Tag Archives: it manager

Cut through the chaos

IT managers have a very tough job. At times it can be almost overwhelming with all the issues you deal with on a daily basis.

  • Client priorities change, , , quite a bit don’t they?
  • Technology is changing faster than ever. We love this but it creates lots of pressure for us to manage.
  • Employees, , , well, something is going on with them all the time.

When all of these changes happen it creates clutter and chaos in an IT manager’s world, , , so much clutter that you can even get to a point where you don’t know what to focus on. I’ve even seen managers freeze up because they are so overwhelmed.

I’ve been there and can even experience the feeling of being overwhelmed today if I allow it in my life.

OK, so what do we do about it?

Well, what breaks through chaos is

FOCUS

At any given time each of us have a lot of things we need to accomplish. Let’s call it our “list of to do’s”. This list can be anything from a minor item like completing a travel expense report to a major task like developing next year’s budget.

I always have a long list of TO-DO’s, , , ALWAYS!!!  You are probably just like me in this regard. It’s normal to have 20 or more important things on your TO-DO List at any given point of time.

If you aren’t careful, this daunting list will put you into a sort of “stalemate” where you can’t quite figure out what you need to focus on. It’s awful when this happens.

It’s obvious we can’t get everything done immediately, but our need to address everything nags at us to do it all NOW. When this happens, we start analyzing and debating within ourselves about what to do. What can happen is that we don’t do anything and waste valuable time which adds to our frustration.

The worst thing you can do is DO NOTHING!

The solution is to organize your TO-DO’s and prioritize them so you can FOCUS. What I’ve done for 30 years is to create a WEEKLY TO-DO LIST that does a few things:

  1. Quantifies all my TO-DO’s (projects, miscellaneous, and personal TO-DO’s)
  2. Organizes my workload so I can see the entire list of things I need to accomplish
  3. Allows me to prioritize the list so I work on the most important items first
  4. Gives me a sense of accomplishment when I start ticking items off the list as they are completed

Weekly To-Do’s work best for me. Some prefer a monthly list and I know a few who work with Daily To-Do’s. Use whatever method works best for you.

My process works like this:
STEP-1 – Develop an Annual Goals and Objectives List. This includes the major things I want to accomplish during the year. I do this during the holidays and the first week of every New Year. It’s a tradition I look forward to each year.

STEP-2 – At the beginning of each month I list the TO-Do’s I need to accomplish this month. I refer to the Annual Goals List to be sure I’m focusing on things that help me achieve these goals.

STEP-3 – Every weekend I create a WEEKLY TO-DO LIST from my monthly objectives list. This is what I focus on during the week and I work hard to accomplish everything on the list. I identify the priorities of what is on the list so I work on the most important items early.

STEP-4 – Emergency items or important issues come up from “out of the blue”. These items are added to this week’s list.

STEP-5 – The following weekend I move any unfinished tasks to next week’s TO-DO List and add new items from the monthly list that need to prioritized.

I have used pencil and paper combined with an EXCEL spreadsheet most of my life. Recently I discovered a system that can assist in this process that is light years ahead of my manual system. It is so powerful that I’ve made a commitment to work with the company to do some things that will benefit IT managers. I’ll announce something major soon so watch for my posts.

My Weekly TO-DO List is very simple as you can see below. It doesn’t need to be complex. All you need is the Task and a column to put a priority on it. For my Annual and Monthly Lists, I use A, B, and C. For my Weekly List, I number them to give them a chronological priority.

Having a TO-DO List in front of you helps you stay on track and it will help you get more things done. Whenever you begin feeling overwhelmed, , , go back to your TO-DO List and knock out a few items. It will “pump you up”.

Coach employees the fundamentals of IT support

Excellent client service does not happen on its own. It happens because IT managers create the proper environment and teach their IT employees what is required to deliver effective client service.

 

A big part of a manager’s job is teaching and coaching. It doesn’t matter if you are on a sports team or in a professional IT support environment.

 

Good managers coach and reinforce the fundamentals of what it takes to be successful. They teach at the individual level to help each employee succeed. When individuals succeed collectively, the team succeeds.

 

What are IT support fundamentals?

