Five Warning Signs about your Technology Person/Team

It's almost unreal how much your business depends on technology. Computers, Internet, Mobile, Social even the old-school fax machine is technology. It is a critical component of your business.

Over the past decade we've seen numerous times where the technology needs of a business were not being met. Sadly, many business operators are yoked to the wrong fit for their technology providers. Are the consultants, developers, engineers, technicians you work with on a daily delivering the value you need? Are they contributing or cramping your business?

Here are five of the behaviours that, at least according to us, should be taken as warning signs. These actions, or in-action, could be costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Warning Signs

Solitary Knowledge

Do you have only one? Or perhaps one primary who handles 80% of your technology needs? What happens if your one go-to is not available?

This is a simple continuity issue. If your mission critical systems are in the hands of only one person there is a very large single point of failure. If this person is unavailable what happens? For many the work stops, or is delayed. Think about the difficulty (both time and cost) with finding a replacement.

It is business-critical to have more than one person to depend on for their mission critical systems - such as revenue generating web-sites or in-office desktops.

Captive Knowledge

How widely known are your systems? Where is the documentation? Network maps? Server information and change-logs? Code documentation? Wiki? Source control?

All to often this issue is tied directly to Solitary Knowledge - why document when the team is only one? Without documentation new team members have to scramble in the dark to "get their head around things". This is wasted time for new members. Some times the idea of this sunk-cost when brining them on-board prevents the expansion!

If these kinds of things are not available it becomes difficult to on-board new team members. It also makes comparing new members to existing members impossible. That unshared, internal knowledge that existing team members is being hoarded up. If fact, this prevents new team members from performing to their best ability.

Infallibility

Is your Tech-team "never wrong"? Is their way always the "best"? How do they respond to new ideas? How do they respond to outside review of their work?

Tech folks are known for their arrogance/confidence - and lets not confuse that with infallibility. If your tech-team responds with declination towards others work then look out. When asked about others work do they claim they can do better or faster? If they say yes 100% of the time be wary - nobody is that good.

Superiority/Condescending

How about their review of others work? Or their reactions to the new team members?

Perhaps you're fortunate enough to bring another person to the team - how does your Alpha member behave? Is the new guys work "terrible"? Is there heated discussions where the Alpha raises their voice first? (Big warn!).

Too often we've seen these first members belittle, degrade and insult new members. A bit of hazing is expected but obvious animosity creates an unstable team. It's a clear indicator that the Alpha is not the right person for the job.

Accountability

Are they missing deadlines? Are projects getting pushed later and later? Is working piling up behind them?

If the previous four conditions exist you won't even be able to track this. But, if you were, how do they respond when asked "why was this project two weeks late". You know what responsibility sounds like and if you don't hear it then look out.

Many times these Solitary, Captive, Infallible, Superior tech-types have zero accountability - with no basis of measurement. Which documentation and shared knowledge would demonstrate. Put these systems in place. Soon!

Bottom Line

Don't be afraid to prove-out the people your business depends on. Ask them tough questions. Ensure that you are not critically dependent on one person or team member. Ensure their work stands-up under third party review. Look for positive attitude towards new ideas and team-members.

Here is a check-list of things to have that can help you build an accountable, dependable and reliable tech-team.

  • 2+ humans on the task.
  • Documentation System - Wiki or something.
  • Issue/Work Tracking System - track assignments, estimates and completion.
  • Outside Review - find another person/team to check things out.
  • Outside Assistance - bring in other helpers on some tasks and gauge response.
  • Manage their Workload and hold them accountable