Successful IT teams don’t just suddenly appear. A strong and carefully designed framework plays a major role in creating an elite crew.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

March 20, 2024

4 Min Read
Team work concept.
Sergey Pykhonin via Alamy Stock

Turning individual IT staff members into part of a cohesive team is a challenge every IT leader faces. A well-structured team can pay immense dividends in terms of project quality, speed, and end-user support.

IT team structures should foster both business impact and productivity, says Andres Velasquez, a principal, consulting and technology transformation, with business advisory firm EY in an email interview. “As a general principle, in modern, customer-centric organizations, the closer IT teams are to the business, the more valuable they are,” he notes.

There’s no single best way to structure an IT team, claims Daragh Mahon, CIO at freight carrier and transportation and logistics company Werner Enterprises via email. He believes that every organization should tailor its team structure to meet its unique needs. “Some companies may opt to have very defined teams, with each member focused on a specific workstream, while others may be more fluid, with employees being exposed to various projects.”

Werner follows the latter approach. “We want our employees to have opportunities to level-up their skills, work with the latest tech, and benefit from partnering on diverse projects,” Mahon explains. “This aligns with our goals of creating learning opportunities for our employees and empowering them to do their jobs while also growing in their careers.”

Related:Diversity in Tech: Leadership’s Uncomfortable Truth

Structure Optimization

Organizations should organize their IT teams around specific business needs and technology capabilities, says Ola Chowning, a partner with technology research and advisory firm ISG in an email interview. “One key rule is that the more flexible the team’s duties and activities are day-in and day-out, the flatter the structure should be, empowering team members to react quickly and nimbly to the needs of the moment.”

Velasquez advises IT leaders to develop their team’s structure and goals in close collaboration with other business principals. “This dialogue establishes a shared view of business priorities and IT’s role in executing against those priorities.”

Mahon says he encourages his team to work on diverse projects, understanding that their unique skills and experience may help the organization reveal better solutions to specific problems and challenges. “We find this approach effective because we create a runway for our employees to do their jobs effectively and work across the organization to identify opportunities for technology improvement,” he explains. “We trust their expertise, and create meaningful opportunities, allowing them to apply their skills and grow.”

Related:Talent Management: The Missing CIO Management Strategy

Arthur Lozinski, co-founder and CEO of enterprise technology management company Oomnitza, believes that the best way to structure an IT team is to adopt an agile IT framework that focuses on executing specific IT mandates. “This approach involves organizing the team into cross-functional units responsible for different ‘products’ within the IT portfolio -- each with its lifecycle management, from development to maintenance,” he says via email. Such units operate on agile principles, with short sprints -- typically running from one-to-three weeks -- aimed at delivering incremental value and rapidly adapting to changing business needs.

Avoiding Pitfalls

When structuring an IT leadership team, it’s important to avoid unintentionally isolating staff members from other departments. “Leadership should have strong partnerships with operations and the C-suite to ensure that team members understand and can help support all organizational goals and outcomes,” Mahon says. “We also work closely with HR to ensure that our training and talent development programs are well-suited to support our team’s professional goals.”

Chowning urges IT leaders to avoid pre-defined or inflexible organization models. Each team, she suggests, should be structured around specific technology capabilities, business needs, and performance requirements. Chowning notes that roles don’t necessarily equate to the number of people in a team. “Multiple roles can be fulfilled by a single team member.”

Related:Streamline Your IT Workforce by Consolidating Roles, Not Workers

Velasquez advises leaders to strengthen collaboration by fostering a mutual understanding of priorities. He also recommends training team members in communication and consultative skills. “IT is a finite resource that must serve dynamic business needs, so both the IT and business teams must have effective collaboration skills,” Velasquez explains. “Productive collaboration across all organizational levels is truly a foundational aspect of achieving optimal IT value --without it, any IT structure is ineffective.”

Final Points

Leaders should foster collaboration by facilitating a mutual understanding of priorities, upskilling team members in communication and consultative skills, and protecting governance structures, Velasquez says. “IT is a finite resource that must serve dynamic business needs, so both the IT and business teams must have effective collaboration skills,” he adds. “Productive collaboration across all organizational levels is truly a foundational aspect of achieving optimal IT value --without it, any IT structure is ineffective.”

Having a well-structured IT staff will drive innovation across the entire enterprise. “With the right IT team, we’re able to be agile and support diverse projects across the organization without feeling overwhelmed or burned out,” Mahon says. “With an empowered team, focused on finding solutions and leveling-up their skills, companies [will] see immense benefits and find new ways of working.”

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.

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