What are the top 1 or 2 challenges IT leaders face at a fast growing organization?

786 views2 Upvotes9 Comments

Former Chief Technology and People Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I think there are certainly more than one. I think one of the biggest challenges that I've found is that when an organization's growing that fast, yet the demand on the organization is growing at the same pace, it's really hard for your leaders and managers to find the capacity to fill the open roles. So I did find, particularly at FireEye, when we were growing so fast, that we basically had to create a team that it was their job to go do the first level of vetting, and just make it easy for people to hire. People would block out a certain number of hours a day that they had to dedicate to either reviewing those resumes that had been vetted. We would do as much as we could for somebody before it was like, "Now you need to engage," right? So I think that was one of the biggest things. People can ask for head count, and you can give it to them, but when it's moving that quickly, it's really hard to find that balance in filling those roles and continuing to get the work done. So being really creative about how we did everything we could to help them and use as little of their time as possible, but where they were still able to make the decision—it was still their hire. I thought that was interesting.  Then I think the other challenge was how to make sure that you build out an organizational framework that can scale, but that you don't go too high-level, too big-title, too fast, and find that balance. Because you want room for growth for everybody that you're bringing into the organization.
1 4 Replies
Board of directors, former CIO in Software, Self-employed

I agree with you on both fronts. It’s a fine line to balance between meeting the company or the business where it is. In your head you have an idea of, what a high-performing, strategic partner, transformation-driven function looks like, but if your business or business partners are not ready for IT to play that role, it’s difficult to make work. 

So you have to build that credibility from being a good service provider, to being a strategic partner, to being a transformation agent, to a business-minded executive that drives their business outcomes. If you don't do that at the right time, it's very hard to be that strategic partner. On the people side, I've had this analogy for building a team and transforming the business technology and IT services in a high growth company: it's like flying this jet propeller plane, while building a 747, and by the way, you're dropping packages along the way. All of this takes time: building the team, the framework for compliance, privacy, operations, and shipping capabilities.... you can do so much at a time and how you can accelerate this is by bringing in external strategic partners to compliment the team.

Sometimes you’ll also need to get creative and think out of the box.  If you do not have the resources internally, then seek them externally and bridge the gap.  Even interim leaders are at times necessary. So if I didn't have the leadership team in place, I brought it in, as in a temporary one, until I got the headcount or found the right person for the longer term. If I needed to create elasticity, I outsourced this.  If you are at a company that hasn't worked a lot with 3rd parties and outsourcing, it can be difficult to get buy-in on this model.  There is a path to this being more accepted and part of your workforce, one that compliments it, not replaces it.  And when well done this becomes a direable model for other functions in the organization. That's a transformation you drive through those different stages of being a partner.

Former Chief Technology and People Officer in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

Yeah. I think you hit on a couple of really important points. One of the other challenges, particularly in a very engineering-centric, product-centric organization, is getting the buy-in to bring in some project managers and program managers. The initial reaction when you say, "Oh, I'm going to bring in a program manager or product manager," is like, "We don't need coordinators. We need doers." I'm like, "Do you understand why none of these projects ever completely get over the finish line? It's because we don't have these." So that was another challenge: getting folks to understand that part of the reason that we're not really ever done with certain things is because we're not driving it around some sort of project. Of course, to your point about more agile and iterative stuff, everybody thinks IT needs to become more agile. No, the business needs to become agile, and then we can help support them. So I think that's another important point that you made, is you can't just make all the change within IT.

Board of directors, former CIO in Software, Self-employed

Being agile means one thing to somebody and something else to another, right? I've had some business partners saying, "Well, agile means you do what I want when I want it." To which I respond, "Well, that's not exactly it, but let's talk about your change of priorities." Building an agile team is a foundation to being able to work in a dynamic organization. With full transparency and visibility on what your team is working on and why, the implications of changing priorities really helps discussions to understand trade-offs.

Partner in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
One of the challenges I saw was just alignment.
Partner in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
I think my situation was a little bit different, because I had always joined as the first CIO. So I had a little bit of an unfair advantage to kind of say, "Well, I don't have any frame of reference. We're just going to do it this way." Everyone was like, "Oh, I guess it's always done this way." Then you kind of discover that, well, actually, there's a bit of a wake-up call on an alignment issue. Either the memo is being missed, but we are growing at a relatively..."Hey, I've accepted that we're just making decisions pretty quickly, and we just have to align to the fact that we're all getting more organized, not just us." So that's kind of a key part of it.
Assistant Director IT Auditor in Education, 10,001+ employees
Getting policies in place and employees become familiar and comply with policies, especially regulatory policies.  You see in the news, new and evolving companies running into problems and CEO making excuses and has to eventually apologized for mistakes/errors made. These mistakes can damage their brand and reputation and put them out of business.
COO in Healthcare and Biotech, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
The biggest challenge is balancing the desire to hire top talent and maintain a strong culture, with the need to add that talent as fast as possible. Especially for an org in which the headcount is critics to drive the growth, not adding resources fast enough could constrain growth. So a real challenge is deciding whether to wait for Ms. Right or hire Ms. Right Now. And in a company that is growing exponentially, the latter may not be the wrong decision.

A great book about these challenges is Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman. Highly recommending for any company growing 50% or more annually and wanting to understand the challenges that come with it.

Content you might like

Yes - Maine did the right thing. There are too many security risks with free versions of these tools. Not enough copyright or privacy protections of data.30%

No, but.... - You must have good security and privacy policies in place for ChatGPT (and other GenAI apps). My organization has policies and meaningful ways to enforce those policies and procedures for staff.56%

No - Bans simply don't work. Even without policies, this action hurts innovation and sends the wrong message to staff and the world about our organization.9%

I'm not sure. This action by Maine makes me think. Let me get back to you in a few weeks (or months).3%


8.7k views9 Upvotes1 Comment

CTO in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Without a doubt - Technical Debt! It's a ball and chain that creates an ever increasing drag on any organization, stifles innovation, and prevents transformation.
Read More Comments
46.4k views133 Upvotes323 Comments

Community User in Software, 11 - 50 employees

organized a virtual escape room via https://www.puzzlebreak.us/ - even though his team lost it was a fun subtitue for just a "virtual happy hour"
Read More Comments
13.3k views27 Upvotes67 Comments