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What Top Athletes and IT Managers Have in Common

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For centuries, athletes have shared one common goal: to win. No matter the sport, the best athletes face strict regimens, long hours, setbacks and victories, remaining agile through it all, in order to achieve their goals. Today’s top-performing, globally competitive and increasingly technology driven businesses are no different.

Nowhere is this athletic nature more apparent than in a business’ IT organization. With IT spending expected to reach $3.5 trillion by year’s end, an IT organization carries with it a big prize – one that, based on tools and technologies purchased and deployed, can either support or hinder the business’ overall ability to compete. As such, today’s most strategic IT organizations are adopting new protocols and performance measurements, such as IT service management, to drive efficiency and maximize their value-add to the business. It’s the IT manager’s job to ensure the IT organization has the right people, processes and technology in place so that the organization can meet its business goals.

Similar to how elite athletes approach their strict regimens – with a focus on mindset, health and wellness, training, and performance measurement – these rigorous disciplines can also be applied to how some of the most competitive businesses are getting ahead with seamlessly delivered IT services.

Having the Right Mindset, With the Help of Analytics

For starters, athletes and IT managers alike must encompass discipline and drive to be recognized for their performance. Similar to a top athlete looking to shave off even a tenth of their record time, IT managers must employ the same rigor to drive improvements in their service delivery. But how can the right mindset make IT more effective?

One of the biggest examples of an IT leadership’s mindset shift has been around the adoption of business analytics. While IT has often been the source of intelligence and inspiration for other departments, IT organizations have paradoxically lagged in terms of deploying their own analytics to support service improvement. In this instance, the change came after IT teams watched as other departments deployed analytics solutions and became more effective – much like watching another athlete win, while you’re sitting on the sideline.

Where IT managers traditionally used Excel spreadsheets to track and present their data on project management and operational and financial performance, the new shift in mindset and deployment of analytics has allowed for less time and money to be spent on IT operations and more on innovation that enhances customer experiences and outshines the competition.

Healthy & Wellness: The Drivers of Productivity

The world’s best athletes assess health and wellness by tracking everything from diet, exercise and oxygen levels, using that data to set goals for remaining in their best condition. In an IT organization, it’s the operational dollars that often keep it in top shape. However, it’s also about having access to data that provides a better view of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses to maintain the utmost productivity and justify continued investment.

For example, as part of IT wellness, many IT managers aim to make their service desk more productive by minimizing reassignments, tiering escalations and reducing backlog.

Using data analytics to tackle this effort, IT managers can capture a visual analysis of the data, including outliers to reveal which service desk tickets are going unaddressed and which types of service tickets are creating the highest costs to manage.

Analytics are also increasing productivity by making managers more aware of strong and weak performers within the IT organization, providing detailed insights on who’s cherry-picking easy tickets and who’s slow at resolving business-critical tickets. This enables managers to more effectively guide their staff to proactively route incidents and requests to the right engineers from the beginning – remaining healthy from the start of any IT initiative.

The Benefits of High-Impact Training

Similar to the way athletes follow a regimented training schedule, IT departments must also develop a routine for implementing best practices and procedures. Just as with athletes, when there’s a new procedure or challenge at hand, training typically supports the behavioral change needed for realizing success.

In tracking training programs and success factors, many IT managers have deployed analytics with capabilities to provide regular progress reports on team members and their ability to adapt to the change. In the spirit of competitive nature, some managers even have a visible leader board showing which IT team members have learned the most or developed the furthest on what they’re being trained on, such as a new database technology.

Performance Measurement for Future Success

While IT managers and top-performing athletes share many similarities, it’s the goal of winning that is perhaps the biggest common denominator. For both, measuring performance is critical to future success.

Specifically within IT organizations, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is one of the main ways IT managers’ standardize their organization’s success to overall business goals. The ITIL framework encompasses processes, procedures, tasks and checklists, allowing the IT organization to establish a baseline from which it can plan, implement and measure against overall goals. It is also used to demonstrate compliance and measure service improvement.

Additionally, the implementation of problem management with IT organizations has helped to identify issues like recurring tickets, supporting IT managers in prioritizing changes and making recommendations that eliminate structural flaws. The result is defined metrics that reflect both successes and areas of improvement – the equivalent to a post-game talk from an athlete’s coach applauding a win but not losing sight of the next big match.

Winning With IT Analytics

For businesses to succeed in increasingly global markets, it’s important that they adopt an almost-athletic posture. Just like athletes, an IT manager’s job is never complete. Managers and athletes alike are competing for limited resources and need metrics to improve performance on an ongoing basis. Particularly within a business’ IT organization, a focus on the right mindset, health and wellness, training, and performance measurement, in addition to the integration of technologies like an analytics platform, will enable any company to remain competitive, with a more clearly defined path for their success.

This article was contributed by Simon King, Sr. Director – Solution Marketing, Numerify.

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