Daily Archives: June 14, 2010

How do we overcome a poor IT reputation?

I get this question quite a bit, “How do I overcome our poor IT reputation in our company?”

“Rome was not built in a day.”, they say. To turn a poor situation around takes focus, commitment, hard work, , , and time. If you have a bad situation, it didn’t get into this state of affairs over night. Neither will it be fixed over night.

Start by identifying the key problems that’s leading to client dis-satisfaction. I use the word ‘client’ for both internal managers and employees who use technology as well as external clients who pay you for services (if you have them).

Once you know what your problems are, determine what it takes to fix them or to eliminate what causes them. It may be organizational focus, possibly managing expectations better, or even eliminating some things that you are trying to do because it’s either not that important or the IT organization isn’t up to the task.

It is always critical that you manage the delivery of your services to match up with both your IT organization’s capabilities as well as capacity. Signing up for something when you don’t have one of these two elements is pure suicide so if you have such a situation, get it fixed promptly.

Unlike what you may feel, your clients really do want you to succeed. They will typically always push you for more than what you can do, and you can either sign up for too much and fail, , ,  or sign up for an appropriate level of service, deliver consistently, and succeed, , , every time!!

Keys to improving your client satisfaction levels:

  • Back off of unrealistic commitments and re-establish what you can do.
  • Always quantify what you can do and can’t.
  • Build some buffer into your commitments (surprises do happen in the IT world so plan for them)
  • Coach your staff to over communicate.
  • Be aggressive in follow-up and calling back.
  • Strive to keep your client informed; never leave the client in the dark.
  • Don’t commit to deadlines unless you can deliver and if you commit, you had better make it happen.

It’s important for you to position your IT organization to over deliver. No one gets upset if you complete projects faster than expected or at less cost than expected. Someone always gets concerned if you are late or over budget, , , so position yourself to deliver “better than expected”, and see what a difference it makes.

Clients want results and need you to do what you say you will do, and they want you to be consistent in this area. Most clients are more forgiving than you might think, but when you lose their confidence it’s all over.

Do these things with a positive mindset to improve your IT support delivery, and you will start turning your situation around.

IT Management Model – Drain the swamp

Too many IT organizations run by the “seat of their pants” and are reactive in nature. I’m sure you’ve seen it, even heard people express symptoms of the problem like,

  • “We are too busy & don’t have time to plan.”
  • “We have too much work to do.”
  • “Projects aren’t finished on time because of constant interruptions and surprises.”

Every manager has the opportunity to establish an environment that is predictable and that clients can rely on. For some, however, getting there is a big stretch due to how they operate.

One of the reasons many managers find themselves in an environment that is constantly full of surprises and reactive is that they are so busy fighting alligators (dealing with problems). They forget to “drain the swamp”, , , in other words, eliminate the source of the problems and the problem goes away.

The point is that every organizational situation has key issues that need to be addressed to turn it from a reactive environment to one that is more predictable. You have to identify your key problems (i.e., the alligators) and determine how to eliminate the root cause (the swamp).

No swamp, no alligators to fight.

Key points to the model:

  • Define your mission & plan your initiatives
  • Dedicate resources to primary objectives
  • Eliminate the source of problems vs. spending resources on fixing problems

Drain the swamp is a key model every IT manager needs to pay attention to. Lack of clear objectives and failure to maintain focus causes more productivity loss than anything I know of.

Drain the swamp is one of 72 models in my book, IT Management Models. Learn more

Jeff Epps is a wild man

Just kidding, Jeff, , , if you are listening.

Jeff attended my 4th IT Manager Institute way back in 2004. He is one of many who have told me over the years about looking for something to help them manage their IT organizations better.

Jeff downloaded my free e-book, IT Management-101 and liked what he read, , , telling me later that it was practical and to the point, , , just what he was looking for. He attended my 5-day class because of it.

Jeff was the first to arrive in class on Monday morning and he did the same thing that some before him and many after him have done who arrive to the class first. He sat in the same position in the classroom as over 90% do who arrive first, , , in the back right part of the u-shaped classroom.

It doesn’t matter if the entrance to the room is on the left or the right, 90% who get there first sit in the same location, , , so who says IT people aren’t predictable?

Jeff is not your typical IT manager. He is actually one of the more outgoing managers I’ve met, , , one of the 30% who are actually more extroverted than shy and introverted like most of us.

Jeff is very personable and has a super personality to go along with a winning smile. Because he was one of the few extroverted people in the class (if not the only one in this particular class), we gave him a rather hard time, , , all in fun. He took it well and we had a great week.

Jeff, if you read this, , , I hope you are doing well and achieving many successes.

Is soccer real football?

With the US and England playing in the World Cup Soccer matches this past weekend, it reminded me of a model that I’ve used hundreds of times in coaching others on my team through the years.

It begins with understanding the basics of American football and focuses on playing your position.

In an offensive line (shown as the “O’s” in the graphic below), the primary mission is to block defensive players (the “X’s”) and to protect the quarterback, , , to move the ball forward in order to score points.

Each lineman has a designated area to block. When one player fails to execute as planned, the team can bog down making forward progress more difficult. Every player has to play his position and count on his teammates to execute their assignments to achieve success.

This example works the same for an IT organization. I’ve seen too many IT organizations perform ineffectively because they either:

  • lack focus due to a lack of specific responsibility
  • team members lack the skill to succeed
  • team members wander away from their assignment to help another area

Focus is key. Missed assignments of responsibility or lining up your players without the skills to be successful is a management issue. Once proper responsibilities are established and communicated, and the skills are in place; it is the team member’s responsibility to execute. When they do, success is usually achieved.

Management has to insure the skills are in place and each staff member knows their responsibilities and how to take care of their assignments. When this happens, you simply let the team do what it knows how to do, , , with minor coaching and tweaking when necessary.

Key management points:

  • Assign every team member specific responsibilities
  • Take advantage of strengths and “shore up” your weaknesses
  • Insure each team member has the skills necessary to succeed
  • Provide the tools that allow each person to be successful
  • Expect each team member to succeed individually and to support the team
  • Build your strategy around your team’s capabilities

Oh, by the way, , , CONGRATULATIONS to the US and England in a 1-1 tie, , , and we all know that most people in the world consider “real football” to be soccer.  I’m OK with that until American football season starts.

Go Tennessee !!!      Go Titans !!!

Why is the IT Department so misunderstood?

Business managers and users don’t really understand what you and your IT organization are all about. Here are a few of my own personal ideas as to why this exists:

  • IT is not normally the core competency of your company; therefore, most managers of the company do not need to be very knowledgeable about technology, , , so they aren’t and they don’t want to be.
  • Many IT managers have excellent technical skills but lack strong management and interpersonal skills.
  • The nature of technology is that equipment breaks and users need support, something they would actually rather not have to deal with.
  • Many companies lack the discipline to manage a true change management process and a project management culture that helps prevent problems.
  • Some departments use IT as an excuse for their poor performance.
  • IT managers often miss the mark when prioritizing initiatives for the company.

I’m sure there are many more reasons, but this list should give you plenty to think about in assessing your situation.