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High-Performing IT Teams: 7 Winning Traits

  • One of the best ways for IT leaders to improve their teams’ performance is to emulate the characteristics of the world's best IT organizations. But what are those characteristics? What do great IT teams do that sets them apart from the rest of the pack?

    To answer those questions, team management and collaboration software vendor Atlassian recently commissioned a survey conducted by HDI, a professional association for the technical support industry and part of UBM. In February and March 2017, researchers asked IT professionals a series of questions about their strategy, goals, metrics, technology, tools and approaches. They then looked for characteristics that set apart high-performing teams from the lower performers.

    For the purposes of the study, they assumed that organizations where IT is tightly aligned with the business would perform better than teams without the same alignment, explained Sid Suri, the head of IT strategy for Atlassian. "Part of the hypothesis of the study overall is that the IT teams that will do the best in the future are the ones that are going to be aligned with the business," Suri said.

    The researchers crosschecked that assumption by asking survey respondents to rate their level of maturity. Those teams that scored highly on five key measures of alignment also gave themselves high scores for maturity, making it very likely that these teams are high performers.

    Continue on to see what traits the study found are common among high-performing IT teams.

    (Image: Lucian BOLCA/Shutterstock)

  • Share goals with the business

    Teams that rated themselves highly for maturity were eight times more likely than other organizations to share goals with the business. This speaks to the need for alignment between IT and the business. In a blog post, Suri wrote, "We believe [working closely with the business] will be the most important skill serving IT teams of the future. Our hypothesis is that the most successful IT professionals will be masters of collaboration and keen students of business strategy as much as technology or ITIL."


  • Tie IT projects to revenue

    Not only are high-performing teams aiming for business-related goals, they are also using business-related metrics to measure their success for failure. High-performing teams were two times as likely to track the impact that IT projects had on revenue. They also tracked costs, productivity and customer satisfaction. Interestingly, however, the high performers were slightly less likely to measure whether or not they were meeting their service-level agreements (SLAs).

    (Image: 159968sv/Shutterstock)

  • Have a written digital transformation plan

    Digital transformation is a nebulous concept that means different things to different people. But high-performing IT teams are much more likely to have defined the concept and developed a strategy for achieving it. While a majority (59%) of the respondents from low-performing teams had no company plan for digital transformation, nearly two thirds (63%) of the high-performing teams said their company had such a plan, with about 39% saying that plan was written and published.

    (Image: thodonal88/Shutterstock)

  • Invest in modern tools

    "You don't have to chase every trend out there, but if you're sitting at the back of the bus saying 'I'll only go into this kicking and screaming,' chances are you're not going to be one of the folks that is looked to as a real value-driver for the business," Suri said. In the study, high-performing teams were 70% more likely to be investing in artificial intelligence, for example, and 25% more likely to be investing in predictive analytics within the next twelve months. Automation also plays a role with about 56% of aligned teams investing in service automation, compared to 47% of all teams.

    (Image: ktsdesign/Shutterstock)

  • Adopt Agile and DevOps approaches

    In addition to modern technology, high-performing teams are also adopting modern approaches to work. The study found that they were 18% more likely to use agile methodologies and 15% more likely to use DevOps.

    Conversely, they were slightly less likely to use Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) practices. While 74% of all respondents were utilizing ITIL, only 66% of aligned IT groups were doing so. The finding is interesting given that agile and DevOps aim to increase speed and flexibility, while ITIL emphasizes planning, definitions, and checklists.

    (Image: TechnoVectors/Shutterstock)

  • Measure customer satisfaction

    Significantly, 100% of the high-performing IT teams said that they measured customer satisfaction. By contrast, nearly 9% of less mature teams said that they did not measure customer satisfaction.

    (Image: pichetw/Shutterstock)

  • Implement problem-management strategies

    High-performing teams in the study also seemed to be taking a more proactive approach than their lower performing counterparts. Seventy percent of aligned teams said that they have a formal problem- management process in place, compared to 58% of all teams.

    Suri noted that most IT organizations say they are stuck in “firefighting mode,” where they are working to address problems rather than thinking strategically. He said that being proactive and using problem management to address root causes gives high-performing teams “room to breathe.” Instead of being stuck firefighting, they can “think big picture about how to help the organization,” he concluded.

    (Image: Minerva Studio/Shutterstock)