Who said techies can't play well with others? Here's how to get IT types to collaborate effectively and efficiently.
New York hedge fund: A wiki for the common good
When Mark joined a large New York hedge fund last year as a manager of technology, he was flummoxed when he tried to locate information on the firm's software applications. (Per his company's policy, Mark asked that neither his full name nor the company's name be used.)
The hedge fund's IT staff of 70 was fragmented into more than a dozen different groups, and each separate group maintained information on its own infrastructure. This information could be stored anywhere, including one person's in-box. "I would send an email asking for documentation, and I'd get four different responses with four different versions."
Mark had used a wiki to consolidate such information at his previous employer, so he decided to try it at the hedge fund. One problem: The wiki would be useful only if everyone contributed, but he didn't have the authority to make everyone do that. He supervised only five of the 70 people on the IT staff.
So he used a combination of the carrot and the stick. First, he and his staff built the wiki and filled it with some basic content, establishing a consistent format and structure. For each application, the content included contact information for the vendor, which version of the software was installed, and start-up and shutdown procedures.
Next, Mark explained the reason for the wiki to the two managers who directly reported to the CIO and asked for their support. He convinced them to mandate that their teams put all of their documentation in the wiki and make its use an evaluation point in their employment reviews. That was a powerful stick, Mark says, because bonuses can make up anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent of a hedge-fund employee's take-home pay - even for IT staffers.
But more important, IT employees flocked to the wiki because it was so useful to them. "They realised the weakness of the previous system, where nobody knew where the documentation was," he explains. "They were glad someone took the initiative to do this." Bottom line: with just a bit of prodding, most of the IT staff was willing to collaborate, especially once they understood the goal and how it would ultimately help them.
The wiki, which has been in place for almost a year, has become "one of the IT department's most important systems," Mark says. "Now it has a special section in the disaster recovery plan. It's one of the first systems that we have to bring up because it has all the supporting information for all of our applications."
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