I’ve worked inside of corporations with over a hundred thousand employees, scattered around this ball of dirt and water. I’ve worked inside tiny organizations with anywhere from a handful to a few dozen employees also. I’ve seen the inside of defense contracting places, municipal places, private sector and public sector. Publicly-owned and privately-owned.
Have I “seen it all”? Hell no. Nobody has. Every day I see something new, but that’s what makes it interesting. But what I have seen is that the big and small environments are in dire need of incorporating some of what the “other side” has going on.
What Big IT Organizations Can Learn from Smaller IT Shops
- Don’t over-analyze. The vast majority of analysis efforts are a complete waste of time. Go ahead. See for yourself. In most large companies and public-sector shops they spend a lot of time gathering, sorting, filtering, and reporting all sorts of metrics that are NEVER used. It’s an exercise in futility. If you’re taking more time to study and plan something than the time being wasted by the problem itself, you’re not helping.
- Act lean and hungry. Most big organizations I’ve seen can’t remember that feeling at all. Complacent and comfortable. The only stress comes in waves of budget cycles and praying for no lay-offs. But in between those cycles, you still need to sit down and act like you’re a staff of 5 or 10 and the world is coming to an end. Write down the biggest challenges, prioritize them and knock them out. Go!
- Don’t Over-Engineer. When you get to the point where something works and works well, leave it alone. Move on to solving other problems before diving deep into massaging the thing you just fixed. You can come back to it later. If you don’t do this, you end up with a yard that has three perfectly-trimmed bushes and the rest are dying and the lawn is 3 feet tall.
- Ask Why. Every time you’re in a project meeting, have someone revisit the purpose of the project and what the ultimate goal is. Notice I didn’t say “goals”. There is always a singular “goal”. Just like a three year-old never stops asking “why?” until they get a satisfactory answer, neither should you. I can’t count how many times I’ve asked this in project meetings and the answer left everyone looking confused. That’s a huge red flag.
What Small IT Shops can Learn from Big IT Shops
- Standardize Everything. Stop making new things unless you have something in place to guide what you’re doing from the last thing you worked on. Naming conventions are always a good starting point. Settle on one format for each area you deal with (files, folders, computer names, AD sites, GPO’s, and so on)
- Document Everything. Don’t document just to make documents. Document as if you know a bus is coming to kill you and you want someone to be able to pick up where you left off. You never know.
- Think Bigger. Every time you begin planning a new project, think ahead as if you expect the environment, the demand or the scope to grow much larger. Because it usually does.
- Act Lean and Hungry. You should already be lean and hungry. But imagine another competitor is just behind you and waiting for you to slip and trip to get ahead of you. Now, get moving!