Monthly Archives: May 2011

Time to assess where you are

OK, five months of the year are complete, , , only seven months to go. Now is a great time to assess a few things:

1.  Are you completing your IT strategy?
Hopefully you are making great progress in completing the big items planned for this year. If not, you need to step up the pace, , , five months has passed very quickly and the end of the year will be here before you know it.

2.  How is your budget looking?
Better check where you stand with your budget and forecast out the trends of your major expense categories. If you are already behind in achieving your budget for the year, you need to make corrective action quickly, , , waiting until September or October will be too late. If you see certain expenses trending higher than what they need to be to make your plan, , , anticipate the result and make corrections as needed to achieve your plan.

3.  Are you taking care of your people?
Have you done anything nice for your staff this year? The next few months is a good time to do something. Take care of your people and they will be motivated and encouraged to take care of you. It doesn’t require lots of money, , , just pay attention to them and do something fun from time to time and show them you appreciate their efforts. Telling them you appreciate them is also very helpful.

4.  Does senior management know what you are doing?
Are you communicating with senior management and department managers so they know what your IT organization is getting accomplished, , , and are you translating these successes into business value components where they will “get it”. If you don’t know what I mean by “business value”, read the post titled, Business value is key.

5.  How are your clients feeling about IT support?
Are your clients happy with what you are doing or do you know? If you aren’t sure, now is a good time to check with them to insure your team is on course for a successful year.

Mid-year inspections are valuable to help ensure you achieve what you want to achieve this year. The freshness of a new year has worn off by now and we are now into the drudgery of the work, , , it’s time to highlight some things and create renewed focus on what you and your team are trying to get accomplished this year.

Your staff and you may be getting a bit tired or a bit down so make it a point to do something that shows you appreciate them. Have some fun.

Staff will begin taking vacations, , , be sure they do so they can come back fresh and ready to go. Be certain you do this for yourself, , , and when you take vacation, try to actually take a true leave of absence and get completely away from the work. It will help you and make you more productive when you return.

Assess where you are, make adjustments as needed, and push forward to make the progress you need to make this year.

ITLever reaches one year anniversary

Our first year of using ITLever as a Blog medium has been a lot of fun and I hope beneficial to all who have visited.

In this first year, I posted 300 articles, , , not quite one a day but pretty close. We intentionally included a variety of things from serious IT manager topics,  lots of “how to” tips, IT manager tools and templates you may download, , , and some JUST FOR FUN posts to help us all get away from the work from time to time.

I also posted a few things about my travels as I delivered the IT Manager Institute this past year. Many of these will become some of my fondest memories, I’m sure.

I reduced travel in 2011 to focus on a couple of new projects as we continue our company’s mission of “helping IT managers of the world achieve more success”. You will hear more about this soon.

I hope you have enjoyed ITLever as much as I have in creating it. I encourage you to Leave me a Message in any of the posts to let us know if we are providing content that’s of value to you, , , or if you have different ideas or something to add, , , it’s helpful to our readers.

Thanks again to all who follow our journey in ITLever and feel free to contact me at  info@mde.net if you have ideas or insight that helps you gain more value from the ITLever site.

Don’t miss anything. Subscribe to ITLever to receive new posts automatically. Select the link in the EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION section under my photo in the far right column. It’s free and you may opt out a any time.

Tell me your best gadget story

Technology “gadgets” are great.

They boost productivity, make things easier, or are just fun to have. Whether it is a GPS device, a golf range finder, imaging software, iPad app, new headphones, or a Yoda flash drive, , , we like our “toys”.

I want to hear about the gadgets you like the most.

Post a comment to this post and tell me about your favorite gadgets, , , and do not assume everyone knows about it. I can guarantee the simplest thing you have will be new to many of us. Read my story below and you will see why I say this.

—  —  —  —  —  —

New discovery of an old technology
My brother, Mark, is a great guy with lots of knowledge. He has worked on some extremely large projects and traveled to many parts of the world as a result like China,  Scotland, Ireland, and France.

I’m always learning new things from him, , , especially about new technology gadgets, photography, etc. He has a lot of knowledge about many things.

His youngest daughter graduated from high school last Thursday and we went to his house afterward for a little celebration.

As I entered his home, Mark tells me he has this great new gadget he is very excited about.  I’m always interested when I hear this because he finds some truly great things, , , and for him to be excited about it means it will be something truly special.

What shocked me was when he showed me a Logitech Presenter, , , a hand-held device that includes a USB component to plug into your laptop’s USB connection. It allows you to page your PowerPoint presentations forward and backward, , , a wireless presentation clicker.

Neat – yes, , , it just blew me away that he is just discovering this great little gadget. I’ve been using one for 9 years in my IT Manager Institute class. Don’t know what I would do without it. No cords to fool with and allows me to roam all over the room, , ,  even includes a laser pointer. Like I said, it is a great tool if you make presentations.

The point, , , don’t assume others know what you know. I wrote a post about this topic titled, Others may not know what you know, , , you might want to read it.

This incident reinforced with me again just how true this is.  If someone had told me Mark would not know about this little gadget, I would have laughed, , , sure enough, the laugh would have been on me. Only wish I had told him about it years ago, , , and I’m wondering what little gadgets he knows about  but hasn’t thought to tell me.

Mark, if you read this, post a comment and share a couple of your best gadgets.

I hope everyone who reads this post will take two minutes to make a comment and share their gadget story.

Does your company do an “IT chargeback”?

An IT chargeback is an internal accounting procedure where your company charges departments for the cost of IT support.  They do this to help organizations understand that IT is not free.

You see, it’s easy for a department manager to think IT support is free when the IT employees are part of the same company. So, if they want programming customizations, they merely submit an endless wish list of new enhancements, changes, etc.

The problem, , , IT is not free, , , IT support costs your company millions of dollars each year.

If a department had to obtain programming support from an outside company, they would pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour for the work they request. Our company has to pay for this whether it uses internal programming resources or an outside company, , , so it’s always a real cost to provide these services.

In order to reflect IT support usage, companies sometimes charge the non-IT departments a percentage of the total IT cost based upon how big they are. It’s called an “IT chargeback”. I’ve seen this calculated by department revenue, by number of employees in the department, or just flat percentage rates the company imposes.

What accounting will do is spread the total IT expense out to all the departments of the company, , , until the “net expense for IT shows $0.00. It’s only an internal accounting procedure to spread support costs out to the organizations using the support.

Usually when a company decides to do this, they add budget dollars to non-IT departments who will receive these allocations. If the IT department spends exactly what they budget for, there will be a zero budget impact to the non-IT departments.

If your company plans to implement a chargeback policy, be prepared for some push back by the non-IT departments. They don’t like it.

They view their department being charged for things they don’t do and it possibly affecting their financial performance. In reality, it won’t affect financial performance at all because the non-IT department gets additional budget dollars added to their budget to cover it, , , but I can tell you firsthand there will be resistance from the department heads.

When implemented well, all organizations gain a better understanding of the costs associated with IT support and have more incentive to manage their IT support need.

Yogi said it

Some of you may not know who Yogi Berra is. Well, , , he was a famous baseball player who played for the New York Yankees from the late 1940’s to the mid-1960’s.

He was a great catcher and was voted Most Valuable Player of the American League three times and hit the most home runs for a catcher by the end of his career. His New York Yankee teams played in 14 World Series winning 10 times, a record at that time for a player.

He was a very successful baseball player and one of the most quoted people in the world. But, it isn’t his baseball that made his so famous.

What Yogi is more noted for are the press quotes he was famous for saying.  They are unique to say the least.

