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

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"You can't tell the business side an idea is nonsense if they're the ones who came up with it," she says. "I call these people the bouncers or gatekeepers -- they guard IT from irresponsible requests. Half of their job is saying no in a friendly way. Every IT department is bombarded with these kinds of requests. If you did them all, you wouldn't be doing the right thing for your company."

IT A-Team personnel No. 2: Fearless leader

This no-nonsense, cigar-chomping leader is responsible for both assembling the right team and keeping it on task. It's a job that demands equal parts technical know-how and management aplomb, not to mention financial savvy, says Abid Ali, vice president of Tata Consultancy Services, a global IT service and outsourcing organization.

"Team leaders are more like an army general," says Ali. "They'll need some grounding in technology, but they also have to have a good understanding of the business they're delivering to, and of the bottom line. That is often what makes or breaks the success of a team."

Ali says the key to a good team is diversity -- assembling the right mix of system architects, database admins, infrastructure grunts, business and data analysts, security specialists, and so on -- and getting them to work together. The right leader is one who can achieve this in a seemingly effortless manner. As you can imagine, these types are few and far between.

"Wouldn't it be great if you could throw a bunch of professionals together and they just all get along and work wonderfully together?" says Brenda Kerton, owner of Capability Insights Consulting. "That can happen, but relying on it is rolling the dice. Most A-Teams got to that because someone paid attention to helping them gel as a team. The team stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing don't go away just because we throw a good mix of skills together."

Being the fearless leader also requires both extreme tenacity and excellent communication skills, says Verizon's Anderheggen.

"They have to be able to take the bull by the horns and question things, yet also be likable," she says. "A program manager who ticks everyone off will never be successful."

IT A-Team personnel No. 3: Über hacker

If life were the movies, your special ops team would feature two standard players: an attractive, misunderstood psychopath who loves to blow things up, and a squirrely hacker who can penetrate NSA-level network security using nothing but a random password generator and a toothpick.

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