Monthly Archives: July 2011

Photos from my IBM scrapbook

I began my career back in the late 1970’s when small and mid-size companies were buying their first computer. It was an exciting time.

One of the things I remember most was the great fun we had at IBM amidst some very hard work and long hours. It was a great experience where I learned the value of “working hard and playing hard”.

You may be experiencing some of the best time of your career right now. You owe it to yourself to capture a few memories along the way.

Here are a few photos from my IBM days:

Ginger and I receive Salesman of the Month honors from Macon

After the meeting we played golf and a had a big cookout, something we did once a year and it was great spending time on the big houseboat on the lake

Another presentation in an off-site event

It was the days of the 3-piece suit and white shirts, , , an early presentation

Ron and I after a sales call

This is what it’s about, , , my two senior mentors who helped me so much in my early career are on both sides as I receive a Regional Manager’s Award.
Charles Carroll and Jim Cockerham influenced my career considerably and I’ll always owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

How much was accomplished this month?

Today is July 31st, the last day of the month. Here are some questions worth asking yourself at the end of every month:

– “What did we accomplish this month?”
– “Did we achieve our objectives this month?”
– “Did I invest in my people to help them succeed?”
– “Did I develop myself in an area this month?”
– “Did we improve relations with our clients this month?”
– “What were the problems we had and did we learn from them?”

There are many more questions you can ask yourself, I’m sure, , , the key is that we need to evaluate our progress from time to time and the end of every month is a great time to do it.

Not only do we need to assess our IT organization’s progress, we need to quantify it and share the information with senior management, department managers and our employees. They all need to hear what their IT organization is doing.

Board of Directors interview

When I was to interview for the CIO position of my last company, it just so happened the Board of Directors Meeting  was taking place that week. The CEO asked me if I would meet with the Board of Directors, and I welcomed the opportunity.

The interview began with a few of the typical questions you get in an interview and then there was a great question, “Tell us why you will be a good fit for our company.”

I gave them a short list of accomplishments in a similar business and then made a comment I don’t believe they expected:
“If you are looking for a technical manager who focuses on technology, I’m not your guy, , , but if you are looking for someone who can quantify business needs and issues and focus IT resources to address them and to deliver business value for the company with your IT investment, that’s who I am.”

There were a few other questions and later that night I received a phone call with an offer to join the company.

The CEO told me later that one of the things that impressed them was how open and forthcoming I was about what they were getting with me and the fact I was not a technology expert was a good thing. The CIO I replaced was a technology focused manager and they could never understand what she was working on or why she was spending money in certain areas.

Budget IT salary in under 20 minutes

Salary is one of the largest expenses you have in an IT budget. To budget effectively, you better have a good handle on this one. If you are prepared, it takes just a few minutes, , , if not it can take several hours.

I like the “few minutes” concept, , , don’t you?

First, you need an IT Staffing Plan for your budget period. Start by creating a budget worksheet like the spreadsheet below or download the tool — CLICK HERE:

Modify the headings if you are on a fiscal year instead of a calendar year.

OK, , , to budget salaries for an IT Operating Budget, you need several pieces of information:

  1. Employee names
  2. Salary
  3. New Hire plans
  4. Salary raise information

In my last post, Track your IT Staff just like any technology asset  I discussed the importance of maintaining an IT Staff Roster.

Step 1  –   List your employees
Grab your current IT Staff Roster and copy the employee names to the IT Staffing Plan worksheet you just created.

I like to group employees alphabetically within organization or function of what they do in my IT Staff Roster, , , Programmers, Infrastructure, Help Desk, etc. It helps when you can see people listed in groups like this.

Step 2  –  Salaries
Copy the salary information from the IT Staff Roster into the first column of months, , , be sure they line up with the proper employee name. Once copied, replicate the salary column across all 12 months.

Quick note: When you budget it is probably October or November if you are on a calendar year. Be sure you update anyone’s salary who will get an increase between now and the end of the year.

WOW, , , the first two parts took all of 2 minutes even if you have 150 people in your organization.

Step 3  –  New Hires
Define your New Hire plans for the coming year. If you have developed an IT strategy and gotten it approved, this should be straightforward. Think through each of your IT organizations and identify how many new resources you need to add.

