as a five-step process: 

  1. Capacity planning that maps current team skills and describes new skills that will be needed as the enterprise needs grow. 

  2. Benchmarking with other enterprises to gain insights and learn from their mistakes. 

  3. Cultivating a talent pipeline through internships and trainee programs. 

  4. A technology audit to ensure that the tools and platforms the team uses can scale effectively, as well as support new workflows, larger teams, and governance requirements. 

  5. Building a role model team, one that adheres to the current department culture and can be used as a model for other teams as needed. 

Next Steps 

When coping with rapid growth, it's the IT leader's responsibility to select the appropriate next steps, whether that means incremental adjustments, hiring additional staff, considering alternative frameworks, or some combination of all these actions. "Making changes proactively, before problems escalate, ensures that the structure empowers teams to deliver maximum value as the business advances," Velco observes. 

About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights