September 24th, 2020
Is your IT organization struggling due to key person dependencies? A Key-Person Dependency, also known as KPD, is a term that describes the reliance of an organization on an individual or team who is in sole possession of critical knowledge or technical expertise which is vital to the success of your IT operations.
Key Person Dependencies are common across many organizations, particularly when staff are few, budgets are tight, and competition is fierce. Relying too heavily on the knowledge and availability of one person or team introduces too much risk for your IT operations and hinders your ability to innovate and grow your IT.
The culprit behind the emergence of Key Person Dependencies in your IT organization is not the individual or the team upon whom everyone relies. The real culprit is in not managing and responding appropriately when Key Person Dependency scenarios are likely to occur. It is too tempting to let these scenarios slide.
Let's be realistic. Every IT organization wants to provide excellent service and being able to do so requires a unique blend of subject matter expertise and specific technical knowledge. IT team members who possess the perfect amounts of both business and technical knowledge are hard to groom and hard to retain. For this reason, along with budgetary constraints, most IT organizations are unable to simply onboard more resources and gamble that the new hires will bring the same skill levels.
So how does one eliminate Key Person Dependencies in their IT organization? The simple truth is that you cannot... overnight. You can; however, implement the following strategies to circumvent the proliferation of, and longevity of Key Person Dependencies in your IT organization while still providing your clients with excellent service.
Strategy #1: Implement Group Communication Channels
Stop the communication that fuels Key Person Dependencies. Establish protocols for communications to primarily be conducted in group scenarios (e.g., application portal, group chat, group email addresses, broadcast text messages, etc.). In IT, information is everything. If only one individual or one team is fed information directly then this prevents the overall IT organization from understanding, responding, and growing.
As human beings, we all tend to reach out to an individual directly, particularly in times of dire need or crisis. The problem is that human beings are also creatures of habit. If communicating directly resulted in the desired outcome, then we will do it again. This is exactly how Key Person Dependencies are born and strengthened.
Instead, protocol should dictate communications to groups in which there exists an opportunity for shared understanding and shared response. Another benefit is the insightful data gained from chronicling the communications. This allows the organization to improve planning and estimating as patterns evolve in the data retained. Lastly, these protocols will ensure that your IT requests remain constant, no matter who comes and goes from your IT organization.
CloudMayor integrates well with numerous notification and productivity tools (i.e., Slack, Microsoft Teams, Atlassian HipChat, AWS Chime, PagerDuty, etc.) to provide a consistent experience. CloudMayor also implements workflows to ensure that the correct processes are followed for each type of IT request and/or scenario encountered.
Strategy #2: Use Ticketing Tools For IT Requests
Combat Key Person Dependencies through the use of request tracking in a ticketing tool. Ticketing tools (e.g., JIRA, ServiceNow, etc.) allow for the tracking of requests in a highly visible and collaborative manner. The visibility of ongoing requests throughout the IT organization will prevent IT information and knowledge from being known only by select individuals.
Ticketing systems provide a valuable historical record of past requests, upstream and downstream impacts, root cause, workarounds and necessary improvements. This pool of information removes Key Person Dependencies because knowledge is not specific to one person or team. Should a team member leave your IT organization, the knowledge gained through exposure and experience does not leave with them.
CloudMayor integrates with Ticketing Tools to automatically create, track, and close tickets or issues. CloudMayor can also generate documentation to help further collective organizational knowledge about an IT request.
Strategy #3: Champion Consistency and Process Flows
When critical issues occur, most people tend to rely on ad-hoc notifications (i.e., email or chat) to get information and/or troubleshoot the incident and its impacts. This tends to, over time, create inconsistent documentation and communication, thus preventing others from understanding what was done and why. When others cannot or do not understand how to address requests or issues, Key Person Dependencies flourish. Instead, all issues and requests should be managed through consistent workflows, governed by IT policies, that allow others to understand and learn from each experience. Communication can be generated through the use of real-time messaging tools (e.g., AWS Chime, Atlassian HipChat, MS Teams, Slack, etc.) to inform larger audiences or to trigger select users or teams to take a particular step in the process workflow.
With CloudMayor, you can automate your IT policies and procedures into workflows. CloudMayor can proactively track what should happen, as well as trigger actions to communicate or course correct issues as they occur to ensure your critical systems are protected. The transparency and documentation, available in CloudMayor, offers the added benefit of being highly available in the event that a key resource leaves the IT Organization.
Strategy #4. Document and Define All Processes
One of the most overlooked techniques to eliminate Key Person Dependencies is to view all IT work in terms of a workflow process or runbook. Most Key Person Dependencies remain in place simply due to the fact that only key resources know the right sequence of steps to successfully complete a task. Documented processes and workflows are a great way to share this type of knowledge throughout your IT organization.
Ask your key resources to create documents, with screenshots, that chronicle the fundamental steps and considerations in how requested work or critical issues are handled. Even a basic set of instructions that list the core steps will go a long way toward ensuring that what should happen will most likely happen, no matter who is accountable for completing work.
CloudMayor can help you to make the best use of time and resources by offering a single platform that makes it easy to identify, define, and improve processes.
Strategy #5: Automate Everything You Can
Automating IT processes, with policy and requirements engrained, is one of the most effective methods for eliminating Key Person Dependencies. While automation may take some time to implement, particularly if there are a lot of manual processes or out of date documentation, it is the best way to ensure that IT requests are completed in a consistent and repeatable manner, no matter who owns the work. Automation encourages IT transparency and collaboration. It reduces blame when things go wrong. It can ensure that documentation is kept current. It can also provide valuable insights from the gathered automation data. Most importantly, it can take tasks away from the sole knowledge domain of key resources and free up those resources to focus on the organization's IT priorities.
The centralized automation offered by CloudMayor eliminates the dependency for a specific team or individual. Tasks can be performed according to requirement, in a consistent manner, without burden of outsourcing, coverage scheduling, or cross-training. CloudMayor's automation will also reduce the likelihood of burnout experienced by key resources when they are shackled to tasks that only they can resolve.