MDE is 16 years old

MDE LOGOOur company turned 16 this week, , , hard to believe. So many things have been accomplished and so much we still have left to do.

We have come a long way in 16 short years.

Here is a quick summary;

  • Developed the IT Manager Institute and delivered 75 Institutes in 11 countries
    • US
    • Canada
    • Aruba
    • Curacao
    • Nigeria
    • South Africa
    • Ghana
    • Tanzania
    • Slovenia
    • UAE
    • Bahrain
  • Published 15 books and written over 700 IT management articles
  • Published IT Manager ToolKit
  • Developed IT Business Manager Program (ITBMC) with Belmont University
  • Published IT Manager Institute SELF STUDY
  • Developed IT Due Diligence and Assimiltion Program
  • Created ITLever BLOG
  • Created Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders BLOG on CIO.com
  • Started Practical IT Manager Training Series (online training)
  • Co-developed the 20 Minute ITManager e-Learning training series – over 170 20-minute training sessions

Several projects are underway and will be announced soon including:

  • IT Manager Institute Membership Program
  • 1-on-1 Coaching Program
  • Enhanced level of online training

Take a look at our web site at http://itmanagerinstitute.com

Positive energy creates positive results

I’m a big believer that positive attitudes create positive energy and those around you feel it. Likewise, negative attitudes create negative energy and people feel that as well.

glass half fullI’ve always tried to look at the “glass half full” as opposed to “half empty”. It’s the same situation, the difference is just how you look at it.

When our son had his car accident in 1993 and we almost lost him, it was the most terrible experience a parent can go through, , , but Dorine and I kept looking and thinking about the potential, , , and not about the terrible challenges Eddie was facing.

Today, Eddie is 39 and still has physical challenges plus a significant short term memory loss problem. He can’t remember something that happened 30 minutes ago. But the upside is that his long term memory is intact and strong.

Eddie never has a bad day, , , something that is amazing to us considering his physical challenges and pain he deals with. But it’s true, he is the most positive person I know, , , maybe it has something to do with short term memory loss.

The point is that Dorine and I stayed positive and kept encouraging Eddie during the darkest of times. I could tell you dozens of stories that still give me chills of joy and some that caused grave concern at the time.

We believe our positive attitudes helped Eddie recover to the level he has and why he is such an inspiration to so many. Everyone who meets Eddie seems to be drawn to him because of his positive attitude, , , he truly has a special aura of positive energy.

Positive attitudes really do work. We have seen it over and over again in our personal and professional lives.

As an IT manager, it’s important for you to stay positive and to encourage others. Your attitude sets the tone in your organization. If you are not positive and positive energy doesn’t come from you, it’s very hard, if not impossible, for your team to be positive. It starts with you, , , never forget this.

Treat every day as a new day and a fresh start. Go into work with positive thoughts and look forward to the challenges that will come up today. Remember, if there weren’t challenges and problems, they probably wouldn’t need you and your position in the company.

Positive energy is a contagious thing, , , create positive energy and watch others respond to it.

Best of success

Is your IT organization in the fire prevention business?

fireman1Our technology people are great at fighting fires, , , or “fixing things”. They aren’t always so good at learning what causes the problems and identifying how to prevent the problem.

Preventing problems from occurring is far better than being good at solving problems and fixing things (fighting fires) after they occur. Much bigger than you probably think.

Eliminating problems from happening helps everyone:

  • Reduces your client’s loss of productivity
  • Improves your IT staff’s productivity
  • Eliminates aggravation and stress for everyone

There are many more benefits but these three are worth a lot.

One of the best stories you can tell your client is that your organization saw a set of problems, analyzed them to determine what was causing the issue, and then put in preventive measures that either reduced or eliminated them.

This is a simple story but a powerful one in that you are proactively looking at the “business of IT support”, not just working on technology and being reactive.

If you can show specific statistics or numbers, , , even more powerful!!!!

measure chart

Teach your staff to take the extra step and determine what is causing the problems they deal with day to day and try to determine how to prevent them. Preventing problems will do a lot for your IT organization in building trust and strong client relationships, , , something we need in order to achieve IT success.

Train your staff how to fight fires but teach them that we need to be in the “fire prevention business”. Preventing fires shows  proactive approach – POWERFUL!