Well, my list is pretty simple as you might expect. They include the following:

 

1.  Follow-up  –  This is one of the most important of all traits we need. Simply put, when something is committed to a client, our staff needs to follow-up and close out their promise. In other words, “Do what you say you will do.”

 

2.  Communicate effectively  –   IT people tend to lack good communication skills. It’s important for you to coach your employees on what and how to communicate with our clients, senior management, and each other.

 

3.  Project management  –  Delivering  projects successfully is how IT organizations achieve credibility. You may need to teach your employees how to work on projects or how to manage them. In fact, you may need to create a project management culture if it does not exist.

 

4.  Quality  –  We want our employees to do the job right and to do their tasks completely, , , high quality. Finish the job and do the work once by doing it right.

 

5.  Productivity  –  At the end of the day, how much an employee accomplishes is as important as how well they do something. Time management is essential and is a great coaching opportunity.

 

6.  Professional conduct  –  “Dress for success!”, they say. Coach employees how to conduct themselves at work and understanding the importance of looking professionally is very important for IT success.

 

7.  Being on time  –  Seems like a small point but it’s a major issue. Being on time for meetings, completing tasks and other commitments on time says a lot about you as an individual and an IT organization.

 

8.  Be conservative  –  When making a commitment, be conservative so you can “over deliver”. No one gets upset if we complete the work earlier or less costly than expected.

 

9.  Teamwork  –  Whether working with a client or with other IT employees, we are all on the same team. Respect for one another and working together as a team is an absolute requirement to achieve success.

 

10.  Positive attitude  –  People who have positive “can do” attitudes achieve higher levels of success than those who do not. IT managers must not only coach this but they need to lead by example and become the IT organization’s best cheerleader.

 

Don’t assume your employees understand all of these fundamentals.

 

Professional sports team coaches constantly teach and reinforce the fundamentals of a player’s position with them, , , and these guys have been playing the sport for years.

 

What you see consistently is that teams who execute the fundamentals of their sport the best are the winners.

 

Instill the fundamentals of IT support within each of your IT employees and your IT organization will achieve many successes.

IT Manager Institute and ITBMC Program Overview

it-manager-institute-overview_start

CLICK HERE or on the image above to watch the video.

As I enter the 17th year of my company I’m excited about the emphasis on IT manager training we have planned this year. The IT Manager Institute has been a very successful program that we offer in three formats:
1. Classroom
2. Webinar
3. Online Self Study

The IT Manager Institute and ITBMC Certification Program is one of the fastest and most effective ways to develop critical IT management skills. If you want specific instruction on how to succeed and fast results, the IT Manager Institute is what you need.

The program follows a simple IT Management Process™ and provides tools and insights that can be used immediately to help IT managers of all levels achieve more™ success.

My training is practical, straightforward and to the point on how to achieve IT manager success. I teach you:
– What you need to do
– How to go about it
– Tools and examples you can use immediately

itbmcOver 1,000 IT managers from all parts of the world have attended the program in either classroom, webinar, or online Self Study with 100% positive feedback. The reason is simple: our processes and tools are practical, easy to use, and they work in the real world.

Attain ITBMC status and you will demonstrate a method of management that sets you apart from other IT managers and will help you achieve more success.

There is NO THEORY in this program. Every process and tool was created by me to help me organize, monitor and manage IT organizations in real companies. I have translated over 20 years of IT management experience into some of the most practical training for IT managers in the industry.

Check out the IT Manager Institute for yourself at:
http://itmanagerinstitute.com/training/agenda/

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Understand supply and demand to manage client expectations

project successOne of the keys to success in IT management is being able to manage your client’s expectations.

To manage your client’s expectations, you need to know some things about the concept of “supply and demand” and how it applies within an IT support organization.

Demand is the technology support needed by your clients to address their business needs and issues.

Supply is your IT organization’s capability and capacity to deliver IT support.

You have to understand the dynamics of what’s happening in both “Supply” and “Demand” within your IT support organization’s environment to manage client expectations.

In most situations, there will be more demand than supply, your clients need or want more from IT than your IT organization can deliver.

This is normal and exists for most IT organizations. That’s OK, but to succeed you are going to have to balance the two somehow and manage your client’s expectation to what you can deliver.

Let’s take a team of five programmers and use them as an example to discuss these issues.

programming teamHere, you see we have one great team of five programmers. Let’s assume they all work on the same software application to make our example easier.

