Managing IT performance; more practice, less theory

Get the best out of your technology team with these effective principles

Everything depends on meaningful conversations throughout the period of evaluation (such 1:1s are part of effective team communication, learn more here). Start on a good note when you agree a performance contract up front; it will be far more significant to the person being evaluated. Active, on the job feedback throughout the year and crucially a formal meeting to reflect on the year past with equal participation by manager and employee. [1st of 5 paragraphs]

Structuring the performance contract is important; I have used a simple method for most of my career. Half the weighting is “run the organisation” or day to day job requirements such as supporting systems and users, managing employees and core job functions that vary by role eg architect, analyst, tester. The other half is “change the organisation” and breaks down the milestones and projects they will be responsible for during the year. [2/5]

Customer feedback is one of the metrics used to assess performance, whether stakeholders of projects or users of live systems. Surveys, focus groups and compliments / complaints are insightful and you need to help initiate these during the year and compile the data. Remember that the more your customers understand IT and how it works the better quality this feedback will be. (see one approach to educating software customers here[3/5]

Your team will most likely have a number of Service Level Agreements with other departments, either you provide IT services or you receive them, usually both. Again, the meaningful conversations play a crucial role and the typical monthly SLA meeting will show a pattern of performance. Projects are governed by business steering committees and the IT performance on these projects will typically be a key focus at these meetings. [4/5]

Ultimately IT professionals are knowledge workers and traditional management theories are less easily applied; the emphasis is far more on leadership. You can still manage performance to achieve goals but remember they are not making widgets in a factory. Their work is highly specialised and you’ll get their best performance when you create an environment of learning, mutual support, collaboration and trust. [5/5]

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3 thoughts on “Managing IT performance; more practice, less theory”

  1. Great read Peter. Thank you. I find that some customers are not willing to provide constructive development feedback on performance assessments (as they feel that they will be hurting the individual’s feelings; or that this so called ‘negative feedback’ will then be reciprocated as well). How do you suggest we increase the performance maturity and get everyone to provide this valuable feedback?

    1. Appreciate the feedback Riaz. As you point out its all about maturity and to get there requires transparency and healthy communication. I also feel the more data points you can gather on performance, the more the patterns are reliable so the one-off negative feedback is either backed up or shown to be isolated / prejudicial.

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