Is your IT organization preventing fires or simply reacting to put them out when they occur?

IT Manager Institute #74 and #75 in Dubai and Accra

A few weeks ago I delivered our first IT Manager Institute in Ghana. The program was hosted by The University of Ghana with 21 IT managers attending. It was a great class and we look forward to returning, possibly this November.

Accra class-1

IT Manager Institute #75 – Accra, GHANA – June 2016

The 74th IT Manager Institute was my 18th trip to Dubai, a venue I like very much although the trip to get there never gets any shorter. We had a great class followed by a 2-day special event for IT Manager Institute graduates only.

Institute74_Dubai

IT Manager Institute #74 – Dubai, UAE – May 2016

I’ve been fortunate to work with hundreds of IT managers and Executives in the IT Manager Institute training program since 2003, , , and look forward to meeting many more in future programs.

Do you know what motivates your employees?

meeting-3All of us are different!

What motivates you may not motivate the person sitting next to you doing exactly the same job.

I always ask a question in my IT Manager Institute class, “Do you think people are generally motivated, , , or not?”

Many say “No”. A few say “Yes”.

My belief is that most people are motivated, , , they just don’t realize it. Our job as managers is to bring it out of them and to help them tap into their hidden motivation.

This means IT managers must become motivators.

It’s not difficult but it requires you to understand  a  few basics about what motivates people and to do some things rather than simply hope everyone on the team is going to become motivated on their own. It won’t happen that way.

To learn what motivates an individual means you have to get to know them. This isn’t always easy for IT managers since most of us are shy and introverted.

People are more likely to be motivated by one of two things:

  1. What they like
  2. What they are good at, , , one of their strengths

It doesn’t take a lot of effort  to learn what someone likes. Just ask them and they will probably tell you. As their manager, you should already know what someone’s strengths are.

Tap into an individual’s strengths and/or their likes and you tap into their “motivation hot buttons”.

Motivated people accomplish more, they are more productive, and they have better attitudes about their work.

It’s worth every penny you spend to motivate your staff, but in reality it doesn’t take a lot of money. You can motivate with virtually no money to spend on your staff.

In my IT Manager Institute, we do a short exercise. I encourage you to work through it yourself, , , it will only take a few minutes. It goes like this:

“You are a manager of 20 people and you have $500 to spend on your team for the entire year. In other words, you have almost no money to spend. What are some things you can do to motivate your team with only $500 to spend for the entire year?”

Take a few minutes and list 5 or 10 items, , , then I will share a few of mine.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Ice cream in the afternoon – Buy some ice cream sandwiches or popsicles and pass them around to your team. Inexpensive and fun. Total cost – $20
  2. Pizza lunches – You could buy a pizza lunch for the team every month with the $500 you have.
  3. Movie tickets – Take the team to a movie or award movie tickets for performance. With today’s technology, you could also show a movie in your office for minimal cost. Total cost as low as $10.
  4. Sports game tickets – Take the team to a sporting event or reward successes with a few tickets.
  5. Take the team bowling. Set up teams of four and award winners of each game a small prize. Give the team with the overall bets of the three games you bowl a bigger reward, , , maybe a cheap trophy for bragging rights. Total cost – $300-$400.
  6. $5 surprises – Prior to a monthly staff meeting, tape three or four $5 bills and a $10 bill under seats in the meeting room. At some point in the staff meeting, tell everyone to look under their chair for the surprises. Total cost – $30
  7. problem solvingLunch and learn sessions – Play a short training film during lunch and then discuss the issues as it pertains to your organization.
  8. Company memorabilia – Give out shirts, caps, pens, notebooks etc. that are available from your company. In many cases, you can get these at no cost to your department from your Marketing Dept.
  9. Letter of Achievement – Write a letter to your boss about someone’s accomplishments, copy the individual and put in their Human resources employee file. Ask your boss to make  point to say something to the individual about their contribution, , , this has a lot of positive impact. Total cost – None
  10. Recognition in a staff meeting – Recognize success or a behavior you want to reinforce within the team and praise the individual for their positive focus. The value is in the positive recognition in front of their peers. Total cost – None.