The Demand Side

Our demand for programming work is defined by a couple of things:

  1. Day to day support required of the programmers
  2. Backlog of new programming enhancement requests – new reports, new functionality, etc.

Your Help Desk should give you some sense for the “disruptive nature” of day to day support issues that hinder a programmer’s coding productivity.

If you don’t have anything, do a 2-week time study and have each of your programmer’s chart where they spend their time for every hour of their work day.

You might be surprised! This simple exercise will tell you a lot about what’s being pulled out of your team’s programming capacity to handle daily support issues.

Maybe you think your team is totally isolated and immune from day to day support. Don’t be fooled, do the time exercise and discover the reality of your situation.

The second part of “Demand” is in your Programming Backlog for new requests (new reports, new functionality, etc.).

You should have a programming backlog database of some type (maybe it’s just an EXCEL spreadsheet) that lists every programming request and an estimate of how many hours it will take to program the project.

If you aren’t managing your backlog like this, then you don’t know what your demand for new programming is. If you don’t know, you can’t manage client expectations.

The Supply Side

On average, a programmer can produce about 100–120 hours of productive code per month.

There are normally about 160 hours in a normal month of work (4 weeks at 40 hours per week). When you pull out time for meetings, training, sick, vacation and holidays, what is left is the actual productive coding time you get from a programmer.

Some months will be less than this average of 100–120 hours of productive coding time, some months will be more.

Over 12 months time you should see a programmer’s average work out to be about 120 hours per month of productive coding, roughly 75 percent of their work time.

If you are delivering less than 100–120 hours per programmer per month on average for 6 or more months, you probably have a productivity issue that needs attention.

Note: This measurement may vary depending upon your company situation or part of the world you live in and the productivity culture that exists.

OK, if we have 5 programmers this means our supply of productive coding (or capacity) should average between 500 to 600 hours per month as a team.

Let’s assume the demand for coding new reports, enhancements, and new features for this application is considerably more than our capacity. How do we increase our output, our supply?

There are several ways to increase the output of a programming team:

  1. Improve the existing team’s productivity.
  2. Have the team work more hours.
  3. Pay programmers incentive pay to do certain projects on their own time (on weekends and holidays or in the evenings after work).
  4. Hire new programmers.
  5. Contract programmers from the outside.

I’ve used all of these and every option will work to improve your programming team’s output.

One caution though is that “requiring the team to work more hours” will work to an extent, but long term use of this approach can create morale problems and put your programmers at risk of leaving your company.

You essentially have three options to address a programming backlog that exceeds your capacity:

  1. Reduce the amount of backlog
  2. Take longer to do the work
  3. Increase capacity to attack the backlog

The bottom line though is that you aren’t going to get twice the capacity with the five programmers you have on board now. If need is truly significantly higher than your capacity to deliver, you have to manage your client’s expectations.

There are essentially three ways:

  1. Reduce the demand
  2. Increase your capacity to deliver
  3. Take longer

Usually the answer lies within all three of these. However, Item #3 (Take longer) really isn’t doing anything different and probably may not satisfy your client.

You attack the problem when you do something about reducing the demand and/or increasing capacity.

The next thing you need to have a good grasp on is, “How much of your capacity goes to day to day support?”

It might be 80 percent of your total programming capacity to troubleshoot issues, fix things, or provide day to day support for the users.

If it is 80 percent, that doesn’t leave much to develop new enhancements that are being requested by users.

You need to have a realistic estimate of what day to day support requires from your team. Without it, you are doomed.

To manage client expectations you not only need to know what the demand for programming services is, you must also know what your capacity to deliver is.

This “capacity to deliver” includes how much programming is required for day to day support plus how much is available to focus on new requests.

Without this understanding, it is virtually impossible to manage your client’s expectations.

Be conservative

The next thing is that when you make commitments to your clients, you must be conservative.

Remember the “Golden IT Rule”,

Projects take longer and cost more than you think they will

Always position your team to over deliver.

No one gets upset if you exceed their expectations.

Someone always gets concerned when you don’t meet expectations.

One method I use is that I always start managing a new programming staff with an expectation that we can deliver an average of 100 hours of code per programmer per month even though I know we should deliver around 120 hours a month of new code per programmer on average.

