Tag Archives: cio

Weekly Special #1 from the IT Manager Institute

Interviewing For a CIO Position

This week’s SPECIAL OFFER will prepare you for a CIO interview or other IT level interviews. Plus it includes a FREE DOWNLOAD of my book, What To Look For In a CIO.

Order now below or CLICK HERE to Learn More. Please note, , , the offer shown on this linked page changes frequently.

Mike Sisco’s Top 15 IT Manager Tools

When the Editors of Toolkit Café asked me to provide a list of the Top Ten IT manager tools every IT manager should have, three things happened:

First, I never had really thought about “must have tools” for every IT manager. I had always just focused on individual tools or my entire IT Manager ToolKit.

Second, if we really mean “every IT manager should have them”, then we should create an opportunity so every IT manager can access them, , , so we have, , , read on.

Third, when I tried to identify a Top 10 List, I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10. There are 15 IT manager tools in my IT Manager ToolKit that every IT manager needs and should have.

Let’s start with the list and follow with a short description of each tool and my reasons as to why you need it.

15 Tools Every IT Manager NEEDS

15Tools_all1. IT Employee Skills Matrix
2. IT Training Plan
3. New Employee Orientation Checklist
4. Performance Plan Template
5. Project Schedule Template
6. IT Systems Conversion Project Schedule
7. Move/Relocation Checklist
8. IT Initiatives Portfolio
9. Vendor Support Contacts
10. Escalation procedure
11. Annual IT Accomplishments
12. Client Rescue Guide
13. Cost of Downtime
14. Budget templates
15. IT Support Survey

Every tool can be customized to fit your specific needs and each tool includes instructions to help you use it.


Read on for a Description of Each Tool

IT Staff Skills Matrix1. IT Employee Skills Matrix

One of the first things you want to do in an IT organization is to conduct an IT assessment. A key component of this discovery process is to determine the capability and capacity of your IT staff.  In other words, what can you do and how much can you do in terms of providing IT support.

This simple tool helps you quantify the skills you have and quickly identify the skill gaps that exist so you can prioritize training and education for your team. You can modify it to assess any level of skill you want; use it to quantify both technical and non-technical skills. Learn more.

IT Training Plan - General2. IT Training Plan

Training and education is one of the top motivators for IT employees. It always ranks in the Top 3 reasons employees stay with their company so it’s important to have a strong focus on employee development.

Eliminate knowledge silos and develop depth in your organization with a focused employee training plan when you quantify and prioritize training with this tool.
Learn more

Tool_New IT Employee Orientation3. New Employee Orientation Checklist

It’s important to help a new employee get started so he or she can become productive quickly. It also has morale implications with your IT team as well as with your new employee that you may not realize.

Use this checklist or modify as needed to show new employees you are organized and help them become part of the team quickly. Learn more

Performance Plan4. Performance Plan Template

(with examples)

IT employees have a strong need to know what it takes to be successful and they want to know if they are. Employee performance planning and review time is some of the highest quality time you have with your employees.

Included are three sample performance plans for a Programmer, Business Analyst and Infrastructure Manager. Learn more

Project Schedule template5. Project Schedule Template

The key to gaining IT credibility is delivering projects successfully. You need project schedules to help you manage the project team and complete the tasks on time.

I’ve used this template hundreds of times to manage very large projects. You don’t have to be a PMP to deliver projects successfully, but you do need structure and some simple tools. Learn more

projectplan6. IT Systems Conversion Project Schedule

Sooner or later you are going to convert one of your systems to a new platform. This project schedule template provides a generic list of tasks you can use to get started quickly.

In addition, an actual sample system conversion project schedule is included that will provide additional insight into project management. Learn more

Move Checklist7. Move/Relocation Checklist

There is going to be a time when a department of your company needs to relocate. I’ve been in situations where it seemed like someone was moving every week. Nothing hurts IT credibility more than when these relocations go poorly.

