Tag Archives: it management

Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 2

success6Continuing with the three key things you need to do in regards to delivering projects successfully on your way to establishing IT credibility, , , this is Step 2 of 3.

Let’s review the three things I listed in the overview article. They are:
1.  Build an appropriate project schedule and manage projects to deliver on time, within budget and meet your client’s expectations.
2.  Communicate the status of active projects.
3.  Demonstrate your organization’s project success rate and the benefits derived from your efforts.

At any given time, your IT organization will have several active projects. It’s obviously important for you to execute and complete them successfully, , , on time, within budget and meeting client needs as we talked about for Step-1 in the last article.

It’s also important for you to keep interested parties aware of where you are and what’s going on in your IT organization, , , specifically senior managers of your company. You must communicate effectively.

Let me share a recent experience. Last year I took on a consulting engagement to provide interim IT management services for an organization while they looked for an IT Director. When I got there it was clear there were many projects in the works.

What was not clear was that there was nothing in place so we could see the landscape of active projects. What I mean by this is that nothing was in place so we could even tell how many projects were underway or being positioned to get started.

blindfoldedAs I mentioned in the overview article, this is like trying to drive blindfolded, , , pretty much impossible to be successful.

Understanding the need to be able to see the active project landscape and to communicate the status and key issues of each project, I quickly developed a simple monthly Project Summary Report. In fact, I think I developed this the first week I was there because I needed to know what was going on.

When I completed my initial discovery work and finished the report for the first time it showed we had over 30 projects underway. It was a surprise to some. Over the next few weeks we discovered even more projects so the actual total was over 40 active projects being worked on or projects that were getting started.

Here is a blank form from the one I created. Click on the image for a closer look.

Project Summary Report

Let’s go through it so you better understand how effective this simple tool can be in communicating the status of active projects.

There are 4 main parts to this monthly project summary report:

1.  Project Name – Descriptive name of the project.

2.  Project Manager – Who you look to for additional information and who is accountable for the project’s success.

3.  Key Issues List – Below each project name there is room to list up to 6 key issues or important comments for each project.

4.  Timeline – I used the area shaded in beige to show milestones that I thought  important enough to communicate. I’ll give you an example in just a minute.

We had all types of active projects underway, , , big ones, smaller ones, , , projects that involved many people to projects that involved very few people, , , expensive and not so expensive projects, , , and projects that would take many months to complete to those that completed in just a few months, , , all types.

Many of our projects required 4 to 6 months or longer to complete. For these, I felt it important to be able to communicate certain milestones. For example, if we were installing a new software application, I wanted to show the installation date, file build time frame, testing and training time frames and targeted Go Live month.

Below is an example:

Project Summary_sample

First thing to notice is that I updated the month cells to reflect current time frames.In this sample, I just made up two fictitious projects and used upcoming months for 2013 and 2014.

Under each Project name are the key issues I think need to be communicated.

And finally, I color coded and inserted short descriptions in the top row of each project to reflect:
– when we are starting the projects (green shaded cells)
– when certain real project work takes place (yellow cells)
– when the Go Live or launch month is targeted (red cells)

You can use any color code you desire, , , the important thing is that this helps you see the key timeline milestones of each project as well as the key issues for each project.

Not only will this simple tool help you stay abreast of what’s going on in your IT organization, it’s a great aide in communicating IT project activity to others who need to know, , , including your boss.

Another thing you can do if you want to be able to view everything on one or two pages is that you can copy your workbook to a new one and delete all the key issues rows to create a higher level summary of all projects. This is great for senior executives because they usually aren’t so much interested in the key issues as they are in just having an idea of what the IT organization is working on.

Here is a sample:

project summary_sample-executive

What I’ve found to be the easiest is to update the workbook that includes the key issues. Then, when you are done with updating it copy the entire workbook to a new tab called “Executive Summary” and then strip out the key issues rows. It’s quicker and insures both worksheets are consistent with one another.

This tool is simple and quick to start using. More importantly it helps you communicate every month where you are and what’s going on in your IT organization, , , something you cannot afford to neglect.

Effective communication contributes to IT credibility as much as completing the projects successfully, , , both are required!!

it project management ebookMore details of the entire project management process and customizable tools I use are available in my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach

21 Secrets Every IT Manager MUST Know

21 Secrets Every IT Manager Must KnowLast week at our 56th IT Manager Institute in Dubai I announced my new book.

21 Secrets Every IT Manager Should MUST Know

Secret #8, Teamwork is not automatic in IT was posted the other day that will give you a glimpse into the book.


IT managers tend to discount or pay little attention to these “secrets”, , , something that can create real challenges for you and your IT organization.

