Article:

Augment to drive rapid change

30 May 2018

Nick Kervin, National Leader, Technology and Karyn Thomas, Senior Manager, IT Advisory |

Change is difficult at the best of times, but when a team is under significant pressure to keep the lights on, it’s near impossible.

We regularly review operational IT teams, and in the last 6 months have identified a number of issues they often have in common:

  • The operational teams are busy and exhausted
  • They can’t add to headcount and feel very under resourced
  • ‘Fires’ occur often, and require the use of already strained resources to put out
  • Demands on their services continue to grow as business expects more digital capability
  • Staff resignations are increasing.

These teams generally know they need to improve their processes, functions and frameworks. Upon delivering our reports, common responses are ‘we knew all that’ and ‘no surprises there!’

Sometimes, our clients will take the low cost/incremental approach to implementing report recommendations – i.e: the ‘slow drip’ approach.

Often by the time it gets to this point, the team’s capacity for change is eroded because there is no buffer left. There are many reasons why teams end up under-resourced, (which can be explored further at another time), but for the team members involved it can feel like trying to complete a long-distance race in an 8-seat boat with only 6 rowers.

As the boat is utilised month after month, maintenance tasks naturally arise. The boat’s hull will need patching, the oars will need repairing, the seats will need new cushions, etc. but there is no time or energy for these activities, as the rowers have already been exceeding their capacity every month.

If there is no budget for adding resources to perform these maintenance tasks and increase efficiency, the business runs the risk of further exhausting staff, losing high performers and having the team fall further below expectations. Will the team make the finish line? When will it arrive and at what cost?

We advocate a concentrated period of staff augmentation, to drive significant step change to achieve new efficiencies, attend to the overdue maintenance tasks and restore the buffer to the capacity for change.

It’s like bringing a pit crew in. Not only to repair the boat, but also turn it into a 6-seater! Restoring the buffer is vital, as change is not a one-off event, but rather a constant organic state that reflects overall health. The combination of team augmentation and increasing efficiency works well to bring things back into balance. Rather than a slow drip approach to change under these circumstances, it is vital to keep the momentum of early success, so the team’s mindset doesn’t slip back into firefighting, but rather stays with continuous improvement.  

This may not be the cheapest available option, but it is certainly the most effective and ultimately provides the best value. It ensures that no fires get out of control and that the team, and business, is soon back on course and back in the race.

It also provides your loyal team with the assistance they need so they don’t jump ship to your competitors.

There are many further benefits of this approach, including:

  • Knowledge, coaching and experience is shared between BDO’s consultants and the clients’ operational staff during the period of augmentation
  • The temporarily bolstered operational team has an uplift in capacity to drive a change in practices while keeping the lights on
  • Morale in the operational team is boosted with an injection of a can-do attitude!

If you feel like you would benefit from a discussion around operational team augmentation, please contact BDO for a chat.