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Ad Hoc IT Organizational Design is Hurting Your Association

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The professionals who serve in IT and web capacities are critical to your association's success. However, ad hoc organizational design (OD) can have damaging effects to your association's technology departments. Getting in front of these risks requires knowing where to look and what to look for.

It can be easy to identify some technology issues that hurt associations:

  • Poorly thought out websites – don’t deliver the value that members expect, create frustration
  • Outdated AMS platforms – lack critical features, stifle membership growth
  • Improperly secured systems – create unbounded risks, legal issues, and anxiety for leadership

What is not easy to spot is the corrosive impact that ad hoc organizational design can have on the IT and web professionals that deliver your technology services.

Here are a few major consequences of not planning your organizational design properly:

Technology Staff Turnover Increases

The job market for IT talent is fiercely competitive. Associations everywhere have difficulty recruiting and retaining the best team members and those in hot technology markets, including Washington DC, should expect that their team members are being bombarded with calls from headhunters.

Every time their LinkedIn profile gets pinged, your staff is comparing your organization to the rest of the market. Is there an opportunity for them to learn new skills and advance their career? Are they fighting internal politics every day? Are they able to clearly understand their role and the impact they can deliver for your team?

Turnover isn’t cheap. The rule of thumb is that turnover costs the equivalent of six to nine months of salary. With technology professionals, it’s not just capacity walking out the door. Critical knowledge about the internal workings of your infrastructure goes with them. Losing a key web or IT team member can be exceptionally painful and expensive. Properly planned organizational designs help retain these professionals. By doing so, team members know that leadership is engaged in growing their skill sets in ways that benefit both sides. IT professionals are part of the team instead of feeling disconnected from the larger organization.

Shadow IT Grows Stronger

Shadow IT is the deployment of technology services outside of the technology department. Often well intentioned at first, this can become incredibly destructive over time.

Eventually the services being deployed need someone to manage them. Unable or unwilling to turnover their projects to the technology team, managers instead find quasi-technology hires and create their own teams. Maybe it’s an accountant who also happens to be a system administrator. Maybe it’s a membership team member that moonlights as a website developer.

Regardless of how it starts, it ends up the same. Uncoordinated efforts and conflicting priorities create friction. Standards erode, and the number of platforms grows, creating security risks, brand inconsistency, and other expensive problems. Eventually the invisible shadow technology budget balloons and no one has a clear view of how it’s being spent. Chaos ensues. So, you'll want to mitigate the risk of Shadow IT.

Improving the relationship and alignment between IT and the business is critical to this effort. If the services delivered by the technology team are well understood, it becomes easier to stop the growth of shadow IT capabilities. Planned growth, improved training opportunities, and engagement with internal customers means that services can be delivered in alignment with business needs, further discouraging the desire to build shadow services.

Loss of Accountability

Organizational design is critical to ensuring decision making processes work smoothly. It is difficult to engender accountability if there’s no delegated authority and if its unclear where decisions should be made within an organization.

Ad hoc technology teams often can’t make good decisions. Decisions around critical infrastructure may be made at the wrong level. If decisions are made too low, there may not be strong understanding about how the change will affect others. If they’re forced upwards, senior leaders get bogged down in the details and can’t see the bigger picture.

The right organizational design has clear lines of communication, well thought out areas of responsibility, and helps to underpin good decision-making processes. You don’t want a scenario where you’ve got a team member with eight different bosses. You also don’t want to find out after an incident that no one oversees a critical platform or application, but everyone has their hands in the mix.

Assembling the right OD for your technology professionals can be tough. IT leaders aren’t always people savvy. HR might not have anyone who understands the nuances of technology focused job descriptions and how they can affect the size and depth of the recruiting pool. SAI brings expertise from both sides of the table to fill this gap.

These problems aren’t inevitable. With a well thought out organizational design, technology departments can continue to support association growth and avoid the painful consequences of ad hoc internal structures. The best time to fix these issues is before they get out of hand.

Ready to start a conversation? Reach out and let us know you’re interested in learning how SAI helps associations and nonprofits overcome challenges and meet goals.

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