Monthly Archives: September 2011

Do you understand your business trends?

Are you watching the trends in your business?

Do you understand why the trends occur?

If not, you need to start paying close attention to the business trends of your IT support business. Let’s discuss just a couple of areas you should monitor on a monthly basis.

A.  Help Desk trends:
Simple things can indicate changes in your business that you need to pay attention to. For example, if the number of support calls is on a steady increase it means you will need additional Help Desk staff at some point in time unless you are able to increase your existing staff’s productivity.

Not only that, you may need additional support techs in the areas where the calls are increasing.

Do you know the cause of a Help Desk call spike? Let’s say the number of calls is averaging 500 calls per month and it spikes to 1000 calls followed by 800 calls for a two-month period and then settles back down to around 500 calls per month again.

What caused this spike?

If you don’t know, you need to find out because something occurred to cause this spike in support calls. There is a direct cause and effect relationship somewhere.

Maybe it is because your organization delivered a new software release, , , maybe you just obtained a new set of clients. There is a reason and you need to understand what makes your business operation fluctuate.

B. Financial trends
You need to monitor the financial trends of your IT organization, , , especially the 8 to 10 largest IT expense categories you have.

Do you know why IT salary is increasing or decreasing?

What’s causing your telecommunications expense to increase or decrease?

What caused the spike in hardware maintenance?

It’s wise to monitor these larger expense categories and be able to explain why you have material trends that increase or decrease. You might get a question from your CEO or CFO so it helps to be prepared.

Expenses can also have spikes. A spike increase in hardware maintenance might be for an annual hardware payment, , , and it could be significant. If you aren’t aware of these spikes when you budget you are going to have a difficult time in developing an appropriate budget.

Trends point the way, , , they indicate where your business is headed so pay attention to your business dynamics.

Strong managers understand the dynamics of their business and can explain why something is trending up or down and whether this trend is positive or negative.

Do you know what’s going on in your business?

46th IT Manager Institute

Earlier this week I held the 46th IT Manager Institute at Graymere Country Club in Columbia, TN. This has turned out to be a great venue for us and we look forward to delivering more training programs at Graymere.

This class was super with quite a diverse group of managers, , , a couple with many years of management experience and a few who are new to IT management, , , many different industries from mining to healthcare to manufacturing and distribution to newspaper media and banking, , , and from many parts of the world including Uganda, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.

This was a fun class, , , they connected on the first day and we had a great time.

Here are a few photos of the week, , ,

Class dinner at River Terraces overlooking the Duck River

Our class paparazzi on the left (Mark) about to catch Muj asleep at dinner

Lunch at Graymere, , , always a good meal

James and Amr traveled the farthest, , , from Uganda and Saudi Arabia

Hanging around after the first day deciding where to go for dinner

Amr and Randy having fun at dinner

Paying close attention during class

Getting ready to order a great meal at the class dinner

Muj and Karen at dinner

Robert and James posing for the camera

Getting ready to talk about budgeting

Special guest Jon Pyles, a founder of TechRepublic and IT Business Edge, shared the last two days with us

IT Manager Institute #46 – class photo

A simple request if you read this post

I’m often amazed at how small the world is. I’m sure you have discovered it as well when you are thousands of miles from home and accidentally bump into someone you know.

It also amazes me at times at how many people I get to know from around the world who follow my work in the IT management space.

Here is my request, , ,
Post a short comment to this post and include your city and country to let me know where you are reading this post from.

Today is Sunday, September 18th so it will be interesting to see how many comments we get, where they come from, and for how long people will read and comment to support my little “just for fun” test.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I sit down to have a career counseling session with an employee, one of the questions I usually ask is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question I ask myself at least once every year, , , typically at the end of the year when I develop my New Year resolutions.

My wife has a simple answer to this, “I don’t care what you become, , , I just want you to grow up.”

It’s beneficial to give this and other self assessment questions some thought from time to time.

Today, I’m a small business owner, , , this never really occurred to me in my 20’s or 30’s, , , but for some reason I began thinking more and more about working for myself in my early 40’s. I see this happening with many who I see turn 40, , , they start thinking more about what they want to accomplish in life.

Take 5 minutes a day for 30 days to think about what you want to be in 3 to 5 years. Jot down a few of your thoughts, , , ideas of what you need to do to get there, , , what it is you like to do if money were no issue, , , etc.

Jump out of the box and let yourself dream a bit.

Dreams are what awakens the inner desire of a person to do something more than he is doing today.

Dreams are what creates a hunger to become more than what you are.

Dreams are the start of what could be something big.

Better yet, , , do some dreaming or have some “what if” discussions with your inner circle to explore the possibilities of the future.

In today’s world with technology what it is, , , you can do almost anything.

Dream on!!


Preparing for my 46th IT Manager Institute

Next week I’ll deliver the 46th IT Manager Institute in Columbia, TN.  I’ll be posting new photos of the class next week.

It has been an extraordinary ride since starting the program in 2003 and the program has taken me to locations around the world I never thought I would see. Hard to believe at times.

I’m excited about this class because we have 4 managers traveling in from outside the US, , , Canada, Uganda, Ghana, and Saudi Arabia. Others are coming in from many parts of the US. It’s going to be a great mix of cultures and  insights.

An interesting statistic about the 46 Institute classes is that 35 of the 46 classes have had students attend from outside the US. About 40% of participants are from non-US countries and 19 of the classes have been delivered in non-US countries, , , I have made some great friends in all parts of the world and communicate with many of them from time to time.

Preparations are all but completed for next week’s class and I must say I have this part down to a science. I use a simple checklist that lists every item I need to complete in order to arrive at class fully prepared, , , even things like “get a haircut” (taken care of yesterday), , , or packing my passport when I go out of the country.

