Done right, an awards dinner can be fun and rewarding for your staff. I did this every January to recognize the accomplishments of the previous year. If your budget won’t allow you to host everyone in the IT department, just invite the senior people in IT, but be sure to include the company officers. Their presence tells your people that their efforts are appreciated throughout the company.
As for the awards, I would have my senior managers submit nominations, and then I made the final decisions. Categories we recognized included “best use of a new technology to develop a system for the company,” “most important system implemented during the year,” “the user department that worked best with IT to develop a new application for the company” and “the department that was the hardest to deal with.”