Add rows in each group where you plan to add new hires. Call them “New Programmer #1, #2, , , etc.

Put each New Employee’s starting salary in the month you plan to hire them and replicate the cell to all cells through December.

Another 10-15 minutes spent and here is what you have so far:

Step 4  –  Add raises
There is a fast way and a tedious way. I’ll give you both options and you can choose which you prefer.

Option 1 – Raise Pool  –  Your company probably wants to manage employee raises to a certain level, , , usually a percentage of salary like 2%, let’s say. There is a subtle difference in how this is interpreted but makes a huge difference in budget dollars.

Note:  The company will interpret how they want to manage salary increases as either 2% of total salary or an average of 2% per employee raise.

Let me explain, , , if every employee was to receive a raise July 1st (mid-year) and you gave everyone a 2% raise, , , your total “raise pool” you include in a budget would be half of what it would be if the company interprets raises as 2% of total salary. All budget months prior to the raise would not include raise money.

For our example, we will assume the company gives us a 2% of total salary guideline.

OK, add a row to the bottom of your IT Staffing Plan below the Total row and call it “2% Raise Pool”. For each monthly cell, do a calculation of multiplying the Total Salary cell just above it by 2% to get your monthly raise dollars.

Add another row and name it “Grand Total”, , , then add the “Total Salary” and “2% Raise Pool” rows to get your final salary numbers.

Not quite 2 minutes to do this, , , done with budgeting salary in under 20 minutes and this is the biggest part of your budget.

Option 2 – By Individual  –  The other option to budgeting employee raises is to estimate a budget increase for each employee and update the employee’s salary in the month the raise is to go into effect.

To do this, you need to know when their raise is due or planned and how much you plan to give them, , , or you can simply use a 2% calculation.

Employee’s last raise date and raise amount is kept in the IT Staff Roster spreadsheet you pulled the employee name and salary information from. This information will help you determine effective dates for each employee’s  raise.

Remember, depending upon how the company interprets the 2% raises, , , you could be short changing yourself by doing it this way.

Here is a look at an updated worksheet where each employee’s salary has been increased to reflect a raise, , , the shaded cells are the raise months.

The key to developing your salary budget in record time is to have most of the information already available by keeping asset records on employees with a tool like the IT Staff Roster and a change management process that keeps it current.

Track your IT Staff just like any technology asset

If you don’t already have an IT Staff Roster you maintain with a change management process, now is the time to create one. It takes just a few minutes.

Pretty soon it will be budget time. When you develop an operating budget for next year, salary is usually the largest expense in an IT budget. If you have this simple IT Staff Roster, you will be able to knock out the salary part of the budget in a couple of minutes, , , not hours. I’ll show you how in my next post.

Below is an IT Staff asset tool I use.

Name – Employee name
Org.  –  IT organization (Programming, Help Desk, Infrastructure, etc.)
Location – Office location where employee resides
Resp. – Title or responsibility
Start Date – Start date with the company, , , also anniversary date
Salary – Current salary
Bonus – Current bonus plan (percentage or dollar amount and frequency)
Date of Last Increase & % – Date of last pay increase & raise percentage
Review Date and Rating – Last review date and rating
Status – Current status of employee (Full time, Part time, etc.)

In order to be able to use it for budgeting purposes it has to be current and up to date so let me explain what I used to do as a CIO of a large company with hundreds of IT employees.

Keep it up to date
Put in a change management process to keep your IT staff information current.

As a CIO, all employee paperwork comes across my desk, , , raises, new hire information, , , even termination paperwork.

I approve the request and give the paperwork to my Administrative Assistant. She updates the spreadsheet you see above and it is in her Performance Plan to keep the information current and accurate, , , then she forwards the paperwork to Human Resources or Payroll.

Keeping the tool current and up to date is simply a byproduct of our change management process, , , takes no extra time and saves me a lot of time when in the long run.

When budget time rolls around, I take the IT Staff Roster and transfer the Name and the Salary columns to a budget worksheet, , , two minutes max.

Bonus information is also maintained so I have what I need for the Bonus portion of the budget.

When you have many offices to visit and hundreds of people in your organization, , , it helps to have this tool to remember names of people you don’t see that often, new employees you haven’t met, an employee reaching his 6th year in the company, etc. On your flight to their city, review it and you’ll avoid awkward moments and be viewed as an informed manager.

