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Pony Up – We Need Your Best People

In a former position, I used to lead an IT group. One of my duties was to meet with “the business” and discuss potential IT projects. A key message during these discussions was the need to devote resources to the project if it was going to be successful. We’d ask the business to identify a “Super User”. The perfect candidate was someone who was already involved in the information management aspects of the department’s operations or someone who showed an aptitude and interest in computer systems.

Guess what? Those are the people on which the business relies. Those are the people that department heads are loath to dedicate to anything other than operations. Instead, department heads would sometimes offer junior associates for this role. It’s not unusual for the “summer intern” to be volunteered for this assignment.

This is where the IT lead must “make a stand”. This is where IT must insist that the business devote the right people for the Super User role. Crucially, part of this negotiation would involve back-filling the newly identified super user’s responsibilities. If the company has a defined Performance Management system, a good strategy is to make the IT project an official “development goal” and to dedicate a defined “level-of-effort” to the project. This will help insulate the super user from burnout and the siren song of their old job.

This discussion is not an easy one. And you will often encounter resistance from the department head. One benefit of defining a role specifically for IT project implementation is that it can set up a technical track within the organization. The junior person who takes over the super user’s old job can provide needed backup. The handover process may be an opportune time to document those “little tricks” that would have otherwise been confined to the super user. This will increase organization resilience and show people a defined path to professional development.

If you are in the IT field, and your job is to work with the business to build and launch successful IT projects, don’t be bashful. Tell them to Pony-Up. We Need your Best People.

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