Prepare with a move/relocation checklist that helps you support your client by ensuring future relocations go smoothly. Learn more

IT Initiatives Portfolio8. IT Initiatives Portfolio

This little tool is so simple yet powerful. A couple of pages will show everyone how effective your IT organization delivers projects. Summarizes exactly what you need to know in regards to your project initiatives:
• On time
• Within budget
• Results achieved
• Meets client needs
• Successful (Yes or No)
Learn more

Vendor Contact List9. Vendor Support Contacts

When you need vendor support you often need it fast. Keep your vendor contact information close by and make it available to your Help Desk and all your IT managers.  You’re going to need it. Learn more

escalation procedure - loss of connectivity10. Escalation procedure

There are events that take place when you need to escalate IT support to a higher level such as a remote office losing connectivity, a data interface goes down, or a server crash.

Developing practical escalation procedures puts you ahead of the game when these problems occur and positions your organization to be highly responsive.
Learn more

Annual IT Accomplishments11. Annual IT Accomplishments

No one knows what the IT organization is accomplishing if you don’t tell them. I was shocked when assembling data for an annual IT Kickoff. We had accomplished so much more than I realized.

Right then I knew that if I had forgotten as the manager, then my clients and senior managers wouldn’t remember either. From that point I began tracking our accomplishments so we could communicate them with all groups in the company. Learn more

Client Rescue Guide12. Client Rescue Guide

Early in my career an unhappy client intimidated me. Maybe that’s happened to you. Over the years I learned that a “problem client” is simply an opportunity in disguise.

Identify the client’s issues and address them and you have a partner instead of a headache. This template walks you through a process to do just that. Learn more

costofdowntime13. Cost of Downtime

Senior managers don’t understand technology nor want to, but you have to gain their approval to fund many technical projects that are necessary for the company.

This can be especially difficult when trying to discuss infrastructure projects, , , executives don’t get “routers and switches”. A tool that can help you is to educate them on the “cost of downtime”.

This practical tool will help you quantify the downtime implications in lost productivity for any technology in your company, even down to a single PC or printer. Learn more

Budget Templates14. Budget templates

Developing an IT budget should be fairly quick work, but it is a long and tiring process for many IT managers. It was for me too until I developed a few templates to help me in the process.

This tool is actually several templates and can help streamline your IT operational and capital budgeting effort. Learn more

IT Support Survey15. IT Support Survey

At the end of the day, your client’s perspective of how well your IT organization is performing is your measurement of success. You need to be aware of how they feel about IT performance.

To do this, I use a simple survey like this tool but I don’t send it out and expect to get them completed and returned. Instead, I interview my clients and get much more information.

Use this survey form or modify it to determine client perspectives on:
• IT responsiveness
• IT focus
• IT quality
• IT professionalism
Learn more

The tools and templates above have helped me significantly, and I hope you receive value in using them.

when you subscribe to
ToolKit Cafe

There are over 100 tools and templates in the IT Manager ToolKit. To learn more  click here.

Two more IT Manager Institutes held

We held two more IT Manager Institutes in September and October with 35 IT managers from 12 countries attending.

#52 – Columbia, TN – September 2012

#53 – Dubai, United Arab Emirates – October 2012

We have delivered 53 IT Manager Institute programs since 2003. The IT Business Manager Certification (ITBMC) was added in 2005 with a joint development venture with Belmont University. The Institute is considered by many as one of the best and most practical IT manager development programs in the industry.

6 rules in building an IT organization

There are many things to consider when building an IT organization. Here are six rules you should consider:

#1 – Find your replacement and position to fill your shoes.
Take this seriously. It’s hard to be promoted and gain additional responsibility in a company when your organization is completely dependent upon you to manage it.

 #2 – If there is a gap, IT must close it.
Often there is a gap between what the IT organization is working on versus what your client really needs from you. It is up to you to determine if there is a gap first of all and if so, you must take the initiative to close it. It is not the client’s responsibility.

