Daily Archives: September 27, 2010

Weekly contest winner – Steven Schauer

Steven Schauer from East Moline, Illinois won the weekly ITLever contest concluded on September 25th. He received an IT Manager ToolKit that sells for $175.00.

Steven had this to say about ITLever, “Thank you for the gift and the wonderful services that you provide.  The stories and practical insights provided by ITLever provide much food for thought and inspiration to progress in the complex world of IT.  I like the format of small snippets of practical advice that are brief and can be read quickly.  I look forward to being able to use the toolkit.”

For a complete list of winners, click here.

Budget for it and you might just get it

It’s budget preparation time for many companies and I’m reminded of an event that happened early in my career, , , over 20 years ago, in fact.

It was November 1986 and our company had just gone through a major reorganization, , , I mean MAJOR !

With this new focus, I was to begin managing a small support unit called IFAS. In this organization, we supported the IFAS software which our company had licensed to large hospitals throughout the US. My group, , , the Southeast IFAS team!

On this team we had 23 people supporting 25 hospitals in the southeastern part of the United States. Because it was November, we needed to develop an operating budget for the next year.

As I worked through my budget, I remember clearly thinking that I needed to budget something for an “event” to motivate my new team and to show them my appreciation during the next year. So what I did was put in $1,000 in a Miscellaneous category for some kind of employee event. I had no idea what the event would be, , , but the important thing was I planned to do something.

As we got into summer of the next year, I sat down with a couple of my people to determine what we could do to “appreciate the team”. We discovered we could rent a houseboat on Lake Lanier for an afternoon for $700, and because the boat was docked during the morning we were told we could hold a meeting on the boat prior to taking it out, , , , that’s exactly what we did.

Monthly staff meeting on the top deck of the boat in the morning and swimming, water skiing, and enjoying the day on the lake in the afternoon.

This little “event” went over great and my staff was so impressed, , , it was a huge morale booster. The word got around to the other four IFAS offices pretty quick and many wondered, “Why does Mike get to do these things?”

The answer is pretty simple, , , I budgeted for it, , ,  even though I didn’t know at the time of my budget preparation exactly what we would do. What I did know is that I needed to spend some money on my team the next year and show them I appreciate their hard work, , , so I put some money in the budget to make it happen.

Are you putting money into next year’s budget right now?
If you are starting to develop next year’s budget, be sure to include key things in addition to your basic expense items, such as:

  • Employee recognition
  • Employee outing or “event”
  • Employee training
  • Training for yourself

Budget for something and you might just get it. Don’t plan for it and I can almost guarantee it won’t happen.

Book_IT BudgetingNeed additional insight about budgeting for an IT organization? Check out my book, IT Budgeting: operational and capital budgeting made easy. Included with the e-book are the tools I use to develop operating and capital budgets.

Bottlenecks will “thwart” your progress

Is “thwart” a word?  I think it is and I like it, , , except when it happens to me!! 😦

It means:  “prevent from accomplishing a purpose”

Bottlenecks are limiting constraints of a project. In any project there will be one or more bottlenecks that can prevent you from completing the project successfully. It might be getting the resource you need, it may be failing to complete a critical task on time, or any number of other issues.

One of the important responsibilities of a project manager is to identify the bottlenecks of the project and to figure out how to eliminate them or minimize their impact.

Bottlenecks are the “breakers” of projects – Bottlenecks exist in every project and are just waiting to spoil your successful completion of the project.

A key focus for any Project Manager is to identify and eliminate bottlenecks – A strong project manager understands the relevance that bottlenecks have in regard to project success. Because of this insight, successful project managers work diligently to determine where the bottlenecks are and how to address them early on.

Eliminating a bottleneck can create more bottlenecks – When you eliminate a bottleneck it may create one or more new bottlenecks, usually further down the project timeline. Be aware of this fact because you will need to “seek and destroy” any new bottlenecks that occur.

An example of this is that you might eliminate a bottleneck in a manufacturing assembly line thinking that when the bottleneck is eliminated you will produce more “widgets”. However, in some cases the elimination of an identified bottleneck may create more bottlenecks downstream in the assembly process and actually reduce your production output of widgets rather than increase it.

Eliminating a bottleneck can have big benefits – When you eliminate a bottleneck, it often frees up time within your project and can actually build in time buffer for other tasks of your project. Keeping your project on time or possibly improving the time schedule can reduce the cost of the project and positions the company to reap the benefits of the project sooner.