Now, when you do this you need to know that I consider these programmers to be truly isolated from day to day support issues. Their full time is focused on software development and producing new code.

I know that if we are operating properly, each of these programmers will actually deliver on average more than 100 hours per month. So, when I give my client a forecast that we can deliver up to 500 hours a month for the team (5 programmers * 100 hours), I’m positioning the team to over deliver.

Let me emphasize this: Position your team to over deliver!

One of the best ways to manage a client’s expectation is to position your team to deliver more than what the client expects.

To do this, you must be conservative in what you commit to.

My approach with programming is to commit an average of 100 hours per programmer per month to the client and deliver somewhere around 120 hours per programmer.

Summary

Four key things will help you manage your client’s expectations:

  1. Understand the demand for your resources
  2. Know your capability and capacity to deliver
  3. Realize how much is used for day to day support
  4. Be conservative in your commitments

Do these things with your programming staff and other parts of your IT support organization and you will be able to manage your client’s expectations much better, and this will help your IT organization achieve more success.

This article first appeared in my CIO.com BLOG, Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders.

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Are you using committees effectively?

questionmark1I received an interesting question a while back and thought it worth sharing my response. The question came from one of my followers and went like this, “What do you think of Committee decision making and/or problem solving? What would be required to ensure Committee success?”

My response:
I agree that committees tend to take longer and are potentially not as responsive as you need to be. It all depends on what you create a committee to do and the guidelines you establish for its mode of operation.

I’m a big proponent in having committees made up of business representatives alongside IT representatives. For example, one of the things I always try to do when managing a Programming Support organization is to create a “steering committee” to review the outstanding programming change requests that exist in our programming backlog in order to determine what gets assigned for the next period (usually monthly) and what does not get prioritized. There are several reasons:

  1. The business is in the best place to know what needs to be a priority, , , not our IT organization.
  2. The business needs to realize that our company can’t fund IT to have unlimited resources and therefore work has to be prioritized.
  3. If we (IT organization) are left to prioritize these jobs on our own, we will never be as responsive as our business clients want us to be. Never! Clients will simply want everything completed “right now”.

When your clients are in the middle of determining what gets worked on and when, , , it’s a struggle initially, , , but over time it simply becomes our normal process of how we manage the business.

I can tell you that when the business units are making the trade-offs and are ultimately responsible for prioritizing the work, it makes life much better for the client as well as the IT organization and easier to support the client in this area.

I don’t believe all things work well in committees. We don’t run companies or manage in a democracy, , , but in places like programming support, strategic project initiatives, project portfolio management, etc. a committee can be very helpful.

I still like the fact that IT is represented as a full member of the committee and the IT representative is often who facilitates such meetings. Certainly, IT must be able to influence decisions but getting the client positioned to feel they are more in the “driver’s seat” and in control of their own destiny is a good thing for everyone.

The downside about running your company “by committee” is that you can have gridlock if you aren’t careful. In my view, a committee is best when used as an advisory group to help the management team make good decisions. More brain power is a good thing but can certainly slow the process.

meeting-3When creating a committee, it is important to establish good guidelines that help focus the members of the committee on the it’s mission and objectives along with operating guidelines to work within.

Be sure your committee is assigned a role that does not slow an organization’s responsiveness if this is a key measurement of performance.

Finally, committees can be very effective when making decisions about company direction, determining key initiatives for an organization to work on, even deciding the priorities of your programming backlog, etc.

For example, in 1991 our company President created a senior management committee in March to focus on cutting company expenses during the 3rd and 4th quarter. We wanted to take the company public the following year and felt we needed to achieve major expense cuts in order to achieve our 3rd and 4th quarter financial forecasts because of an expectation we would not achieve budgeted revenue numbers.

This committee met initially to understand the issue and to identify a list of cost cutting ideas. We assigned each “cost saving initiative” to a manager from the group. We met a second time to deliver our recommendations for how much we could save in our assigned cost saving initiative areas along with how we should go after the savings and when we should be able to achieve the savings.

When we all left the 2nd committee meeting, each of us had specific cost saving initiatives responsibility to make happen for our company and we were required to report monthly on our progress. We focused on the opportunities plus the President of our company tracked performance.