There were many, , , so many there is a book titled, The Yogi Book. One of his press quotes is on the cover, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

Here are just a few. See if you have heard any of them:

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

“90% of the game is half mental.”

“You can observe a lot by watching.”

“Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”  Talking about a restaurant.

“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”  One of my favorites!

“It’s deja vu all over again.”

“90% of short putts don’t go in.”  After missing a putt in a charity golf event

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Another favorite of mine

“We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”

“Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.”

“Pair up in three’s.”

“It’s not too far; it just seems like it is.”

“You’ve got t be careful if you don’t know where you are going ’cause you might not get there.”

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

I have a copy of this book sitting in my office and pull it out ever now and then when I need a break from the work. Yogi took his profession seriously but he wasn’t so serious to forget about the fact there are other things important in your life. He was successful and had a sense of humor.

Wouldn’t you have to have a good sense of humor if you said these things?

MDE Enterprises highlighted in Profile Magazine

Our company was highlighted in the May/June edition of Profile Magazine. Check them out at www.profilemagazineonline.com.

Lots of interesting articles.

Read the article.

A company album to be proud of

Remember when you were in school and they created a class yearbook? They are great for retaining memories for a lifetime. One of the things I wish I had are some of the memories of my professional life. I have a few but not as many as I would like.

Right now, you may be experiencing one of the best times of your entire career but don’t yet realize it. I can remember three specific situations that I consider to be the “best of my career”. Unfortunately, I have only my personal memories.

It would be nice to have more photos and memorabilia from these special times.

Have you ever thought about creating a company album? I’m not talking about a photo album where you insert photos in plastic pages, , , I’m talking about full color high quality “coffee table” books made up of whatever topic and design you choose to create.

The publishing business has turned upside down with the innovation of technology, , , I mean completely upside down.

In a matter of a few hours, you can create a high quality photo book of any subject you like and have it sitting in your office in a few days, , , and at an unbelievable cost. All you need are the photos or images and your creative imagination.

I did this one of my son in less than an hour.  I wasn’t trying to be very creative, , , we just wanted a hard copy of a few of his photos to share with friends. It made great Christmas presents. CLICK HERE to view.

With digital photography, it is simple and easy to do, , , and extremely economical. Plus you can make your book available online to anyone for free, or they can order a real book for themselves.

My wife and I have created 5 or 6 of these “photo books”, and they are very special to us. My brother created three books about his 2-week trip to Italy. I’m about to create another for a very special gift to my wife. In fact, creating one for a Christmas gift is what got me interested in them.

I have one to remember my IT Manager Institute classes, , , a very special time in my life. CLICK HERE to view the book I created for the first five years of the program. At the end of 2012, I plan to create another for the next 5 years.

I wish I had one for each of the great company experiences I’ve had in my career.

Check out the book we created about our Buffalo River camp we call Camp Liberty. CLICK HERE

Why do I tell you all of this?

Our friends are amazed at our ability to do some of the things we do, , , like create nice photo books we can share with them. They don’t know how to even start to do this but would really like to.

As an IT organization, your clients and users are often in the same predicament as my friends, , , they don’t realize what can be done and even if they did, they wouldn’t know where to start or would be too intimidated by the technology to do it.

I tell my friends, “If I can do this, the technology can’t be that difficult.”, , , but because they know my IT management background, they think I’m very technical. It’s the farthest from the truth, , , the fact is, they are intimidated by technology so they don’t try.

Your CEO might be very interested in something like this as a way to create company cameraderie or give as a gift to employees, , , or to sit in the lobby for guests to browse through.

We use MyPublisher.com, but there are many to choose from. Simply do a keyword search on “photo books” and you will find several.

I chose MyPublisher because of the creative flexibility with the layout and the price. They are always promoting special discounts and that’s when we usually order. For example, they are running a Father’s Day special right now that would cut the cost of my IT Manager Institute book by two-thirds.  It’s a 96-page, full color hard bound book with dust cover, , , my price to reorder would be about $40.00. Now that’s a great bargain.