#3 – Right-size the organization.
Understand that most CEO’s want to spend little to nothing in IT. You should spend the lowest possible amount that is sufficient to support your business. Company need should dictate the size, skills, , , even the organizational structure of IT.

#4 – You must earn respect.
Respect is not a given, , , you earn it every day. Employees and clients may respect the position you hold but they won’t respect you unless you deliver what you say you will, it provides business value, and you treat others with respect.

#5 – Managing people is a specialized skill.
Teamwork is not an easy thing for IT people, , , over 90% are independent who like to do things themselves and do it their way. Building an organization has a lot to do with developing a culture of teamwork with people who are not particularly inclined to work on teams.

#6 – Great client service is built.
World class client service only happens if the manager makes it happen. Again, this is not necessarily something that comes natural to highly independent people. You must create a culture built around client service.

Find good people, focus them on the business need of your company and coach them on ways to be responsive the demands of the business.

Best of success.

Should your CIO be technical?

This is a long-standing debate in the IT world, , , should a CIO be technical or not?

I’ll give you my perspective having managed IT organizations at a CIO level for more than 20 years.

The answer you will get from me is “No, , , definitely not.”

Before you get mad and leave, let me explain.

I was technical early in my career and when I got an opportunity to manager I tried to continue doing some of the things that helped me achieve success as a technician. I tried to do much of the technical work.

The problem was that I was doing more of the work than I should have been doing and not requiring the work to be done by my IT staff. I was having a tremendous challenge in transitioning from technical expert to manager.

Let me describe it slightly different, , , difficulty in becoming a business manager.

In reality, I was stealing from my employees but didn’t realize it. I was still trying to be the hero like a technical expert tries to do in an IT organization by showing my boss “what I can do”.

I learned a hard but valuable lesson from this first CEO I worked for as an IT manager. He told me, “Mike it’s no longer important what you can do, , , but what you can get accomplished through your team. You can’t do it all and certainly can’t get enough accomplished yourself.”

This lesson was ingrained in my head and I’ve never forgotten it.

He wasn’t telling me I shouldn’t be technical but he was suggesting I needed to delegate and depend upon my IT staff much more.

It’s great to have a technical perspective, but a manager should spend time learning about management processes, strategic planning, how to communicate effectively, and how to coach and motivate IT employees, etc. These are the things that will make you successful as an IT manager, not being the technical doer.

Your success will be based upon what your team gets accomplished for the company.  The more you can organize and focus your team to do what’s needed by your company the more successful you will be, , , it’s about your organization becoming successful, not you.

As an IT manager or CIO, you now have a full-time job learning about the business issues and needs of each of the departments in your company and then developing IT support strategies and plans to address these needs.

Management is a full-time job, , , and IT management is more than a full-time job. There is much to learn and considerable amount to do, , , every day.

My recommendation is that you must leave your technical skills behind and accelerate your learning in areas of:

  • communication
  • strategy
  • negotiation
  • business understanding
  • budgeting
  • project management
  • employee development and motivation
  • planning skills
  • presentation skills

Most CIO’s come from technology backgrounds just like I did, but I have seen a few very effective CIO’s that had no technical background at all. What they did have was excellent management skills and understanding of what a manager role was all about, , , defining appropriate goals and objectives for your team and then organizing and focusing the team to achieve them.

Best of success in your transition from technical expert to business manager.

Why playing in the US Open is like managing an IT organization

The US Open golf tournament started today at Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C. I’ll spend the next four days glued to the TV with my son, Eddie. Major golf tournaments are some of the best father-son times we have and the US Open is at the top.

In 1992 Eddie, Dorine, and I flew to California to attend the US Open held at Pebble Beach that year. It was six months before Eddie’s auto accident which changed all of our lives forever, , , but one thing has not changed, , , the fun we get in watching US Open golf together. It is one of the best Father’s Day gifts I receive every year.

The title of this post is, Why playing in the US Open is like managing an IT organization. You might think this parallel to be a bit strange, but if you read on you will understand why I think there are similarities.