This committee focus was a huge success in achieving our objective and it positioned the company for a successful public stock offering the following year.

Managers make decisions but a committee used properly can be very effective in supporting managers of your company.

IT managers may need to change their work behavior

changePeople who work in IT have very consistent work behavior tendencies. In fact, 90 percent or more have similar tendencies in three of four major personality categories. The bottom line is that IT attracts a certain type of personality.

These work behavior tendencies help us become successful as technology experts, but they can present major challenges when you move into a management role.

It’s important for any IT manager to be aware of these tendencies and “what makes IT people tick.” Understanding them can help you achieve more success in multiple ways:

  • Being aware of your own personal work behavior tendencies can help you identify areas that need adjusting in order to succeed in a manager position.
  • Awareness of IT employee work behavior tendencies who report to you can help you manage and lead them better.
  • Understanding the dynamics of work behavior can even help you resolve employee problems.

Background

I’ve used several personality evaluation tools in my career. Early on, I didn’t put a lot of credence in their value; I thought they were bogus. I was wrong.

For over 10 years I used these tools in my CIO role and discovered they are accurate in describing an employee’s work behavior tendencies and helpful in many ways. I learned first hand that understanding the work behavior tendencies of a person is powerful insight.

In one company I was the CIO of we acquired 35 other companies. I obtained the work behavior profile of all the IT employees that came with these companies. Their profiles were consistently similar.

Initially, I thought it was just a coincidence. After seeing the same profile over and over again, I finally concluded that a certain type of personality type is attracted to IT. In a similar way, consistent personality types are attracted to sales professions.

I also measured over 100 IT managers who attended my IT Manager Institute for four years. Again, their work behavior profiles were predictably similar.

It doesn’t matter what your role is in IT. Whether you are an IT manager, programmer, systems or network engineer, project manager, work on the Help Desk or even run IT support as the CIO. If you are in IT, your work behavior tendencies are highly likely going to be similar to everyone else in IT.

What’s the point?

It’s simple. The work behavior traits that help you become an excellent technician can prevent you from achieving success in an IT manager role.

Let’s take a look at each trait.

There are four work behavior areas in many of the personality evaluation tools like Myers Briggs and others I’ve used, and here is what I have discovered:

Trait #1:  90 percent of all IT employees are independent, self starters and technically oriented. No problem so far; these work behavior traits can probably help you as much in a manager role as in a technical role.

Trait #2:  85-90 percent of all IT employees have a high sense of urgency. To say we are impatient is an understatement for most of us in IT. High sense of urgency is a good thing for IT managers as long as you approach major problem situations like a system outage in a way that has a calming and stabilizing effect.

Trait #3:  Over 90 percent are high detail and like to do the work themselves. This is great for a technical employee. Programmers and other tech employees achieve success pretty much on their individual performance; they are in more control of their own success. In a manager role, you depend on your employees to get things done. This is a big transition challenge for most young IT managers. Letting go of the detail and depending upon others can be a major obstacle.

Trait #4:  Just over 70 percent are shy and introverted. This is a big challenge for IT managers. As a programmer or systems engineer, strong communication skills are not so essential, especially communicating outside their inner circle. In an IT manager role, strong communication skills are required. The problem with shy people is that they usually don’t develop their communication skills because they don’t deem them to be needed. In addition, shy people have a lower desire to communicate. All of these issues are major stumbling blocks to success for IT managers and must be overcome.

When you think of the first three work behavior traits being at 90 percent or more, it’s pretty much everyone in your IT organization.

One more thing

If you put all of these traits together to make a work behavior profile, it sums up to be an individual who looks at work this way:

  • Let’s do it (self starter),
  • Do it now (high sense of urgency),
  • Do it my way (high detail),
  • and I don’t want to talk about it (shy and introverted)

marineThis is the makeup of an authoritative management style that works well in the military but not so well in a professional business environment.

Modify the last trait by communicating more and you have a persuasive management style. This style is much more effective for IT managers in a corporate environment.

Technical experts who become IT managers need to do two things if they have the four traits discussed above:

  1. Let go of the detail they are so used to being in. Have you heard the phrase, “You need to get out of the weeds!”? Managers must depend on their employees to take care of the detail. It won’t be easy but it’s necessary for your success.
  2. Learn how to communicate effectively. Strong communication must become a core competency so learn what and how to communicate effectively plus put processes in place that force you to communicate.

