Monthly Archives: June 2012

Caution – be careful when a client describes his problem

I was reminded of a basic client service issue last week, , , “You need to be careful in reaching conclusions based upon your client’s description of a problem”.

My wife’s cousin called us last week. He is more like a big brother to Dorine so our families are close. He was in town trying to get his PC fixed, but was getting nowhere fast.

I knew he was having a problem because he mentioned something about it a couple of weeks before. He had others work on the problem but it was apparently not yet resolved. He decided to take the PC to one of the major computer stores which apparently resulted in no help, , , so he called to see if I knew anyone who might be able to look at the issue.

I asked him to describe his problem, and here is what he told me.

  • It started when he installed a new printer. The new printer driver apparently messed up several things on his PC.
  • He took it to a local guy who was successful in removing the printer driver and restoring is PC.
  • Everything seemed to work except for his Photoshop software. For some reason, he couldn’t view his newer photos. All the older photo files could be opened and viewed but recent photos could not be opened.
  • He receives an error stating, “Can’t view the file. It is an invalid file type.”

Kenny uses Photoshop quite a lot and he was extremely frustrated. He had reinstalled Photoshop a couple of times but could not get past this “invalid file type” problem. As a result, he can’t use Photoshop to work on his new photography projects. This is a significant business problem for him.

What to do?

Initially, I thought about restoring his PC to a previous date to see if that would fix the problem. Then, I thought of a couple of other possible ways to resolve his problem.

But then I had an idea that would save us time and ultimately lead to the solution.

I thought, “Let’s focus on the problem we know we have (invalid file type) and let’s not assume the installation of the printer has caused this problem with Photoshop. Maybe the printer installation is the issue, but we need to focus on the specific problem that has been identified for us, , , Photoshop cannot open and view a new photo file, , , and we have a specific message telling us what the problem is.

How do you find the answer to a problem? 

Most of the world’s questions are answered in GOOGLE.

So, I keyed in the phrase “Photoshop – invalid file type” and search Google for possible help.

Sure enough, the first listing comes right off the Adobe web site and since Photoshop is an Adobe product, , , I’m feeling pretty good already.

I read the information and in it is listed the specific steps to diagnose and solve this problem.

To make a long story short, Kenny brought his PC over to our house and we resolved the problem in just a few minutes. Now, this was after several weeks of having others look at the problem but not able to resolve the issue.

I’m not a heavy technical person, , , in fact, you don’t want me working on your PC.

What was the problem?

The issue actually had nothing to do with the printer Kenny had installed and subsequently removed. It was an entirely different issue.

The problem was that he had bought a new camera and the Photoshop plug-in that converts a camera’s raw image to a Photoshop file that can be modified and manipulated needed to be updated to support the new camera.

The reason the others were not able to fix his problem is because they were working on what the client thought to be the problem. Unfortunately, both the client and his support people were chasing the wrong issue, , , a waste of time, , , and very frustrating for all.

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you, I was lucky to solve this issue so easily and quickly. But the reason I was able to solve it is because I focused on the defined problem (Invalid file type in Photoshop) as opposed to assuming the client was correct in his assumption that it had to do with installing a printer.

The printer may have caused other issues on his PC but it had nothing to do with the fact he could not view his new photos in Photoshop.

The lesson – Don’t just assume your client knows what is wrong. Diagnose the problem based upon the facts you can determine, , , not assumptions someone gives you. The assumptions may be helpful, but they can also lead you down the wrong path and cost valuable time and create tremendous frustration for all involved.

At the end of the day, most problems are caused by something pretty simple. The trick is to discover what that “simple thing” is that’s causing the problem.

I get real nervous when I see a PC technician start making all kinds of changes on a PC very quickly. In many cases, they create more problems rather than taking their time to troubleshoot the issue before making any type of changes to the PC.

Another lesson – GOOGLE has the answers. . . I’ve discovered the answer to many technical issues using GOOGLE searches.

Weekend at Camp Liberty

Record heat in Middle Tennessee doesn’t deter us from spending the weekend at our Camp Liberty on the Buffalo River. We were also here last weekend.

It’s a different world down here, , , quiet and peaceful beyond description, , , except for the birds singing, , , the frogs croaking, , , and the fresh water “Alf’s Branch” spring next to our camp rippling its way into the Buffalo.

Hot as it was yesterday – 110 degrees Fahrenheit, , , this morning at 6:00am was cool and very nice. As the sun began rising above the Buffalo River, it made for some good photography time, , , here are a few photos taken this morning.