First of all, , , I played competitive golf in high school, college, and in the Marine Corps, , , plus many tournaments since then. Lots of golf tournaments.

I was also a CIO and IT manager for over 20 years, , , and I have seen similar types of things occur in tournament golfer and CIO.

Here are a few things that will unfold at the US Open this week that are similar to what takes place with CIO’s.

    • 156 players will start the 4-day tournament. After 2 days, the tournament cuts the field to the top 60 players and ties or anyone within 10 strokes of the lead. IT parallel – CIO’s get cut from their companies if they do not perform, , , it is one of the highest turnover executive positions in a company. 
    • Prior to the tournament, players practice and determine how to play each hole the best depending upon where the tees and pins are placed. IT parallel – A CIO of a new company conducts an IT assessment to determine what his team should work on.
    • Professional golfers develop a tournament strategy for the conditions and difficulties of the course. IT parallel – CIO’s develop an IT strategy to attack the business needs and issues of the company.
    • Conditions change, , , weather, pin placements, who you play with, playing conditions of the course. IT parallel – A CIO’s environment changes almost daily as business needs and issues change, , , people come and go, , , and technology changes.
    • Players will have to persevere through a difficult stretch of holes, , , how they respond can decide a winner or loser of the tournament. IT parallel – Every day will not be a great day as a CIO, , , how you deal with adversity determines how successful you will be.
    • Unexpected events happen, , , an errant tee shot can disrupt a great round unexpectedly. IT parallel – A lightning storm, flood, hurricane or unexpected event can turn your IT world upside down in a moment. You have to have contingency plans to weather the storm.

    It will be interesting to watch the ebb and flow of play in this week’s US Open at Congressional. Just watching the morning play you can tell it is going to be a tough test. It’s the same for a CIO, , , no one said it would be easy but with the right tools, preparation and a positive mental attitude your chances are much better in both professions.

What’s different about the ITBMC certification?

Certifications have become pretty much the norm in the IT world. Let’s see, there are dozens of technical certifications, project management certifications, and even a few management certifications. In fact, you can get a certification on almost anything in the IT world, , , it seems that IT people really like certifications.

I may be an exception, , , ,they don’t mean that much to me and never have. The same thing goes for titles, , , call me whatever you choose, just pay me well, let me do my job, and recognize me for the results I get.

But, , , titles and certifications are important for a lot of your people so you don’t want to underestimate the importance in someone else’s mind. In addition, some certifications are now required just to get in the door for an interview with some companies.

In reality, a certification doesn’t mean you can actually do the job well, , , it just means you have received the knowledge and been certified by passing an exam in many cases.

You probably know my company offers the IT Business Manager Certification, ITBMC. I never would have if not for the encouragement of the managers who attended our first few IT Manager Institute programs.

I’ll deliver the 44th and 45th IT Manager Institute program this month and I can tell you that the ITBMC certification has probably been one of the reasons for the longevity and success of the program, , , this is our 9th year in delivering the program with hundreds around the world to receive their ITBMC status.

I can hardly wait to deliver each new class, , , they are a lot of fun and seeing the enthusiasm for the program is very rewarding.

At the end of the day
Certifications do not guarantee you will be successful. What they indicate is that you have received knowledge about a particular subject and passed an exam that suggests you have a good comprehension of the material.

Execution is something else, , , you still have to do the work that is required in order to achieve success.

That’s why I structured the IT Manager Institute program to not only deliver the material of what to do and how to go about it in class, , , I also give you the tools to make it happen plus some takeaways to help you implement the IT Management Process we teach to achieve more success. Things like:

  • 30 Day Action Plan, , , specific steps to take when you get home
  • My entire library of e-Books that reinforce the class presentations
  • IT Manager ToolKit containing 102 tools and templates to use immediately or modify as needed
  • Ongoing support and access to me for assistance

The IT Manager Institute program is unique in many ways because of how we structure the class and also the additional tools and resources you take back to your company. Because the class follows a structured process and is delivered in a “how to” format, your retention is better, , , plus you have many resources to help you remember things from the class.