Download the tool – CLICK HERE

My IT Career Development Plan is one of the first ITBE Project Guides

IT Business Edge launched a new product called IT Project Guides this month. I was fortunate to help develop one of the first project guides for their launch, , , an IT Career Development Plan.

Quick overview
1)  Access the ITBE web site  —

2)  Select the IT Project Guides Menu link at the top

3)  Select the IT Career Development Plan link
, , , or access it directly at this link – CLICK HERE

Each Project Guide is broken into Project Phases and each phase contains 4 or 5 PowerPoint steps with download tools to explain and help you with the subject matter.

In the IT Career Development Plan, there are 4 phases, each with several steps that walk you through developing and implementing a career plan for yourself or in helping your IT employees with career planning.

Here is an overview of what you will find in this Project Guide:

–  Important IT Career Questions
–  Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
–  What Makes You Tick?
–  What Do You Really Want?
–  Your Personal Inventory
–  Beginning Your Career Plan
–  Where Are You Today?
–  Long-term Goals
–  Looking Beyond the Next Step
–  Preparation Is Essential and Ongoing
–  Keys to IT Career Development
–  A Personal IT Career Training Plan
–  Find an IT Career Mentor
–  Learn IT Success from Others
–  Investing in Your IT Career
–  Keys to Establishing Your Credibility
–  IT Recommendations and Business Value
–  Producing Positive Results
–  Communicate Your Track Record
–  More Resources Offered by MDE Enterprises, Inc.
Download Tools
The following download tools are available in this Project Guide:
–  Personal Attributes Inventory
–  IT Career Path Flowchart
–  Personal Training Scorecard
–  IT Initiatives Portfolio
I think you will find the IT Career Development Plan Project Guide and the tools helpful in providing structure and insight to think about your career and in defining what you want to achieve.
Best of success,
Mike Sisco, ITBMC

Ask great questions in an interview

An interview is a two-sided event. Yes, the company interviewing you will have a lot of questions and will “size you up” to determine if you are a good fit for them.

You need to do the same thing. Just because a company is big and has an opening doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. You should use as much discretion as the company managers who will interview you.

For this new job to be a winner, it must be a fit for you and the company.

One of the things you want to do is ask good questions, , , probing questions that will give you insight into the environment and what type of company you are going to join assuming you get an offer and accept.

One of the best ways to make a great impression in an interview is to ask great questions. It shows you have a sincere interest and an intellectual curiosity. It tells an interviewing manager you are engaged in the conversation and aren’t just going through the motions.

Here are a few questions I like to use when I interview:

  • Why is the position open?
  • Was the previous manager successful? If not, why?
  • What do you believe are the 3 keys to success in this position?
  • What are the company’s long-term plans?
  • What are the biggest challenges you have?
    • In the company
    • In the position
  • What do you think the primary focus should be in the first 90 days?

Their answers may create more questions. In addition, their questions to you will probably make you think of things you want to ask.

I think one of the important parts of a successful interview is to establish a comfortable rapport with the interviewer. The more the interview feels like a comfortable and open discussion as if you were enjoying a coffee together the better.

A key in doing this is to simply have a comfortable two-way conversation with the person interviewing you. Having questions handy will help you do this.

Another thing is to avoid putting lots of pressure on yourself. Be confident, not cocky, , , and be sincere in your desire to learn more about the company and the position.

A key to reduce the pressure so you will be less nervous is to realize that the worst thing that can happen is that they don’t make you an offer. It’s not a life or death situation if you don’t get the job.

It’s OK to be nervous, , , it means you care. That’s a good thing, , , but displaying too much nervousness can be a negative in an interview.

Remember, you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you, , , and if both parties like what they see there will probably be an offer in the making.

GOOD LUCK in your interviews.

Why I became a believer in IT work behavior tendencies

Have you ever had two employees who didn’t get along?

Do you wonder why some people can’t seem to do certain types of work?

Do you wonder why you struggle in communicating with your clients and employees?

Are you aware technology attracts a certain type of personality and 90% in your organization have three of the four traits in that personality type. That’s right – 90%!!

There are very specific reasons in what makes an IT employee “tick”. It doesn’t matter if you are the CIO, a Programmer, or a Desktop Technician, , , if you are part of an IT organization there is a high probability your work behavior tendencies are similar to all of us.