As you can see, most of these require very little or even no money.

What’s important is the recognition and showing that you appreciate your team for what they are getting accomplished. Your appreciation goes a long way, , , probably much more impact than you think.

It doesn’t require money to motivate your team. What it does require is that you pay some attention to your team and show your appreciation for what they do. Don’t take them for granted, , , pass out many acknowledgements and accolades for individual and team effort and performance, , , not just the successes.

Motivate your team and you will find they get much more accomplished for you.

IT Manager Institute headed to Dubai and Accra

We have two new IT Manager Institute classes coming up:
– Dubai (May 22-24, 2016)
– Accra, Ghana (June 13-17, 2016)

Take a look at the short video for information.

7 reasons IT managers have the toughest management roles

itmanager_mazeIT managers have the toughest management roles in a company and there are 7 reasons that make IT management so difficult. Gaining insight into these dynamics will position you to achieve more success.

1. Technology is changing rapidly
No one disagrees with this point. In fact, most would say technology is changing faster than any time in history. “So what?” you might ask, “This affects all managers doesn’t it?”

Well, yes it does to some extent but not to the same level it affects IT managers who must implement and support the technology. Paradigm shifts occur regularly in how we deliver technology services.

Think about the impact three innovations have had in recent years:

  1. The cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS)
  2. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) implications with cell phone and tablet improvements
  3. Advances in teleconferencing capabilities

IT managers are impacted far more than other managers due to the work associated in supporting technology change.

2. Transitioning from technical expert to manager is difficult
What’s important with this one is the skills that help you succeed as a programmer or systems engineer (a technical expert) will not help you succeed as a manager. The success skills are very different.

IT attracts people with certain work behavior tendencies just like sales attract people with a different set of personality traits.

The problem is that our IT work behavior profile fits technical expert roles well, but it is not a great fit for management. A trait like poor communication isn’t such a handicap in a technical role but it prevents you from succeeding as a manager.

The good news is that when you understand these dynamics, you can change your work behavior. The bad news is that far too many IT managers are not aware so they struggle in management roles.

3. Delegating and depending upon others is a new challenge
Let’s say you were a very successful programmer for many years. Then, you are promoted to a Programming Manager position and you struggle.

How can this be when:

You were the best programmer.
You understand software development inside and out.
Your peers looked up to you and respected your programming skills.

You are in for a shock when you move into management for these reasons:

Past success was based upon what you did, not having to depend on others so much. In a manager role, success is based upon what your team accomplishes more than what you do.

When you were promoted, the programming team lost productivity because the most productive resource was pulled out of the work pool. This can cause client satisfaction issues.

Managing peers is difficult. The dynamics of your peer relationships change significantly and become more challenging the moment you become their manager.

4. IT employees are harder to manage
Managing people in any organization is difficult when you don’t have experience in it. Plus, there is a dynamic at play in the IT Organization making it more difficult for IT managers.

In IT, the technical experts (your employees) usually know more about the technology than managers.

In other organizations of the company, this isn’t the case. For example:

Sales Managers know as much about selling as their Sales Reps.
The CFO understands the financials and chart of accounts setup as well as anyone in the Accounting Department.

Not true with the CIO. If he has business applications background, he may know very little about infrastructure and depends more on his employee’s knowledge than managers of other organizations must rely on theirs.
Resources

5. No one around to help an IT manager
IT is not the core competency of most companies. In banks, it’s banking services. In hospitals, it’s providing patient care. Technology is critical in delivering these services but technology is not their core competency.

Let’s use a large grocery store chain of 300 stores as an example. If one of the grocery store managers is failing (poor financial performance, customer complaints, etc.), there are 299 other successful managers who can conduct a store assessment and make recommendations to turn the failing store around. Grocery store management is the company’s core competency so there are many who can help.

On the other hand, who helps a failing CIO?

There isn’t anyone. The CEO doesn’t know how to fix IT problems because IT is not the company’s core competency. His solution is often to hire an outside consultant for help or replace the CIO.

6. The CIO must understand the needs and issues of all company departments, not just IT
Many business needs and issues of non-IT departments require IT support to address them. The CIO is the only manager in the company who must understand the needs and issues of all departments in the company. If he doesn’t, his IT organization won’t be positioned to support them.