The bottom line
I think the key to any certification is how well people respond to the program. In our case, we have a 100% positive satisfaction from those who have attended. The reason is simple, , , the practical processes and tools are easily understood and put into practice, , ,  and they work.

It’s one thing to understand a concept. To succeed, you have to actually do the work and that’s why the IT Manager Institute program is structured so you can follow specific steps and use tools designed for specific uses that lead to more success in an IT manager role.

An ITBMC beside your name says something other than signifying a technical skill. ITBMC says you have learned the importance for your IT organization to deliver tangible and quantifiable business value in support of your company. It also indicates an understanding that IT initiatives are driven by business needs and issues and that every initiative you recommend will be cost justified and targeted to some specific business value.

Why is this important? It tells senior managers of your company you have a business perspective when managing your IT organization, , , not so focused on technology and missing the tremendous business leverage opportunities your IT organization offers your company.

Business managers become business partners, , , and without having these “partners” in your company, your success will be limited.

As I prepare for next week’s class, I get a high sense of enthusiasm in thinking about meeting a whole new group of IT managers and giving them the tools and resources that potentially changes their life and boosts their career.

They will leave with the knowledge and tools to make it happen, , , but they still have to do the work just as with anything in life.

Check out Institute class photos at https://itlever.com/institute-photos/

More photos at http://www.mde.net/institute/page4.html

Solve the IT management maze with an IT Management Process

Does this look like what you found when you first became an IT manager?

If so, it’s not really surprising, , , it’s what I discovered and millions of managers around the world discover when they first get their BIG OPPORTUNITY.

Managing an IT organization can seem like one big complicated maze.

Well, it really is unless you have a process to follow and tools to help you achieve the things that are necessary for IT management success.

In my case, I had to learn the hard way about many things, , , but I was also fortunate to have some very strong managers around me to learn from. Not all of them were IT managers, , , some had very little knowledge of technology or in understanding IT employees, , , but they possessed excellent management skills and were good resources to learn from.

Don’t limit yourself to learning from only IT managers, , , it limits your possibilities. It’s going to be helpful to your career to learn things from company executives, sales and marketing, , , Human Resources, , , your client department managers, , , even vendor managers.

What you also need is a proven management process, , , a path to follow that will help you find your way through the maze. There are obstacles at every turn in an IT manager role, , , some can even be deadly impediments to your career.

Here is the management process I use in managing an IT organization.

There are 8 key components:

1.  Assess – Conduct an IT assessment to determine what the business needs and issues are plus what your IT organization’s capabilities and capacity is. Once you understand the “demand and supply”, you can develop a plan of attack.

2.  Plan – Develop an immediate 30-90 day tactical strategy and once you get your people focused on it you can start working on developing your long term strategy.

3.  Projects and Processes –  Delivering projects successfully is the key to credibility and there are key support processes you must put into place in order to support your clients effectively.

4.  Organization – You must build an appropriate IT organization and when you have people, you need to motivate them and develop their skills to create a world class support organization.

5.  Focus –  Evert aspect of your organization needs clear focus, from the individual employee to the entire organization.

6.  Financials and Assets –  Managing the financial side of your business and keeping track of technology assets becomes a key part of managing a successful IT operation.

7.  Measure –  To improve, it is important to know where you are and whether you are making positive strides, , , practical measurements will spell it out for you.

8.  Communicate –  What ties it all together and makes such a powerful difference is being able to communicate well.

CLICK HERE to purchase the 20 Minute IT Manager video for only $9.99 to learn more.

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CLICK HERE for a special 50% discount offer for ITLever Blog readers – only $249.00.

Attend an IT Manager Institute class or access the Self Study program to learn step by step how to become a successful IT manager.

