Performing a Departmental IT Audit

September 11th, 2013

Have you ever wondered what technological skills the staff in your department have? Are there gaps in what you think you should be providing as a department and what you’re actually providing when it comes to technology? Are you trying to figure out where to assign new technological tasks but unsure whose skill set they best fit? How can you assess these different needs and skills?

It might be time for you to do an IT audit of your department.

There are multiple ways of doing this, but I’m just going to outline two of them here – one effective and one, well, not so much. I share it so you can learn from my mistakes, though.

The first way of doing this – yes, the ineffective way – is to start a spreadsheet and list out everything you, and only you, think your department needs to be doing when it comes to technology. Should you be providing online applications? Online communications (including social media)? Is there database work involved, and what does that look like? After creating this spreadsheet, take a look at your staff and assign tasks as you think appropriate.

The benefits of this approach are, well, you can do it quickly, and once you do it, you have a great working document. The drawbacks are that you’ve gotten no input from your staff, and you may not have reflected the needs or skills of the department appropriately. Even though it might make the most sense to have an administrative assistant work with communications, maybe that’s a particular interest for one of your other staff members and would be a great development opportunity for them. This way of doing an audit is very one-dimensional and can cause more problems than it solves. However, sometimes this can be a good first step to creating the working document that you can then use in a more effective audit as outlined below.

The way I’d recommend is to involve your staff in your audit. How do you do this? Well, here’s an activity I’ve used for various staffing skills audits that I found to be particularly effective:

Set aside a meeting to discuss IT skills and needs for your department. At the beginning of the meeting, brainstorm ways you can use technology to serve your students. For example, how could you use technology to serve our students in housing – through online applications, online maintenance requests, communications through email and social media, etc.? If you have created a spreadsheet previous to this, it might come in handy to spur discussion at this meeting – what were some of the areas you identified correctly? What are you missing?

After creating a pretty good list, have the staff write down any of their particular job responsibilities that fit into the areas you have identified onto smaller slips of paper. In the meantime, you will be posting larger pieces of paper with the area headings around the room (or on the floor, or whatever works for your space). Staff will then place their specific responsibilities under the area that best fits. You should now have a good idea of what areas you are already providing service in, and you can move onto the next step – assessing your staff’s skillsets.

Next, have staff write down particular skills that they already have that they may not be using in their current role. For a bonus activity, have them write down areas they would be interested in learning more about (make sure to designate a difference between these two – maybe using different colored paper or markers). Have them place these skills under the particular areas with which they might be the best fit. You should now have an idea of areas in which you can easily expand your technology services. This would be a great time to talk with the staff about how they might be able to incorporate some new responsibilities into their job based on their current skills or areas in which they’d like to receive training.

At this point, you will not only know what you’re already providing, but how you can increase the technology capabilities of your department or office. What’s left? Well, how are you going to provide the remaining services – the ones you think you should be providing but do not have skill sets or interests in? There are a couple of ways to do this – the first being to talk with your staff about how you might split up these remaining areas in a way that doesn’t overtax the staff and provide training for them to do so. The second would be to consider hiring additional staff – especially if the skills needed align well and are important to your overall office mission and goals.

The benefits of this approach are that you have more ownership and buy-in from your staff, as well as multiple perspectives. The staff are more likely to get excited about a plan they helped to develop than new job responsibilities you just hand down to them. Plus, you have the opportunity to identify areas of development for your staff and use those to benefit your office or department. The main negative with this plan is that it will take some additional time – you may not be able to complete an entire audit in one meeting depending on how discussion and brainstorming go. And the follow up is not as immediate – especially if it includes changing position descriptions and additional training – but it’s more likely to be longer-lasting.

So what are your next steps? At this point, I would recommend meeting with individual staff members to help them re-write their position descriptions to include the new responsibilities (if there are any) and to discuss training plans (if needed). Creating a written training and goals plan for each staff member will be more likely to result in actually completing the training, so I would highly encourage doing this and referring to it for evaluations in the future. Additional steps might be to look at what can be taken off the plate of staff who are adding additional duties – maybe if they are working on online applications, they will no longer have to mess with filing paper applications – an easy transition to make. On the other hand, if you’re adding something like social media to a staff member’s plate, this can require additional time without reducing work elsewhere – how are you going to balance this staff member’s duties now?

Have you completed an IT audit of your staff or department? What are your suggestions for this process?