When you build a project plan, schedule the tasks conservatively to help insure you can complete them on time. Finding any bottlenecks that positions you to complete the project ahead of schedule is a huge benefit when it occurs.

Anticipate and look for project and business bottlenecks – Make it your mission to find the bottlenecks in your projects or business environment. Anticipate where they can occur and do what you can to detect them early and to eliminate them once discovered.

When you have a project to open a remote office that requires connectivity to your network, one of the primary bottlenecks is to establish the local circuit connection in the new office. The specific bottleneck that you have very little control over is with the local telecom company in getting the local connection up and running. This issue can be frustrating and can hurt your credibility with the clients who plan to move into the new office and need systems connectivity to work if you don’t achieve your committed timelines.

One of the things I used to do was to estimate 60-90 days to get the connection established in certain parts of the US because our experience with telecom companies in these regions often took that long. It should only take 30 to 45 days at most but some companies are simply slower than others.

If you plan for the best possible time it should take, it’s pretty much a certain way to fail in the project. I always try to put a conservative time frame with buffer into these type of plans.

Estimate conservatively and begin focusing your resources on pushing the connectivity as soon as possible. I used to tell my technical resources that I wanted connectivity as soon as possible although we built into the plan for it to be there in 60-90 days from the start of the project. I would rather pay a couple of months of the telecom costs even though we aren’t using it than to miss the date by a week.

Office openings have several events planned that require scheduling and that affect many people such as training, moving furniture and equipment, etc. It’s much cheaper to pay two months of unused telecom charges than what it costs our company when we can’t open the office as planned.

Minimizing the downtime is key, so getting the connectivity in place ahead of time actually gives us more flexibility in coordinating the office opening. It’s a great relief when we know we have eliminated one of the primary stumbling blocks, or bottlenecks, in this type of project.

In any project, one of the best things you can do to help insure you deliver the project on time is to find the bottlenecks and do what you can to eliminate or minimize their impact on the project. Be proactive and hunt the bottlenecks down and start working on them and you’ll find yourself achieving more success.

Don’t let bottlenecks “thwart” your progress !!

41st IT Manager Institute

It’s hard to believe I have delivered 41 IT Manager Institutes since starting the program in 2003. The agenda has grown and the content has improved over the years and we have taken the program to many locations around the world including:

  • Nashville, Tennessee (20)
  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Boulder, Colorado
  • Atlanta, Georgia  (2)
  • Regina, Saskatchewan CANADA
  • Orangestad, ARUBA  (2)
  • Willemstad, CURACAO
  • Johannesburg, SOUTH AFRICA  (4)
  • Abuja, NIGERIA
  • Lagos, NIGERIA
  • Ljubljana, SLOVENIA  (3)

Last week we delivered the 41st program at Graymere Country Club in Columbia, Tennessee where I live. It was our first class in Columbia. The staff at Graymere did an excellent job and made us feel very much at home, , , it was truly a peaceful and enjoyable venue for the class and a location I will consider for future middle Tennessee classes.

Graymere Country Club

I can confirm that a 5-minute drive to class every morning sure does have some upsides and our students liked the hotel and classroom setting. They especially liked the $85.00 per night hotel room rate we were able to get for them, , , and the food at Graymere is always great.

We almost canceled this class due to a few last minute drop-outs caused by late year budget cuts, , , but I decided to hold it due to the travel arrangements made and efforts of two managers.

Joseph Melendez flew up from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Our weather was unusually warm so he didn’t get the fall weather break he was expecting, , , was still a bit cooler than he is used to.

Ariel Phiri traveled all the way from Lusaka, Zambia, , , it’s where Victoria Falls is located. It was his first trip to the US and we tried to make him feel at home. He stayed a couple of extra days so I was able to take him to our Camp Liberty on Saturday and show him what we call “paradise”.

Ariel Phiri at Camp Liberty

Both managers passed their IT Business Manager Certification exams and received their ITBMC. Congratulations Joseph and Ariel !!!

For upcoming classes, take a look at the IT Manager Institute page on ITLever. Headed back to Dubai in November (will be my 4th Dubai class and one of my favorite locations) and a new venue has already confirmed for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in early December. We have open seats for both of these great locations if you are interested in attending.