Lessons from Best Places to Work in IT 2007 winners

Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work in IT competition is a good way to boost the confidence of IT departments within organisations, say award winners.

Computer Weekly's Best Places to Work in IT competition is a good way to boost the confidence of IT departments within organisations, say award winners.

The awards aim to find and promote the UK's best IT departments, distinguished by a positive work environment, a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for personal development.

Rowan Flitton, information systems manager at Ashridge Business School, said members of her team are much more comfortable engaging with the business since winning the non-profit sector category in 2008's competition.

"Winning recognition within the organisation for the work we do has made it easier to discuss and demonstrate ideas for new ways of using technology to people in other parts of the business," she said.

Judges were impressed with Ashridge's activities to promote IT-business integration, and winning the award has strengthened this process even further by encouraging people to continue along those lines, said Flitton.

Helen Godfrey, senior ICT manager, services and projects at The Coal Authority, said winning the central government category for the past two years has boosted her team's morale.

The IT function's profile is raised internally as well as externally with suppliers and other organisations, said Flitton.

"Since winning the award, other departments have passed on suggestions for entering other competitions, which is great recognition for what we have achieved," she said.

Another benefit of being a category winner, said Flitton and Godfrey, is that it helps attract new members to the team.

"The award has been useful for recruitment and many applicants in the past year have mentioned it as one of the reasons they had considered joining our organisation," said Godfrey.

The Coal Authority has focused on good communications to create a positive working atmosphere and the executive team has a genuine open door policy for all staff that encourages discussion and feedback, judges said.

The award recognised the organisation's use of a web forum that allows staff to make suggestions about efficiency directly to the CEO.

The generous training budget of The Coal Authority's IT department was praised for encouraging technical and personal development.

Training opportunities continue to be promoted, said Godfrey. Since winning last year's award, the three further staff members have become qualified Prince 2 Practitioners and two have become qualified ITIL service managers.

Ashridge was also commended for the number of programmes aimed at helping IT staff develop their careers and improve soft skills.

In the past year, every member of the support team, which makes up almost half the IT department, has qualified as a Microsoft Certified Professional.

"Winning the award and recognition that you are developing your staff to align with the business made it much easier to win support for them doing the course and taking the exams," said Flitton.

The department will continue to build on that, she said, and work out what training staff members need to support the business organisation.

Ashridge recognised the importance of a good work-life balance, said judges, and comprehensive measure ensured staff were benefiting from a flexible working environment.

Team building is another area of focus at Ashridge. "We had our team building day again this year and we have been working towards a real integration within the department.

"We are now totally integrated and there is a lot of cross-working between the various sections. That has been built on the back of what we put in place before last year's awards," said Flitton.

The closing date for the 2009 competition is 28 November. Entry is open to any company IT department.

For the first time, entrants will each receive an individual report based on employee feedback. Overall and category winners will be announced on 22 May 2009.

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