How To Manage When You Are Expected To "Do More With Less"


Whether it’s for day to day operations, technical support or projects, IT departments are always expected to make the most of the resources provided. That’s a key element of maximized IT value and return on investment. However, at times, and due to any number of circumstances, the resources provided may become limited beyond what appears to be "minimal requirements". To respond and get things done, the smart IT manager must always be prepared to “do more with less”. Read on to learn how it works.

I.T. is a resource dependent operation. It takes time, people, equipment and funding to manage systems, respond to problems, provide technical support, participate in strategic planning and deliver a wide range of IT related projects.

As if this was not enough, all of these circumstances are then further complicated by the fact that the average IT department functions as a “cost center” (not a revenue generator). Therefore, when general economic conditions or individual business circumstances are less than optimal, IT groups are often the go-to target for budget cuts and staff reductions.  Further, while staff and financial resources may be reduced, the demand for operational services, technical support and projects will probably not change --- if anything, it will probably increase.  These circumstances demand special tactics - filled by the “Do More With Less Initiative”.

What Does it Mean to "Do More with Less"?

The “Do More With Less” Initiative is part of a strategic approach to IT management planning and service delivery, encompassing three (3) key principles:

  1. You need an established strategic vision for how IT will be managed.
  2. You need a shared body of knowledge as a foundation for informed decision making.
  3. You need defined steps and tactics to respond to changing circumstances and demands.

What does it mean to do more with less? It doesn’t mean taking on more work with fewer resources. That is never sustainable unless the work was not properly planned and allocated in the first place. At its core, “doing more with less” acknowledges resource limitations and recognizes that business cannot always be conducted “as usual” when resources are continually constrained. To do more with less is to make adjustments to plans, requirements and deliverables in order to ensure that priorities (the more) can still be met even in the face of one or more limiting conditions (the less). It’s about strategic action to maximize existing resources and minimize negative consequences - it's about working smarter, not harder.

It All Starts With A Strategic Vision

A strategic vision for managing IT establishes an operational and organizational roadmap for IT planning, projects and service delivery. When you have a strategic vision in place, it means that you are fully aware of all underlying business needs, related technology requirements and IT service capabilities. And, it also means that you will be prepared to determine priorities, identify adjustments, negotiate tradeoffs and be more readily able to adapt to a change.

That's the start - the next step is to back up the strategic vision with an established "shared body of IT knowledge".

Create a Shared IT Body of Knowledge

You must have full knowledge of the current state of the existing technical environment, including all essential configuration and inventory information.
You must have a full understanding of the current IT charter and related strategic vision - what services does IT provide, what is the related operational value and how is each service provided?
You must have a full understanding of all current business priorities so that IT services, plans and operations can be adjusted to ensure proper and continued alignment.
You must have a full understanding of existing IT department capabilities, as well as the impact that any organizational or work load changes will have on the ability to perform and deliver. A key element of this department capability analysis is to determine staffing strengths and weaknesses, and to find the means to fill existing gaps in skills and expertise.
You must have a full understanding of all current organizational issues within the existing IT department – i.e. how are required roles and responsibilities currently being met, and how would they continue to be met if resource changes or reductions occur?
You must have a full understanding of your current budget – i.e. what is the amount, how was it determined, how has it been used to date and what is the likely impact of any reductions on service capabilities and related performance?
You must have a full understanding of all current service level obligations – those that are documented as well as those that might be simply assumed as a result of service delivery to date. You might need to determine how these SLA obligations will be impacted at a time when you must “do more with less”.

Be Prepared to Adapt and Act:

Can you D.M.W.L.? With your strategic vision and shared IT body of knowledge, it's time to apply the ten (10) steps below as part of your "do more with less" planning and related activities:

#1 - Define what "more" and "less" mean to you - now and in the future. Having to do more with less is not a onetime occurrence -- it's a long term strategy, where you seek out new and interesting ways to compensate for limitations through standards, planning, decision making, communication and resource allocation. To achieve this result you must have a solid grasp on all key needs and expectations. For example, are you looking to achieve “more” in terms of the quality or quantity of work? Are you looking to compensate for “having less” in terms of people, funding and time? The answers will guide your actions.

#2 - Brush up on the key "trio" of strategic management skills - analysis, communication and negotiation. To implement a workable D.M.W.L. initiative, you must be able to quickly size up related needs, goals, objective and priorities. You must also be able to effectively collect and share that information, and be prepared to negotiate to reach consensus and acceptance.

#3 - Know your stakeholders. Take the time to perform a D.M.W.L. stakeholder analysis to perfect your planning, communication and negotiating strategies. Who are the D.M.W.L. stakeholders? Who has an interest in the outcome? Who has influence over decisions? Who has information to contribute?

#4 - Identify your D.M.W.L. targets. Not every project, plan, policy or service can be managed with a "do more with less" approach.  Certain "targets" may be too risky, visible or important to reduce size and scope, or to streamline related tasks and procedures. You must carefully consider the options and evaluate the possibilities.

#5 - Set realistic priorities. When resources are limited, tough choices must be made. You can't do it all, so you have to focus on what is practical, possible and necessary. You must use every available communication and negotiation skill to collaborate with your end-users and identify working priorities (i.e. what needs are most important and what is to be subject to related change?). These priorities establish a "must-do" core and set boundaries for "what is negotiable".

#6 - Put all plans and commitments in writing. Document the results of all relevant fact gathering and related analysis, providing clear answers to the "what, why, when, and how" questions. What will be done to "do more with less"? Why is it necessary and important? When will these steps and strategies be applied? How will it all get done?

#7 - Communicate, communicate, and communicate again. Share D.M.W.L. plans and strategies with your IT team and end-user stakeholders as often as needed, and in a manner best suited to stakeholder needs and interests. You must make sure that everyone understands that "doing more with less" is a positive, proactive and realistic strategy designed to deal with day to day management constraints while maintaining quality and consistency.

#8 - Set realistic expectations. This may be the most important step. Whether you are responsible for projects, plans, policies or services, you must set the stage for customer acceptance by establishing and maintaining realistic expectations of what will be delivered and how it will get done. By definition, the D.M.W.L. approach is based on compromise. Unrealistic expectations can only lead to unhappy customers. Better to disappoint before you deliver, then to deliver and disappoint.  (Also Read:  Closing IT Service Expectation Gaps).

#9 - Get visible, recorded buy-in and acceptance. Any time D.M.W.L. tactics are applied, you must have secured open, visible "acceptance" on the part of every decision making stakeholder.  And, it's best to get all approvals in writing to minimize after-the-fact misunderstandings and second guessing.

#10 - Monitor and review D.M.W.L. results and consequences. Were you successful at achieving your goals using the D.M.W.L. approach? Were your stakeholders satisfied? What can be improved for the future? These are the questions that must be answered in order to ensure that all D.M.W.L. activities and results are properly incorporated into all relevant "lessons learned" for continuous improvement.

Continue for more on this subject:

  1. Infographic: Managing IT According to a Strategic Vision
  2. Infographic: Fundamentals of Sound Policy for IT Management
  3. Article: Easy Tips for Strategic Decision Making

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