The other great thing is that when you publish a book for yourself, they give you a link to share the online version with your friends. They do this to advertise their service, but what a great deal. Who knows, , , this concept might even be a promotional idea your company could use.

When people view an online book, they can view the entire book for free or order a hard copy for themselves if they wish. This is nice if you don’t want to be in the order taking and fulfillment business.

A product like this would have cost $500.00 or more ten years ago. Today with the innovations in the publishing industry, it’s very inexpensive.

Take a look at the albums I shared with you and consider developing a Company Album, , , it might go over extremely well with your senior managers and marketing people.

You have to see one to believe how great the quality is, and it is a treasured product that will last a lifetime.

Personal Inventory – time for reflection

I was asked to participate in a project with IT Business Edge to create a project guide for a new product offering they are developing.  My focus was to create a project guide for “Creating a Professional Development Plan for Yourself”.

First, a few questions for you:
1.  Do you have a career plan?
2.  Have you defined what you really want in life?
3.  Are you investing in yourself to achieve success?

Hopefully, the answer is “YES” to all of these questions. If not, you will want to take a look at the project guide when it is completed and released. As soon as it is, I will post an announcement on ITLever.

When I started to think about this project, the first thing that came to mind was the need to do a “self-evaluation”. It’s important to know “where you are” and “what you want” before you try to plan anything. If I were to create a professional development plan for myself, I would start with a bit of self-analysis.

Sooooo, , , this is exactly where I started with the project. I developed a simple tool called the Personal Inventory tool.

It is time to take an introspective look at yourself, , , and when you do, it will help you develop a plan for yourself.

CLICK HERE to download the tool.

The tool includes 5 sections. The information you provide will tell you or someone else quite a lot about you and what is important to you.

I.   Goals and objectives
What do you want to achieve in life. It could be anything, , , money, power, position, certain style of living, a happy family, , , it’s an endless list of things, but what is important is for you to identify it for yourself.

II.   Strengths and weaknesses
People do better with their strengths and weaknesses can hold us back. Depending upon your answer in Section I, you may need to do some work to eliminate or minimize certain weaknesses. You also want to take advantage of any strengths you have.

III.  Likes and dislikes
People tend to work harder and with more interest on what they like and avoid their dislikes. Sometimes, you may dislike something only because you aren’t very good at it or don’t know enough about it, , , many of these things can be overcome with knowledge and experience.

IV.   My passion in life
What makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and rush to work because you love what you do – anything? Find a true passion for something and be able to work with it, , , and it won’t seem like work. Time will fly by because you love what you do. Find it and your career will take care of itself.

V.  How I want to be remembered
Have you ever thought about how you want people to remember you? What will they say about you when your name comes up? Your legacy is important so this part is important to think about.

This Personal Inventory tool is simple like all my tools, but it will give you a practical method to understand what you want in life and begin to develop yourself to make it happen.

Are you a leader or follower?

Do you prefer to take the lead and put yourself out front and willing to take a risk if what you do does not succeed?

Or do you prefer to avoid taking risks and follow someone else’s lead?

It is OK to be either type, you know, , , even in a management position. Some managers are better executioners of project initiatives than being able to develop strategy and getting senior managers to buy in.

It can be due to a lack of salesmanship, , , lack of confidence, , , or just not knowing how to go about it. A follower can become a leader if he wants to.

Becoming a leader is simply a matter of learning what to do, how to go about it, , , and having tools that help you lead.

Confidence comes with knowledge, , , and knowledge comes either from gaining experience or by investing in learning from others who have the experience.

Leadership traits are not something you just flip a switch and “turn on”. We wish it could be so easy.

What I believe happens is that you start investing in your knowledge and learn about leadership techniques and traits of leaders, , , and as you begin using this new-found knowledge in your work, , , you wake up one day and you are leading instead of following.

