[Editor’s note: This post originally published on Optimal Partners’ Blog. For even more tips on how to better your IT department, read the full post here.]
In 2010, the Information Technology Services team at the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse got the news that no IT department wants.
It was not the well-oiled machine an IT department hopes to be. An external review and audit pointed out some troubling aspects: low morale and ineffective leadership seemed to plague the department’s credibility to service the IT needs of approximately 10,000 students, 600 faculty members, and 117 academic programs—91 undergraduate, 26 graduate.
Today, the department is thriving; after a new Chief Information Officer was hired, he went directly to the university’s Academic Technologies Director, Jim Jorstad, about how best to go about revitalizing the department.
Strategize they did. Jorstad and his team came up with ten ways they could work on bettering their department:
1. Increasing Communications
By “increasing communications,” one may think that the department just sent out more emails. On the contrary, they upped their quality of messages. Jorstad adds, that, with the increased quality of messages, including a high quality video, “I can send a message out at 8 a.m. and I will double our projected attendance at an event by lunchtime.”
2. Being Innovative
Rather than just keeping the technology to the department, they opened it up for faculty members to try for themselves. This allowed the faculty to bring new innovations into their lectures. As the article points out, an art history class was able to view Egyptian hieroglyphics in an exciting new way due to the university’s 3D printer.
3. Building Better Relationships
Those in attendance at training and certification events were able to network with other individuals and even got to make attending the sessions fun by redeeming proof of attendance to get a parting gift.
4. Be A Visionary
Understand how your IT department fits into the larger picture of your institution. Jorstad reached out to a furniture maker to make sure the library’s new Learning Commons had great furniture on top of great technology for the students.
5. Strategize Effectively
You’re all part of the same university; reach out to other departments to find out how you can assist them.
(Next page: IT tips for department success 6-10)
6. Trusting Relationships
Earning trust is very important as a leader. Make sure to build great relationships with those you work with.
7. Take Risks
Make sure that your staff knows that you trust them, and let go of the top-down methodology that may be in place at your office.
8. Accept Failure
This seems fairly self-explanatory, right? Understand that your staff is human and use it as a teaching moment. Or, as Jorstad puts it, “celebrate it.”
9. Be Empathetic
Again, fairly self-explanatory. Remember that your staff are all individual people first, and sometimes they might just need a little understanding.
10. Empower Your Staff
Applaud their greatness; use their failure to discuss how to better do something in the future; make sure your new staff member isn’t just thrown to the wolves.