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Virtualizing Global Teams

Every TechOps executive faces a common challenge: TechOps exists to power the business and is not a source of direct revenue from clients.

Thus, without a deep alignment to a critical business need, i.e., a special project needed yesterday, it can be a challenge to fund additions to TechOps staff, especially when things are operating relatively smoothly.

In my last blog post, I mentioned a series of changes, based on key learnings, that was my first wave of executive action as the leader of Ipreo’s TechOps. One of those actions was truly enabling global discipline-based teams, rather than having geography separate teams that belong together.

Given the opening premise, IT executives face dilemmas, one all growing organizations face: how to increase productivity without the associated expenses outpacing growth, and how to increase efficiency without overtaxing staff. When you increase the responsibility of people you also need to have measures in place to allow the organization to scale, and doing so without sacrificing employee quality of life remains a priority.

This caused a lot of introspection. What was the best way to attack this problem? Was the original design wrong?

Upon further review, the model was confirmed as correct. At the same time, an approach was needed to catapult the organization into action.

Virtualization is a well-known technique within the IT ecosystem. Have you heard of AWS or Azure? How about VMWare? We in IT are all familiar with these technologies, which allow for auto-scaling and resiliency. This imagery of virtualization, etched in the minds of TechOps staff, led me to a solution approach: Virtualized Global Teams.

As the Director of Tech Ops, I have encountered these issues firsthand. I can recall one example when a global team needed additional support in the UK, and reallocating a US employee was not ideal, on several levels. How did we solve for that? Auto-Scale.

By pushing the message of virtualizing global teams, the people in TechOps began to ideate and suggest fits for auto-scaling our capacity. In this particular example, the US-based manager decided to cross-train an existing UK employee to be able to burst onto projects as needed. This is exactly what I had hoped would transpire! In the prior culture, before this vision was shared, that idea would not have been a natural suggestion.

We put a one-week cross-training program together, pairing up the person in the UK with the US engineers, even bringing them to New York so they could learn alongside our passionate, skilled TechOps employees.

That is just one successful example of many. But let’s be clear, certain ground rules still apply. Separation of concerns remains an essential element. Virtualizing the global teams can’t allow just anyone to join TechOps.

By definition for any privileged access, this virtualization is limited to the TechOps border. And the person who has been virtualized has a day job, so it’s important to not simply shift the stress of the directors of my organization onto people who have taken on the additional challenge of becoming a virtualized team member.

The key is to create a triple crown winner.

How? The virtualized team member gains additional skills and career mobility. The virtualization enabler extends their teams capacity and builds a talent pipeline.  The franchise gains elasticity and scale.

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