This level of involvement with other departments isn’t required of non-IT managers, but it’s a huge issue for a CIO and his managers.

7. Communication challenges
This is possibly the biggest issue. Most of us in IT (over 70% from my research) are shy and introverted. As a result we don’t develop our communication skills. Technical experts are more interested in developing their technical skills; they don’t view communication as all that important.

In a technical role, most communication is with other IT employees (our inner circle) about technical issues. When we become IT managers, the universe of who we need to communicate with expands dramatically. Communicating effectively is a critical skill that new IT managers must develop.

I decided to use this inaugural post of the Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders blog to set the stage. IT managers have challenging responsibilities in environments that constantly change. In future posts I’ll explore all of these challenges and provide tips to help you address them successfully.

This article first appeared in my CIO.com Blog – Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders

The Debate about Project Managers

project managementAre project managers really needed for IT success?

GREAT QUESTION !

What do you think?

The question is, , , “Can you be successful without having an IT Project Management focus?” Give me your perspective in the poll below before reading the rest of the article:

 

OK, I hope you responded to the poll above and checked the results.

Now, it’s time for me to give you my opinion.

question

The question is, “Do you need project management focus to achieve IT success?”

My opinion, , , , ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

Projects are not successful on their own, , , they are successful because project managers make them successful.

Without a project management focus, the tasks that need to happen when they need to happen simply do not get completed without a project manager pushing them along.

Let me repeat, , , project managers make projects happen, , , projects do not get completed successfully on their own, , , they just don’t. In fact, projects will not be completed successfully unless someone:

  • pushes the project forward
  • checks to see that all tasks are completed on time
  • anticipates the obstacles that might jeopardize the project’s success

I’m a big believer in placing project management focus on the projects we undertake within an IT organization. To me, it is absolutely essential.

Let me back up just a second. Certainly, an IT organization can achieve some level of success without project management focus. Thousands of small and mid-size companies do it every day. However, your success will be limited and exposure for failure is significant, , , especially with large complex projects.

So, where does the project management debate occur?

What happens is that organizations that apply traditional project management methodologies tend to require quite a bit of overhead, , , too much, in some cases.

My sense is that there needs to be a reasonable amount of “monitoring”, “reporting” and “management” when you manage a project.

I’m not a proponent that says you need to produce all the reports and do all the things that are defined in PMI’s PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) or similar resources. I believe it requires too much overhead and administrative time.

What I do endorse is that you need a certain amount of structure (methodology) you follow and regularly scheduled status checks to help move a project along.

Operations people often do not want to spend the time to meet every week to discuss project status, identify risks, or discuss problem resolution strategies. They just want IT to complete the project so they can get on with their work.

The bottom line is that operational business people don’t always see the need for project management. Their approach is often, “Just do it, and leave me out of it.”

This is where the debate happens. How do we manage a large complex project so it doesn’t require an excessive amount of time and administrative effort but is sufficient to do the job, , , i.e., deliver the project successfully?

Without the process, odds are extremely high your project is going to fail. “Just doing it” simply won’t be reliable.

At a minimum, projects need seven things to consistently be completed successfully – on time, within budget and meet client needs:

  1. Requirements definition – Some call this a scope document. No need to create a voluminous document here but you must quantify:
    1. Project goals and objectives
    2. Specific deliverables
  2. Project Sponsor agreement on Item #1
  3. Project Schedule that lists all tasks to be completed, completion time frames, and responsibility for completion
  4. Budget that has reasonable amount of buffer
  5. Staff the project with capable resources
  6. Project Kickoff Meeting to get project team members on the same page and to reinforce commitment required
  7. Weekly Project Status Meetings to check status and keep the project moving (i.e., to monitor and manage the Project Schedule)

All of these elements can be accomplished practically and simply, , , without lots of overhead. The point that needs to be made though is that each part needs focus and must be addressed if you want to deliver projects successfully.

it project management ebookFor additional insight on managing successful projects, take a look at my book,
IT Project Management: a practical approach

Is “meeting chaos” taking over your company?

From Mike Sisco’s Practical IT Manager Newsletter

treadmill-2Meetings, meetings, meetings, , , all we do is meet!

