A-Teams of IT: How to build a crack strike force

Your mission, if you choose to accept it: Build a crack special ops team ready to tackle the toughest IT assignments

IT is a tough job, but somebody's got to do it. And these days it takes a team of talented technology professionals, each with his or her own special expertise, to carry out mission-critical assignments.

But how do you assemble your Alpha Team to tackle a fast-tracked business initiative, to shore up a new attack surface in your infrastructure, to transition your IT operations to take advantage of the latest advancements?

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You start by choosing a tough leader who's backed by friends in upper management and can keep everyone working together. You'll need infrastructure sherpas to keep the packets flowing and coding geniuses to keep your software development on track. You'll need experts in physical and network security (Mohawk hairstyle optional). And you'll want people who have their eyes on usability and trends, to keep current with the latest generations of software and devices.

"It really is a team," says Susan Anderheggen, VP of service management and field force support systems for Verizon's wire-line division. "There are very few programs that can be done by an individual, so you have to trust the other people on the team will do their part. You can't be a lone soldier. You need to ensure you do have your 'A' people on your team because you need all of these components to get things done."

Remember, there is no Plan B. Here are the seven essential members of your IT A-Team.

IT A-Team personnel No. 1: Air support

Every IT project needs a well-placed friend on the business side who can provide air cover from on high. The trick is to find the suit who will not turn out to be the evil mastermind who sends our heroes to certain doom -- a movie cliché that too often plays out in IT special-ops scenarios.

Often this is a CIO who can assure other C-level execs the money they're pouring into that IT project will pay off in spades over time. Or it might be a tech-savvy business analyst who fends off resource-sapping requests from upper management, or merely someone who takes cigarette breaks with the CFO and knows the organization's pain points. Most importantly, this key team member acts as a bridge between the suits and the geeks to clear roadblocks and run interference when necessary.

"This person knows the political pulse of the organization and can get things done in an expedient manner by using unofficial channels," says Patrick Gray, president of Prevoyance Group, a business strategy consultancy. "He helps force decisions to be made that would otherwise stall the project in its tracks and serves as a buffer for the team, doing everything from preventing them from being called into pointless meetings to ensuring that ancillary players fulfill their responsibilities."

This person doesn't have to be a geek, but does need to be fluent in both tech talk and managementese. He or she also needs to master the delicate skill of telling the bosses no without offending them, says Adriana Zona, director of IT for Minco, a manufacturer of components for military and medical facilities.

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