Miss Liberty as you can see is a prominent part of our camp as she watches over the river. She is why we call the camp, “Camp Liberty”.

We always find our way here as we approach the 4th of July, our Independence Day. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to stay through the 4th, , , got some work I have to do out of town, , , maybe next year.

Even so, we are having barbeque ribs tonight with Dorine’s family, Kenny and Cindy. Sure looking forward to it as Kenny is a great cook and it’s always fun to spend time with them.

Enjoy your 4th f July.

6 things that will set you apart from other IT managers

Senior managers of companies need partners who can lead IT organizations in a way that helps the company succeed. When they find an IT manager who is able to do this, quite often they give this person more responsibility.

In many companies, business executives don’t want to spend a lot of time with an IT manager or CIO. When they see their CIO walking toward them, they literally want to find a window to jump out of or a back room to hide in until the CIO leaves.

The reason, , , the CEO believes his CIO is going to do these things:

  • Ask for more money
  • Recommend projects he can’t understand or appreciate
  • Talk in a “techie” language that makes understanding him impossible

The problem is that far too many CEOs view their IT leaders as spenders, managers who like new toys and who are infatuated with technology, and people who talk in acronyms and terms that no one can understand. They just don’t understand what their CIOs are telling them. If this is the case, business executives tend to avoid you.

A better picture of this would scenario be when the CEO can’t wait to sit down to talk with the CIO because he is genuinely interested in what he has to say. Guess what, , , he won’t be interested unless he knows he will be able to understand what his CIO is about to discuss with him.

This only happens if the CIO establishes trust and credibility, , , two key things any IT manager must have to succeed.

You earn trust and credibility, , , it is not given to you just because your title is “CIO”.

“Trust” and “credibility” are similar to “respect”, , , all three must be earned, none of these attributes will be given automatically.

Then a key question is, “How does an IT manager or CIO earn trust and credibility?”

It’s actually simpler than you might think.

There are 6 key things that will distinguish you from other IT managers, , , truly set you apart from the masses of IT managers in the world. Plus, do these things and you will earn the trust of others and establish much needed credibility.

1.  Understand and communicate business value – Succeeding in IT management is not as much about technology as it is in supporting business managers and their units effectively. It’s more about “business value” than about the technology.

Business managers and executives understand business value, , , they “get it” when you discuss issues in business value terms. They don’t understand technology, , , don’t want to, , , and aren’t going to for the most part.

Business value includes the following:

  • Increase revenue
  • Decrease cost
  • Improve productivity
  • Differentiate the company
  • Improve client satisfaction

IT managers must learn to discuss IT initiatives, projects, recommendations, etc. in business value terms, , , when they do, the business manager will start listening and understanding.

2. Project recommendations are always cost justified – There has to be a reasonable benefit for spending money and using company resources to work on a project. These benefits are ideally presented with a Return on Investment (ROI). At a minimum, there needs to be quantifiable and tangible benefits discussed in business value terms that makes a project worthwhile to do.

If you cannot articulate the business value your project recommendation will provide, then you probably shouldn’t be recommending it.

Put your “owner’s hat” on. If you own the company, you only spend money on things that are going to provide some type of business value for the company. You invest in things, , , you don’t simply spend money. If there is no return on investment (i.e., no real benefit), then you keep the money to use it on something that will provide a benefit for your company.

3.  Develop an IT strategy and gain approval – Do this and there is no way your IT organization can be out of sync with your company’s business needs and issues. Too many IT managers simply want to go do the work and avoid the effort associated with developing an IT strategy, presenting it and gaining approval.

Other managers suggest that they can’t develop an IT strategy because there is no formalized company strategy. Unacceptable! Even if the company has no formal company strategy, IT managers still need to develop their IT strategy, present it and gain approval before you spend money and use resources, , , otherwise there is a big risk of IT being out of sync with your company’s needs.

4.  Communicate proactively – IT managers are generally shy and introverted. We don’t particularly like the idea of having to communicate with department managers and executives of the company, , , we just want to be left alone so we can get the work completed.

Shy and introverted people have a lower desire to communicate. An IT manager must break through this challenge and set up processes that forces him to communicate with key department managers (the big users of technology support), senior management, and IT employees.

And when you communicate with business managers, be sure to communicate in business value terms, not in technical terms and acronyms.