21 Secrets has been in development for some time. I wanted to write this one because there are many issues that can hinder your IT success, , , even undermine your credibility. Becoming aware of these “land mines” can make a positive difference in your success.

You may purchase the book at http://itmanagerstore.com/books/21-secrets-every-it-manager-must-know/.

IT Management-101: fundamentals to achieve more

Over the next few days I plan to post a quick article highlighting each of the new books in the Practical IT Manager GOLD Series.

At the end of each post, I’ll include a FREE IT manager tool discussed in the book you may download and use.

IT Management-101: fundamentals to achieve more
We distributed well over 300,000 copies of the original book, , , the new version is much better.

Learn about the Triple Threat to IT Success, , , the three key things that cause IT failure. You will also learn about what makes an IT employee “tick”. Some of these traits are extremely helpful as a technology expert but create big challenges for you as an IT manager. This book is a foundation every IT manager should have.

This is the publication that puts an IT manager’s responsibility into perspective. Managing technology resources can be much easier if you know what to do, how to do it, and have tools with examples to help you.

Eleven key traits of successful IT managers are emphasized that will leapfrog you past other managers. Tools are included to help you assess an IT situation and to gain insight to insure your team is in sync with your company’s needs.

IT Management-101 provides a solid foundation on which to build upon in developing your IT management skills and capabilities, , , and to achieve more™ success.

Table of Contents

Sample excerpts


Buy Now – $29.95, , , or
Download FREE when joining my free Practical IT Manager Newsletter
CLICK HERE for information on the Practical IT Manager GOLD Series.

FREE Tool from the book
— New IT Employee Orientation/Start-up List —
One of the things you want to do with any new employee is to get them productive quickly. This is the checklist I’ve used to help me integrate dozens of new IT employees into our organization quickly. I use this tool and expect my IT managers to use something like it to ensure we get new employees “up and running”  and help them feel part of the team quickly.  Download Now

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.

Manage by walking around

Hopefully, you get out of your office and visit your employees in their work areas. They need to see you somewhere other than in your office.

You may not be aware but this is difficult for many IT managers. The reason is because 70% of us are shy and more introverted, , , socializing is not what we are very good at, unless it’s with our buddies, , , our immediate network.

Walking around can do a lot for you. It gives you an opportunity to talk with your employees in an informal way, , , a good thing. It also allows you to observe what’s going on, , , you can tell if people are focused or if they are idle and doing a lot of non-work activities. It also gives you an opportunity to ask about the status of important work certain people are working on.

Walk up on two people who are talking with one another and they get very quiet upon seeing you come down the hallway could mean there is something going on. There may not be anything to it but if employees consistently get quiet when you are around a couple of things may be taking place:

  • They aren’t comfortable with you
  • They are discussing things they don’t want you to hear
  • They are complaining to one another

This might not be the case but if conversations consistently end upon me walking into the room, I’m going to do some digging to see if we have a morale problem or if something’s going on that I might need to know about.

I can tell you that walking around the office and socializing with my employees is difficult for me, so I have to force myself to do it, , , and the only reason I do is because I understand the value in doing it.

My point, , , you have to overcome your weaknesses and do things that will force you to do what you need to do. Otherwise, it won’t happen and you will miss out on the positive results you get from doing them.

Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?

Early in my management career I inherited a small IT support group of programmers and business analysts. It was a very bright and capable staff although they were pretty young.

We had a client who always had problems during their month-end process. I had heard about these problems before I joined the group. Sure enough, at the end of the very first month I’m the manager, the client had problems and I take a call from their CFO.

I asked several questions but did not receive any feedback that told me what the problem was. I discounted the issue and thought that maybe it was an anomaly. This would prove to be a mistake.

At the end of the 2nd month, guess what happened. Yes, , , they have problems again. This time I call the client and we decide to have a couple of people visit their office during the next month’s process.

I took two of my most capable people, , , a BA and a programmer to the client to observe the End of Month process during the 3rd month I was the support manager. Our mission, , , identify what the problem is and why it is happening. Once we know what the situation is, we can fix the problem.

The key problem was identified quickly. What was happening was that the client had to run several large detail reports prior to their month end backups every month. Because these reports were not completing in time, several people were kicking off the same report, , , in other words, the same report was being run three or four times simultaneously.

This level of systems activity was slowing the system down significantly, , , so much so that before the reports could finish they had to be cancelled so the client could run their month end backup processes.

We recommended the client put into place a “Month End Jobs Coordinator” to insure only one request of a job could be run at any given time. This improved systems performance and these large reports now had plenty of time to finish running in the months ahead. This simple management supervision corrected the problem completely.

This issue of the “right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” can cause a lot of problems. Often, the pain is significant and the remedy is something that’s very simple.