IT Manager Institute classes — www.mde.net/institute

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“You really know how to work with an Administrative Assistant”

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that a senior Administrative Assistant I worked with in a consulting engagement told me, “You really know how to work with an Administrative Assistant.”

My answer was something to the effect of, “I’ve worked with and have been trained by some very capable Administrative Assistants.”

I didn’t tell you in yesterday’s ITLever post why I think some believe I know how to work well with Administrative Assistant professionals, , , so here are some thoughts that may explain.

First, I respect what they do and understand how important their role is for an IT organization. An Administrative Assistant can literally make or break your organization.

Respect is a two-way experience. You won’t get respect unless you respect the other person and genuinely appreciate what they do for your team.

Second, what a good Administrative Assistant does will boost your productivity and with that in mind, you want to do everything you can that helps your assistant do their work well.

What this means is that managers need to follow a few guidelines:

  • Give clear definition of what you expect when making an assignment.
  • Provide simple and straightforward instructions.
  • Give your assistant examples if it helps her, or him, understand what you are looking for.
  • Don’t assume your assistant knows what you want, , , explain it.
  • Provide feedback and coach your assistant on what should have been handled differently or what can make the end product of the work better, , , coach.
  • Be supportive and give your assistant the tools to do the job.
  • Provide training and education to boost your assistant’s skills.
  • Ask your assistant for recommendations to improve your IT processes.
  • Ask your assistant what you can do to help her do a better job.
  • Give your assistant ownership of certain areas of work such as developing monthly reports, maintaining asset inventories, etc.

I guess my real message is that it helps when you “work with” someone and treat them like a partner rather than looking at your assistant as someone who “works for” you. Obviously, the reporting relationship is that she or he does work for you, but when you treat them like a “partner”, it affects how you work with the person, how you communicate with them, and even how much effort you place into providing instructions about a new project.

Take the time and make the extra effort like you would with a partner and you will probably see much better results from your assistant’s efforts.

Be careful when cutting IT expenses you don’t cut “muscle”

The big movement in companies for well over a year now has been to cut expenses and reduce the cost of operations. The IT department has not been immune to this push from the top of companies nor should it be.

When revenues decline, stockholders still expect the companies they invest in to operate profitably and to keep the stock price up. What this means is that we have to find cost savings.

I’m a strong proponent of managing company expenses in line with revenues. I’m also a supporter of understanding the IT expense as a percent of company revenue and using it as a measurement guideline.

The problem comes into play when cost cutting initiatives cut into “muscle” as opposed to eliminating “fat”.  There are critical resource requirements to provide basic levels of technology support. In normal cases, a few areas need to have some amount of backup or depth in case a key member of the team leaves for some reason.

When you begin any cost cutting initiative, you should take a very close look at the support needs of the company and how you are organized to provide that support. Identify critical support requirements that must be in place to support core competencies of the company, i.e. the IT “muscle” that’s required.

You want to try to eliminate these key resources and expenses related to the support they provide from your list of potential cost cuts. By identifying the true “muscle” of your IT organization, you help ensure that the primary business support need will be taken care of. Be objective with this exercise and validate with senior management.

If you have “star” staff members in areas that are being looked at to be eliminated, consider shifting them to your core competency support areas, , , but when you do, you may still have to cut staff somewhere in the organization. The point is that the team you want to end up with should be the very best of the staff you have today and when you have to eliminate staff, you owe it to your team and the company to lose the weakest of the bunch.

You must stay objective when doing this – it is a tough assignment.

Always try to find business opportunities that allow you to make IT investments that will save the company much more than what will be saved by cutting IT expense. Most companies have these opportunities but if you wait until the “cost cutting” message comes down, it is too late.

One of your best assets is a track record of success and one that shows you constantly focus on things that provide business value to your company. The more you work in IT the more you will discover that the biggest cost saving opportunities are things you can do to help other departments in the company, , , not usually what you can save in IT. Don’t rule out technology cost savings, , , just be aware there may be bigger fish elsewhere in your company.