Implementing Organizational Structure and Focus

When I joined the IT Department at the American University of Sharjah as the Director, I was presented with an organizational structure challenge.  I found out that I had 21 direct reports and that my department did not have a concept of operational management!  I had just come from being the Manager, Business Application Services at the British Columbia Institute of Technology where I had 24 direct reports.

So you would think that less is slightly better right?  Wrong.

When I moved to the Director role, my focus and responsibilities also changed.  In my manager role,  I had to focus on day to day operations and tactics.  Occasionally, I got to work on strategic initiatives and plans.   The Director of IT /CIO needs to let go of monitoring operational day to day activites and focus on tactical decision making and strategic planning.   I knew I had to make a change to the structure and focus of my new team.

In an effort to implement structure and focus, I proposed the role of Team Leader to my Vice Chancellor and then introduced it to my team.   I made the decision that I would appoint my Team Leaders as I needed to get a structure in place quickly.  This is just one option for implementing this role.  Some organizations allow the team to elect their own leader with or without management support.  Now I have 7 direct reports which is much more manageable.   Also, I have freed my time to focus on tactical and strategic issues allowing my Team Leaders to take leadership of day to day operations.

So what does a Team Leader do?

What is a Team Leader?

Someone who has an administrative planning, coordinating and communication role and who acts as a general representative for the team.

  • Team Leaders are by definition expected to demonstrate leadership in their roles and interactions within their teams, as well as with the rest of the department and in any client interactions.
  • Team Leaders should be self-managed and motivated.
  • Management’s role is to provide guidance and mentoring, and to resolve any issues or conflicts that cannot be resolved by the Team Leaders.
  • This includes bringing forward ideas for how we as teams, as a group within the IT Department, and as a department as a whole, could provide better, more effective and efficient services to the university.

Scope of Responsibility 

Vision – weekly to annual

  • You need to be aware of the workplans of your team including how operational work is assigned and completed, how work-orders/service requests are assigned and completed, and who is working on projects
  • You will be expected to provide input to annual budget and operating planning for your areas of responsibility
  • You will be expected to be aware of any contractual/maintenance requirements for technology infrastructure within your areas of responsibility

Crisis management within your team

  • If a work emergency (service issue / disruption) occurs, you will need to identify who from your teams need to be involved, and coordinate their assignments
  • If a personal emergency arises with any of your team members, and if they approach you for assistance, please use your discretion in approach. Please be sure to respect confidentiality issues and the team member’s privacy.

Monitor and escalate Helpdesk tickets for your team

  • We need to ensure that incidents that end up in our queues are assigned, dealt with, followed up, and closed in a timely way.
  • We need to have a process to ensure we are optimizing our resources and those of the Helpdesk.  This should result in better diagnosis and remedy at the front end for items they can manage – resulting in fewer things hitting the queues.

Represent your team at IT Department meetings

  • You should be prepared to represent your team’s issues/concerns in appropriate forums (departmental meetings, group meetings, one-on-one with your Associate Director/Director) – being your team members’ advocate.  This will require that you have regular and timely discussions/meetings with your teams.

Collaborate with other Team Leaders

  • Coordination with other Team Leaders in the department is critical to ensuring we meet our service expectations.
  • As Team Leaders, you should be proactively meeting with other Team Leaders either ad-hoc, or where an enduring relationship exists, on a regular basis to ensure both Team’s needs are being met and teamwork is maximized.  An example of this would be meetings with the Helpdesk Team Leader.

Collaborate with the Senior Project Manager & Associate Director/Director to ensure adequate resourcing

  • The resources / members of your team are your resources.  You are responsible for managing their assignments and time allocations to projects in coordination with the Senior Project Manager.
  • Please seek advice from your Associate Director/Director if you find that there are conflicting demands for your team’s time.
  • This needs to be coordinated through the resourcing requests coming through the PM as well as regular conversations with the Project Manager, who are using your team resources

Monitor, schedule and balance staff workload within team

  •  As team lead, you should be aware of the distribution of work across your team members.  There should be an attempt to ensure that the volume of work is fairly distributed based on skills and capabilities.
  • You are responsible for ensuring that your teams ALWAYS meet the Minimum Coverage requirements for the department
  • Requests for vacation from your team members should go to you for checking that Minimum Coverage requirements are met.  Once reviewed, the team member should enter their request into the Leave system for formal approval.

We are still learning as a team and the people I appointed as Team Leaders are growing  in their roles of leadership, prioritization and communication.   I am really pleased with the growth and development of these people.   I am also very pleased that I can show trust im my team for the critical day to day operations.

I have been able to focus my efforts on the tactics and strategy to better serve the department and the University while only occasionally helping resolve a day to day issue.