Sound familiar? You bet it does. In today’s world, technology has made accessibility much easier and our productivity is better than ever.

Or is it?

Seems like we meet so much there isn’t time to do real work. In fact, we have so many meetings I’m sure there are times when you are double booked. It’s a common complaint I hear from IT managers all over the world.

I call it “meeting chaos”.

Here is a picture of what happens to many IT managers on a busy meeting day:

  • 8:00am – Start the day with a quick stand-up meeting with fellow managers to announce your schedule for the day.
  • 8:30am – A daily team status meeting keeps your team focused.
  • 9:00am – Project-A weekly status conference call
  • 10:00am – Employee meeting to discuss issues
  • 11:00am – Monthly status meeting with your boss
  • 11:30-1:00pm – Open time – check email and phone messages
  • 1:00pm – Project-B weekly status meeting
  • 2:00pm – Planning meeting for Project-C
  • 3:00pm – Budget meeting with CFO and Controller
  • 4:00pm – Monthly Project Portfolio update meeting
  • 4:30pm – Performance planning meeting with an employee
  • 5:30pm – Conference call with client on a later time zone

meeting-3This is the life of an IT manager on many days. So, when do you get work done? You got it, early morning before work time, after work time and nights, , , or weekends.

Oh, I forgot, , , we have a 1 1/2-hour block of time during lunch to do some things, , , check email and phone messages, follow-up on a few items, and probably last minute preparation for one of the afternoon meetings.🙂

Does the image of “being on a treadmill” start to form in your head?

I’ve experienced this when doing consulting work providing a few companies interim CIO services recently, , , it’s a real challenge.

I can tell you firsthand that company meeting time has increased significantly since I left my permanent CIO role and created MDE Enterprises, Inc. in 2000. When I’ve provided interim CIO services in the last 5 years, it was immediately obvious that we are now in a “meeting chaos” world.

Why is this?
My belief is because we are doing more for one thing. The need for new technology has increased, , , both by the Users as well as within our IT organization.

Let’s take the Users, , , our clients have gained more knowledge about technology and there are more options for them to use new technology to operate their business. They haven’t necessarily gotten to expert status, , , but the demand for new technology is certainly there and the IT organization must support them.

Now, the IT side, , , our technology world has changed immensely in the past 10 years, , , the cloud, SaaS, BYOD, cybersecurity issues, , , plus the fact that new technology is more cost effective and drives our organizations to implement these new products to help drive down or maintain our IT expenses. It’s constant change just to maintain the status quo.

meeting-5Another reason we meet more often is because we have technology that makes it so easy like inexpensive, even free video conferencing capability, free phone conferencing options, etc.

These technologies make it so easy to fire off a new meeting invitation that our calendars fill up quickly, , , and regularly.

OK, , , we get the picture, , , bottom line is we are busier and this requires more meeting time for planning, getting updates, troubleshooting issues, and the like.

What can you do?
There are actually several things you can do. Here is a list of ideas you might consider and try in your company.

  1. Analyze the value you and others receive from meetings and try eliminating a few.
  2. Combine meetings that require the same people.
  3. Start meetings on time and don’t let them linger longer than needed.
  4. Stop over booking yourself, , , make a choice of which meetings you must attend and opt out of others.
  5. Assess whether you can reduce the time allotted for certain meetings.
  6. Do conference calls instead of requiring people to assemble in a meeting location. Won’t eliminate a meeting but can save people time commuting to/from the meeting.
  7. Try “stand up” meetings to reduce meeting time.
  8. Ask the meeting organizer if your participation is optional. What I find is that quite often meeting organizers put me on the list because they think I might either want to participate or should be invited, , , when the reality is that my presence isn’t necessary.

Another idea came to mind as I was writing this article. Do you remember back when IT organizations used to print every report and distribute to users because it was “how we used to do things”?

I’ve been known to stop printing certain reports just to see if anyone actually looked at them. To my surprise, in many cases they were not being reviewed, , , so we started eliminating the requirement to print many of them.

My sense is that you can probably take the same approach with many of your meetings, , , cancel a few “less important” ones and see if anyone feels pain. If not, you are on a path of “getting back some of your productivity time”.