IT Manager Institute

I’ll deliver the 46th IT Manager Institute in Columbia, TN on September 20-23, 2011. It is the only one planned for the remainder of the year.

Graymere Country Club – site of the 46th IT Manager Institute

I reduced my travel this year to focus on a couple of major projects and participants in this class will receive new products I plan to announce soon.

Reserve your seat now and join me in the most practical “how to” IT manager training in the industry. There is a simple reason we have 100% positive feedback from everyone who attends this class, , , it works!!

Details are at www.mde.net/institute

Read testimonials at www.mde.net/institute/page4.html

See photos at www.itlever.com/institute-photos

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:

–  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.

–  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.

Hundreds of free IT Downloads at IT Business Edge

Do you know about IT Business Edge (www.itbusinessedge.com)?

Have you seen their IT Downloads section?

If not, you are missing one of the best values and IT manager resources in our industry, , , hundreds of free IT tools and templates downloads.

Lots of informative tips, insights, and tools, , , and easy to find what you are looking for with a search. Search by keyword or browse through the Type or Topics lists. You can even see what the most popular downloads are and what people are downloading.

I have provided several downloads for ITBE’s site including the following:

  • Cost of Downtime Calculator
  • IT Initiatives Portfolio
  • Annual IT Accomplishments
  • Annual IT Survey
  • Client Rescue Guide
  • , , , and many more

IT Business Edge has been a great partner since 2004. This week, I agreed to work on a special project for them as they launch a new product to enhance the content on their site, , , look for an announcement soon.

ITBE is a free subscription and offers the IT manager community a significant amount of insight and tools to help you manage your business.

Check ITBE out at www.itbusinessedge.com.

Another “industry average” to be careful with

Many CEO’s monitor IT spending by taking a look at a calculation called the IT Expense as a Percentage of Revenue. A good CEO knows about what his IT organization should spend, , , he may even have an industry average he uses to compare your spending with the rest of the industry.

Using this calculation is a good thing if used in the right context, , , but you need to be careful.

Let’s say your industry average is 2.5%. In other words, an average company in your industry spends 2.5% of revenue on IT. If your company has $500 million in annual revenue, that means your IT organization spends about $12.5 million a year if you are at the “industry average”.

What if you are spending $17.5 million (3.5% of revenue), , , or maybe 5% of revenue, twice the industry average? Does this mean you are doing a poor job in managing your IT organization?

No, , , definitely not. It certainly could mean you are doing a poor job, but the IT spending percentage of revenue alone does not tell the whole story.

Take a look at this example I use in my IT Manager Institute class.

In this example we have two companies with about the same revenue and the same number of clients, , , but that’s where the similarities end. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) is quite different. Some call this operating income.

Company A is much more profitable than Company B. Why is that?

Well, there could be many reasons, but two reasons show up on the slide. First, Company A is much more automated. Automation tends to indicate the company is much more productive and has fewer clerical functions and processes less paper, , ,  which reduces cost.

The second reason is because Company B is spending a lot more in IT. In fact, they are spending over twice as much money in IT than Company A spends.


The slide tells you the reason. Company B has many more technology platforms and multiple data centers. The background you don’t see that’s provided in the class is that Company A grew by simply adding new business. Company B grew by acquisition and has not consolidated the technologies.

Both companies are the same revenue size but have very different situations.

In class, I ask a key question, , , “Which IT organization is doing the best job?”

Take a look at the graphic below again and answer the question before moving on. Which company is doing the best job, , , Company A who is spending 2.5% of revenue for IT (let’s also say this is the industry average), , , or Company B who is spending 5.8% of revenue for IT (over twice the industry average)?

In every class, most will say that the CIO in Company A is doing a better job. This is the answer I get almost every time.

The answer is, “I can’t tell who is doing a better job in managing their IT organization, , , until I conduct an IT assessment and determine what’s going on and what the issues are.”

Certainly Company B is spending a lot more money than Company A, , , but even on the slide with very little information I can see that this IT manager has more to deal with.

Once you conduct an IT assessment on both companies, you might determine that Company B should be spending 7% of revenue to attack the issues it has. Company B’s CIO might actually be doing a much better job than Company A’s CIO, even though he is spending over twice the money for the same size business.

The point
The message here is that you have to be careful with industry averages. They tell you what the average is for all companies in the industry, , , but your company’s situation determines at what level you should be performing. You have to understand the variables that exist before coming to any meaningful conclusion.

Company B will need to spend more in IT than Company A for some amount of time until more of the opportunities are achieved and Company B begins to catch up with Company A.

Over time, Company B becomes more profitable as IT spending decreases and more automation is developed.