Every IT manager needs to understand the dynamics of IT employee work behavior!

Our personality traits help us as technicians but hinder us as IT managers!

I didn’t know much about all of this until 1990 when I joined a new company as their CIO. This company used tools to measure the work behavior tendencies of its employees.

At first, I didn’t believe in any of this “hocus pocus”, , , it was a bit far-fetched for me.

Then, three things happened that locked me into the value of this forever.

First, I shared my work behavior profile summary with my wife of 20 years at the time, , , someone who knows me better than I know myself. I asked her to read the profile and tell me who she thought it described of the people we know. Her answer, “It is you, Mike.”

My response was to point out phrases in the summary and told her that I wasn’t like that.

Her response was quick, “Yes you are, , , you just don’t admit it.”

I still had a lot of doubts about all of this.

Second, I went to a class to learn about using the tools as a manager a week later. At the class the Instructor had us take the 10-minute survey again and taught us how to grade it. My results were very different from when I took the survey during my interview. In fact, two of the four measurements were almost opposite of what they were before.

Not only that, the Instructor showed an example of what my results looked like and made the comment, “If you have a manager with these indicators, , , he needs serious help.”

This caused me a lot of concern, , , I’m a manager who needs lots of help?

I pulled the Instructor aside during the break and asked him about what was going on with me. “Why has my profile changed so much and help me understand what you mean by giving this person help?”

His answer, “Aren’t you the new guy at Medaphis?”

My response, “Yes, but what does that have to do with this?”

He posed another question, “Do you have everything figured out about what you and your team need to work on?”

My answer, “No, not at all, , , I’ve been there a week so I’m still trying to learn the names of people and what the issues are, , , I’m several weeks away from this.”

You see, I was a little disappointed I had to attend a 3-day class when I knew I needed to be in heavy assessment mode to get to where he was asking me about.

Then he gave me information that clicked. He said, “This is exactly what your profile says. When you interviewed, you were in another company and had been managing several years there, , , you knew what the issues were and what your team needed to do to be successful. It’s what your interview profile pointed out.” He had already seen my interview profile.

He added, “Today’s profile reflects you being in a new company and you don’t yet know who all the players are, let alone the issues and what you need to work on. What it says to me is that you are telling yourself to slow down until you get more information, , , it says you are communicating much more than you normally would probably because you are meeting so many new people and discovering what the issues are. It also says you are depending more on others right now than you normally would, , , all of this is normal in a new management job and in a new company.”

His last comment was big, “Once you know what the issues are and what you and your team needs to focus on, this profile will snap back to what it was when you took the survey in your interview.”

He was right, , , even the managers who worked for me at the time can tell you when my work behavior “snapped back” to my normal management approach. Once I knew what the IT support issues were and understood my organization’s capabilities, , , we started pushing forward as opposed to treading water while I was in assessment mode.

This opened my eyes and I began to think there might be something to it.

Third, and this was a clincher that happened about a year later. I had two managers who reported to me who could not seem to get along. I had worked with both of them in a previous company and knew they were both strong managers. They should have been doing amazing work together but they were fighting one another.

I couldn’t figure out why these two managers could not get along so I called the Instructor of the training program I attended for his help.

I provided the profiles of each manager and explained the situation. Without hesitation he said, “The reason is very obvious, , , it is right here on their profiles”.

Well, it certainly wasn’t to me but he was right on the mark in what he told me. I sat down with the two managers and explained the dynamics of what was going on and it resolved their differences once and for all. They were amazing managers and worked very well together and were supportive of one another after our discussion.

Startling similarities
I’ve studied and measured IT employee work behavior over ten years and discovered startling similarities in almost everyone who works in IT.

In fact it is so predictable that if you put me in a room of 20 IT managers or 20 programmers, I can confidently tell you what the profile make-up will be of the group, , , even before talking with anyone or determining each person’s work behavior profile.

More validation occurred in my IT Manager Institute
I was able to measure the work behavior tendencies of over 200 IT managers from all parts of the world. Every class had exactly the same make-up with 90% the same in three of the four measurement categories, , , exactly the same results I saw as a CIO for the 8 years I used similar tools.