It’s not magic, , , it just happens as you begin doing things that leaders do.

Others are following your lead, , , and no one knows when the change took place in you although everyone realizes you went from following to leading.

Some people make the transition faster than others. I don’t know that there is a time line that matters.

The key here is that to become a leader, you make a decision to become a leader, , , you invest in learning how to take the lead and start doing things a leader would do and begin using tools that helps you lead.

It is always your decision in the long run, and like I said earlier, , , it is OK to be a follower, even in a manager role. If you decide to become a leader, , , invest in a mentor who can assist you in your transition.

Should you care about employees browsing the Internet?

Technology developments make us more productive than ever before – right?

Well, let’s consider a few things and think about this from a management point of view:

Pros
–  Information about virtually anything is much more accessible via the Internet.
–  Ability to communicate with one another is much better via e-mail and cell phones.
–  Every company can afford computer equipment and more productive processes.
–  Work is completed faster and easier with innovative software and equipment.

Cons
–  People productivity is reduced by so many distractions.
–  With greater communication accessibility comes more interruption.
–  Many people are not disciplined to avoid non-productive distractions of the Internet.

Great technology can be a double-edged sword, , , advantages that also come with many disadvantages. So, what this means is that it all comes down to how you manage technology in your company.

Do you have an Internet Usage Policy in your company?

Should you have one, , , or do you really want to manage the use of the Internet in your company in that way, , , by telling your people what they can and cannot do with the Internet at work?

This can be a delicate issue.

My sense is that you want people to be focused to do their jobs when at work. How they get the work done, I’m not so sure I really care about  as long as they accomplish our organization’s goals and objectives.

Well, here is the rub. Maybe your team is great in supporting your client but if they are seen playing solitaire or browsing the Internet on their PC much of the time, , , it sends the wrong signal to the client.

Even if the client does this as well, when they see an IT person “goofing off”, it’s a bigger deal to them.

One of the earmarks of a successful IT organization is professional conduct. Playing games and simply browsing the Internet is not professional conduct. No matter how good your IT organization is in supporting your client, , , there are positive things you can do in supporting your business if your people have lots of spare time on their hands.

Lots of spare time would at a minimum suggest you are probably spending too much money in IT staff, , , and that’s a negative.

As a manager, I don’t care that people browse the Internet as long as it is work related and something that benefits their efforts to support our client. The Internet in this regard is a tool to help us succeed.

What I do mind is when people are distracted from our support work and browse the Internet or play games that don’t benefit our company.

This again is a double-edged sword. IT professionals do things in their non-work hours that benefit the company and often use the Internet to help them in these efforts. It is difficult for me to be bothered if they are not 100% productive at work and expect them to do things outside of work to improve their skills and support our client.

What would be great would be if we could create very objective measurements as to whether IT people are successful in doing their jobs like you can for a salesman.

In sales, it is cut and dry. The salesman makes his monthly sales quota and we are happy, , , he doesn’t  and he fails in his job, , , it is that simple.

We don’t care how the salesman spends his time as long as he achieves his quota. In fact, management might even look at such a situation that if a salesman can make his quota and work only 10% of a normal week, , , we would be happy.

The key with sales  is that we can create a specific quota objective and hold the salesman accountable. What makes him more accountable is that he doesn’t get paid unless he sells. He either succeeds or the sales management process and how we pay a salesman weeds out the losers.

It’s more difficult in IT to develop such clear cut objectives, , , but what this says is that we need to develop very objective performance plans that include specific goals and objectives and hold our people accountable.

In reality , you don’t really care how an employee spends the day as long as he is successful. The problem develops if your client perceives members of your team are “goofing off”. This really is an issue to be concerned about.

Coach your employees on the “proper use” of the Internet, phones and other technologies that help their productivity but are quick to take them out of productive work mode.

Remember, client perception is a big deal when you are a support organization, , , no matter if you are the IT Organization or Human Resources.