How significant is positive attitude?

phoneI was in a non-business setting with several people I know not long ago. It was during the holidays and a young man who was in the group started commenting about a phone call he had with his manager that morning.

What I heard bothered me.

What he described was that his manager called him to ask some questions about a client situation they had. It was a normal work day but the young man was on vacation following a major holiday.

He then proceeds to almost boast to our little informal group that he made absolutely sure his manager understood, “he was on vacation”. The assumption seemed to be, “I don’t do company work when I’m on vacation.”

I don’t know what you think about this, but my thought was, , ,

WOW !!!

I immediately put myself in this young fellow’s manager’s shoes and thought about what he must be thinking if this kid actually made these statements and in the tone he stated he did.

Again, , , ,   WOW !!!

I want to see this young man succeed, but he is going to struggle with this kind of attitude. His whole demeanor came across as sarcastic and negative, , , arrogant even. That’s what I heard and I’m sure it’s what his manager heard, , , again if he used the same bravado tone and words that he expressed in our group.

Maybe he was trying to boast to us a bit that, “he is in charge” and didn’t actually have the conversation the way it sounded. Hopefully that’s what it was because I can assure you his manager made a note in the back of his mind about the young man “not being a team player” if he did.

Let me put in some context to all of this:

  • I know the young man but don’t really know much about what he does other than it has to do with technology.
  • I don’t know the manager nor do I have any idea as to whether he is a good manager or a weak one.
  • I know nothing about the situation that precipitated the call.

So, I don’t know very much about the situation, , , but what I do know a little bit about is managing people and how managers tend to view things.

My reaction is simple. The young man in question is making a big mistake.

I’ll give the manager the benefit of the doubt and assume he is a reasonably decent manager. If so, here are some thoughts from a management perspective:

  • We don’t call our employees when they are on vacation unless we have an emergency or maybe the employee is the only person who has information we truly need before he gets back.
  • Managers are looking for team players who “step up” when the opportunity presents itself.
  • None of us want to abuse our employees. We want them to take vacation and time off so they can recharge the batteries.
  • Calling someone on vacation is usually a last resort to an important situation.
  • We look for people with “can do” attitudes, not people who complain and make life difficult.
  • “Can do” people get ahead; difficult people do not.

I’m concerned that this young guy won’t advance as much as he could if he maintains this negative attitude. He seems to be capable technically, but the best technical people are not always the people who get ahead.

Positive attitude, teamwork and people skills are just as important, if not more so, than strong technical skills.

Part of what I heard in the discussion was that our young man knows the technology and feels empowered by it, , , even so much as thinking he can put his manager in his place and almost chastising him for daring to call him while on vacation.

This is a false assumption, , , eventually the employee loses if that’s the case. The reason is simple, , , we have a job to do and at times very challenging work that can be stressful. Managers are looking for positive contributors and team players. Ultimately, this manager will not be held captive by his employee no matter how capable he is with the technology.

I can tell you that I would do two things with an employee who responded the way this young man stated he did:

  1. Coach him on a few things:
    1. How this comes across, , , i.e., negatively
    2. There are business reasons why a call to him while on vacation might be necessary
    3. Explain what the business implications are if he can’t be reached
    4. Talk about how we get him out of being a “silo of information” so we don’t need to call him on vacation
  2. Start identifying my backup plan so we aren’t at risk if we lose him

Managers want their employees to be successful, , , but we won’t be held hostage by a great technical person who can’t be a positive force on the team. Teamwork rules because without it the entire organization fails.

In summary, positive attitude and teamwork are key, , , maybe two of the most important aspects of what helps you get ahead. It doesn’t mean you can be technically incompetent, but given the choice of two people who are technically competent and one that is positive and the other is negative and difficult to work with, , , who do you think gets further ahead?

Yep, , , the positive force and the person who understands the importance of teamwork.

Positive attitude can make all the difference.

IT people must be aware of something. Our personalities are often skeptical of others and we prefer to do things ourselves, , , not necessarily teamwork traits. It’s important for career success to be a positive contributor and avoid confrontation when possible.

When challenges occur, , , look for positives in the situation, , , not the negatives. It will reward you in the long run because people around you will notice the upbeat, consistently positive attitude you have even under duress.