5.  Manage within your budget – Many managers in IT don’t seem to realize the importance of managing their organization within financial guidelines, , , and the key piece to this is your operational budget.

IT managers who show they have an appreciation for the financial side of the business and the importance of achieving their financial business plan earn respect from senior executives.

The keys to the kingdom lie in the financial aspects of managing IT support. Look at the components of business value, , , every item has a financial implication.

IT managers who do things that are financially supportive of the company’s success stick out, , , most executives view IT managers as “spenders”, , , not managers who always seek “value add initiatives”.

6.  Deliver projects successfully – Another way you earn credibility is when you deliver projects successfully, , , they are on time, within budget, and meet your client’s expectations.

When you do what you say you will do by delivering projects successfully, you gain trust by the company managers and executives you support.

The CEO will eager to sit down with you to hear what you have to say when you

  • Develop an IT strategy and get confirmation from senior management to insure your team is in sync with the business.
  • Always recommend projects that are cost justified and provide quantifiable business value.
  • Complete projects successfully and demonstrate your IT organization will “do what you say you will do”.
  • Communicate in business value terms.

IT managers who operate in this manner gain credibility and trust in their companies, , , and executives view them as partners who become integral components to the success of the company. As a result, they quite often give these type of managers more responsibility.

So, next time the CEO sees you walking down the hall toward his office, will he run and hide, , , or will he step forward to meet you because he wants to hear what you have to say. When IT managers operate more like business owners, executives usually want to hear what you have to say.

New IT manager opportunity

I received an email recently from one of my Practical IT Manager Newsletter subscribers. In it, he told me he had accepted a new IT manager position with a start-up company, , , a new bank.

His question, “Which books do you recommend I read that you have written to prepare for my new IT manager position?”

Here is what I told him.

I would recommend several things:

  1. Read IT Management-101: fundamentals to achieve more – this is free when signing up for my newsletter and you may already have it. It was rewritten late last year so let me know if you do not have the current copy and I’ll send it to you.
  2. Getting started in any new IT manager role is all about determining what your IT organization should work on and in what priority to work on things so your organization is in sync with your company’s business needs and issues. To get to this, I would follow the processes outlined in two books:
    IT Due Diligence  –  $29.95  –  This book and the tools in it will guide you through a process of conducting an IT assessment to gain an understanding of two key things: 1) Business needs and issues, , , and 2) IT capability and capacity. Once you have a grasp of the demand for IT support and understand what it is you can deliver (supply), you can develop an IT strategy and prioritize the work your team needs to focus on.
    IT Strategy –  $29.95 – Before you start working on things, you should develop an IT strategy recommendation and present it to your senior management team for approval. This is a key step in keeping the IT organization aligned with your company’s business needs. This book walks you through the entire process step by step.
  3. If you are going to build an IT organization, , , you may also want to read IT Organization –  $29.95. This book will give you insight on what you should consider when building an IT organization and includes tools to help you assess specific needs in that regard.
  4. Browse my ITLever BLOG for lots of free articles and download tools –
  5. Take a look at this 20 Minute IT Manager Session – Fast Start for a New IT Manager

There are some bundled options, , , you might want to consider one of them as they are more cost effective:

  1. Practical IT Manager GOLD Series (includes 10 e-books plus the IT Manager ToolKit) – $279.00  BEST SELLING ITEM
  2. IT Manager Institute Self Study – If you are looking for complete training on how to manage an IT organization effectively, this is the class you want – practical and easy to use processes, , ,  same material taught in the classroom program (includes all my books and tools) – $995.00
  3. Practical IT Manager GOLD Membership – monthly subscription gives you access to my entire library of books, tools, and 20 Minute IT Manager training, plus new training and personal coaching every month, plus access to the IT Manager Institute Self Study to achieve ITBMC status. BEST BUY $299.00 per month

Once you have your IT strategy agreed upon by senior management and you get your team focused on the appropriate work, the next thing is “delivering the goods”.

The key to gaining credibility in a company is being able to deliver projects successfully, , , or better put, “Delivering what you say you will deliver.”

You won’t go very far if you can’t deliver projects successfully, , , without credibility you simply won’t be viewed as a successful IT organization.

I use a practical project management approach and a few simple tools to help me manage projects successfully. All are discussed in IT Project Management: a practical approach – $29.95. This book comes complete with a simple and straightforward project management methodology as well as tools to help you achieve success. 

The resources and tools included in these items can help you get off to a fast start in a new manager position.

Best of success,