As they say in Australia, , , “No worries!”

This checklist eliminates any concern about showing up with something left undone or not having an item I need. When I check off the items on my list, I know everything is ready, , , makes it easy and removes all “last-minute” stress.

I remember the first couple of classes, , , there was a major push the weekend before class to finish everything. It didn’t take long to get tired of this and doing all the work ourselves so I’ve automated much of the preparation.

We eliminated much of the work effort to prepare for a class by setting up an order system for class materials and creating standard templates or tools to take care of the rest of the administrative effort. It takes 5 minutes to order the class materials, , , they arrived yesterday.

Make life easier when you have to do repetitive tasks like I do to prepare for another IT Manager Institute. Create a checklist and tick each item off as you complete them and see for yourself how much easier and less stressful preparing for an event is for you.

IT Manager Institute info at

Class photos at

IT Manager Institute #13 – October 2005 – Nashville, TN

We have four new Institute programs being discussed so stay tuned for announcements as they are confirmed.

Boost morale with a slide show

One way to build camaraderie and teamwork is to reinforce it in your IT staff meetings.  My belief is that every monthly staff meeting should have an element of fun and team building.

Watch the sample IT Kickoff Meeting to see an example at the end of this post.

One of the things I like to do is to produce a slide show of my employees working with our clients. It’s very easy to do and takes almost no extra time unless you decide to be really creative. You can even do this without spending a dime if you want to.

People like to see themselves on the big screen. Put some high energy music to the background and you have something within a few minutes that will make most IT organizations stand up and take notice.

Why?  Because they probably have not seen anything like it come from their IT manager. It can set you apart from other IT managers plus it’s a lot of fun.

Here is what you do:

  1. Assign one or two people to take photos of people at work for a month or two. I usually assign one of my employees responsibility to do this for an entire year, , , to get ad hoc photos of IT people working with clients, record special events, , , anything they want to take a photo of in your company.
  2. Collect the photos and create a slide show.
    1. Use PowerPoint with background music, , , or
    2. Use a product like ProShow to create a slide show product with music embedded
  3. Use high energy music like the theme to Rocky

Be sure to include several photos of each employee in the slide show. I also like to take photos of people waving at the camera or doing things that are funny. The point of this is to take a breather and have some fun with your staff so keep it upbeat and positive.

When you are finished, you can easily create a copy of the slide show file to give to everyone, , ,  or you could even go as far as to create a nice photo album to award to your people.

This last option will cost a few bucks but the technology available today can give you a professional product at a very reasonable cost. See for one example, , ,  it’s what I have used to develop several photo albums for my family. There are many similar products to choose from.

These memories can be very special as people get older in remembering the “good old days” of their career, , , you might even like them as well.

Take a look at a 20 Minute IT Manager session titled, Jumpstart Your Year with an IT Kickoff Meeting. In this session I include a short example on Slide #23 of a slide show with music to give you an idea.

Go to:


Remembering 9-11

Conduct an IT Staff Skills Inventory

One of the things you want to do when you begin managing a new IT organization is to determine what you have, , , in other words, “What is the capability and capacity of my IT staff?”

An IT employee skills inventory can be accomplished quickly and easily using a simple tool, an IT Employee Skills Matrix. You can also use this tool to list the number of resources you think you need for each skill, calculate the total number of people who have the skill and identify any skill gaps you might have.

The tool is completely customizable to add any skill type you want to list as a need in your organization, , , from soft skills like communication or presentation skills to very specific technical skills like Cisco router configuration or Crystal Reports skills.

This tool makes it quick and easy to assess what you have on your team for any skill type you want to measure.

CLICK HERE to download the tool.

Who are your sponsors?

Have you taken a moment to consider who your sponsors and supporters are in your company?

You need them at all levels:

  • Senior managers
  • Department managers
  • Users
  • IT employees

Senior managers are valuable allies and can help you  so it’s vitally important to develop a relationship with them and also to create credibility with them. These guys need to be able to trust you will do what you say you will do.

Department managers and their staff (Users) are the ones who use the technology you support the most. Better develop a partnership with them and gain their support or life is going to be difficult for you.

You even need your IT employees to sponsor what you are doing. If they do not believe in their manager and endorse where you are trying to take the team, , , it probably won’t happen.

You need sponsors all around you. Take a moment to take an honest and objective inventory of who your sponsors are.

Be honest with yourself when you do this!

First, list the people in your company who you believe you need their sponsorship, , , including your key employees.

Next, put a check mark beside the ones you truly believe you have a solid relationship with and who sponsor you when they talk about what your IT organization does for your company.

Do you have a few names listed but do not have a check mark? If so, you now know who you need to work on, , , develop a plan to gain their support and make it happen.

Lose credibility when you disparage others

You should never disparage or criticize others to a client or an employee. Every time you do it hurts your credibility.

When I worked for IBM in the old days, , , late 70’s and early 80’s, , , there was an employee guideline that deterred the practice of disparaging against a competitor. We were not supposed to say anything negative about a competitor when we communicated with clients and prospects.

The reason this “non-disparage” guideline was enforced was because IBM knew when an employee made a negative comment about the competitor it actually only succeeded in making the individual and the company lose credibility.

This principle holds true in your company and within your IT organization.

If you can’t say something positive about your client, , , it is better to say nothing at all.

Coach your employees to take the high road and discuss things in a positive and helpful  light versus being critical of others. True leaders and professionals speak to the positive merits of things and do not try to run someone else down in order to boost themselves up.

High detail people like most of us are in the IT world can be a bit cynical and tend to criticize others. When you do it makes you come across as jealous or insecure and hurts your credibility. It also makes people wonder what you are saying about them when they aren’t around.

Stay above the fray and negative chatter and people will see you as a stronger professional and someone they want to work with and trust.