Initially, I thought it was an anomaly, , , I concluded over time that certain personality types are drawn to work with technology. These employees become IT managers, , , and this is where the challenge presents itself.

What helps us succeed as technicians actually hinders our success as managers. 

The point and benefits
Every IT manager needs to understand IT employee work behavior, , , it is the underlying reason why people do things the way they do, , , and IT employees have very similar traits.

Knowing what makes your people and yourself “tick” is important because it helps you  several ways:

  • understand why things happen
  • resolving employee conflicts
  • assigning responsibilities that aligns with an employee’s work behavior tendencies
  • understand why some things are difficult and others are easy for you

I developed a 4-part series of articles for my ITLever Blog that explains this.

Two ways to learn more about IT employee work behavior
1)  Online training session, , , an excerpt from my IT Manager Institute Self Study.  Learn why the two managers were fighting and what I did to resolve the conflict.


2)  4-part article series

Part 1    IT Employee Work Behavior

Part 2    Who we are

Part 3    Challenges in who we are

Part 4    70% in IT have authoritative management style

I hope you watch the 30-minute video and read the articles, , ,  this information will probably be an eye-opener for you just as it was for me.

Understanding work behavior tendencies of your people and yourself gives you an edge in managing better and will help you achieve more success.

Best of success!

WordPress statistics overview

I really like WordPress tools for web sites.
I like the statistics information WordPress keeps track of and shares with you with a click of the mouse. Here is a brief overview and examples of what you can see on a daily basis.
1.  Page views
You get a daily total of page views for the last 30 days, , , you can look at the detail for any day just by clicking on the bar for that day. You can see this gantt chart in weeks and months as well.
2. Summary Tables
Pull up summary tables that shows total page views by month, average per day and recent weeks summaries. This gives you insight as to traffic volumes you are able to generate with  awareness activities you create.
3. Referrers
Tells you who referred your site, , , visitors who selected links from other web sites to get to your Blog
4.  Search engine terms
Shows you search engine terms used by people who came to your Blog from a search engine. This is one of my favorites and very helpful.
5.  Top Posts and Pages
It’s always nice to see what pages and posts people are looking at. This one is very helpful.
5.  Clicks
Another great tool is to know what links people are clicking on when they visit your Blog.
Now, you know as much as I do. WordPress is powerful, , , like it a lot. If you are about to develop new web sites in your company, you might want to take a look at WordPress, , , it has made our work easier and more productive.

Are you building personal capital?

Your career will only be as good as you make it. A question you should ask yourself often is, “Am I building personal capital in my company?”

Go a bit deeper with this question and ask:

  • “Am I succeeding in this job?”
  • “Do others view me as a contributor to our company success?”
  • “Does senior management realize my value?”
  • “Can I quantify the value I bring to the table?”

The personal capital you have in a company includes many things. People in a company have value and you are perceived as having more or less value than the people sitting next to you.

Obviously, you want your “personal capital value” to be perceived as very high, , , and well worth the investment in salary and benefits your company pays to include you as a member of the team.

You gain personal capital in many ways, such as:

  • Personal successes
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership successes
  • Ideas that create value
  • Attitude
  • Helping others succeed

I could list a dozen more things, , , what is important is that essentially everything you do in your company either adds or subtracts from your personal capital total.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you are the holder of 100 shares of stock in 50 companies. When you put them side by side to determine their value, you should think about several things, , , current stock price, , , potential growth opportunity, , , maybe some pay a dividend and others do not, , , etc.

Many things to think about if you had $5,000 and wanted to invest more in a few of your current stock holdings. Which stocks do you invest more in? Probably, the one you think offers the most opportunity for growth and has low risk.

Key point here, , , low risk. We like our investments to be safe investments.

When senior managers evaluate people in their company, they do the same thing to a certain extent.

First, they value you and compare the investment they have in you to other people in the company. Then they decide whether they should invest more in you for the future, , , or is it better to invest in someone else.

The people who get the most investment and career opportunity are the people who display competence and achieve success, , , their personal capital goes up when this happens.

The point
Think about whether you are adding to your personal capital balance or detracting from it in everything you do, , , even in the suggestions or ideas you present.

Do things that help your company succeed and it pays you back over time, , , focus only on yourself and it diminishes your opportunity.