The good news is that if we need to adjust a couple of our work behavior traits, it is a straightforward thing to do and more success is in your grasp.

This article first appeared in my CIO.com Blog, Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders.

Triple Threat to IT Success™

triple-threat-to-it-successThere are many issues that can cause an IT organization to fail, but there are three that are at the root of most IT failures. I named it the “Triple Threat to IT Success”.

My first article in CIO.com’s Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders blog was titled, 7 reasons IT managers have the toughest management roles. It sets the stage for why IT management is so difficult and provides insight into the unique challenges IT managers are presented with.

In this post we continue building a foundation of the dynamics that take place in many IT organizations by discussing the Triple Threat to IT Success™ and what causes IT failure.

triple-threat-to-it-success

Many things can cause an IT organization to fail but what I’ve observed in hundreds of companies and in more than 20 years of managing IT resources is that there are three main culprits:

  1. IT – Business disconnect
  2. Project failure
  3. Poor communication

Understand these three problems and do a few things to prevent them positions your IT organization to achieve much more success.

Threat #1:  IT – Business disconnect
Simply put, your IT organization is out of sync with what the business needs from you. The company needs you to focus on “A, B and C” but IT is working on “X, Y and Z”.

abc_xyz

Many studies over the years have suggested this happens over 50% of the time. Plus, CEO and CIO surveys consistently place “keeping IT in sync with the business” as one of their top concerns.

Interestingly, discovering whether or not a disconnect exists between IT and the business is a simple task and takes very little time for an experienced CIO or consultant. So why are so many IT organizations out of sync with the business operations they support?

An IT – Business disconnect occurs primarily because the senior IT manager or CIO does not realize his/her organization is focused on the wrong things. They are certainly not out of sync intentionally. In fact, they believe their focus is exactly what their company needs from them.

Threat #2:  Project failure
The second major threat to IT success is failing to deliver projects successfully.

You may not realize it but IT project failure was instrumental in creating the project management industry. Before computers were introduced in the 1950’s we did not have this concept called “project management”.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) was created in 1969 and project management took off as the IT industry grew exponentially in the 70’s and 80’s.

By the early ’90s, most companies of any size were using computers to process payroll, general ledger and other mission critical applications. The IT organizations of these companies were also building a reputation of failing to deliver projects successfully.

Project failure destroys IT credibility so it’s a key component for IT success.

Threat #3: Poor communication
The third threat is the biggest threat because it has a lot to do with what causes the other two threats. Let me explain:

An IT – Business disconnect occurs when IT management does not communicate well with the senior management team. If you communicate what you recommend the IT organization should work on and gain confirmation from the senior managers of your company, you won’t have a disconnect.

Project failure often occurs when IT people start working on a project before quantifying what the specific objectives, deliverables and timing will be and getting agreement from the project sponsor. You can’t succeed if you fail to establish these expectations on the front end of a project.

IT managers in general have historically had a reputation of being poor communicators. It’s a label we unfortunately earn because the fact is that most IT managers actually do struggle in this area.

A big reason for this is that from my research and experience I’ve concluded that over 70% in IT are shy or introverted. People with a shy and introverted personality trait do not invest in their communication skills and they don’t view communication as all that important.

IT employees are more technically oriented than socially oriented; it’s one of the traits that attracts people to IT type of work. There is nothing wrong with this but it can make IT management very difficult because effective communication is a key ingredient to achieving IT success.

Summary
I coined the phrase, “Triple Threat to IT Success™” in 2005 to help me discuss the three major issues that cause an IT organization to fail. Being aware of these issues and taking measures to overcome them will position you for more IT success.

Download a 1-page flyer that identifies the triple threat and includes tips to prevent them in your company at http://mde.net/triple.pdf.

triple_tips

This article first appeared in my CIO.com Blog, Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders

Don’t assume others know what you know

manager_coachWe often think others know something when in reality they may not. Don’t always assume your employees or your clients know what you know because they probably do not.

In many cases some of the simplest things in life are not all that well known by others you come in contact with. I can give you a couple of examples:

  1. I wrote an article for TechRepublic once about using a project scheduling template to help me monitor and manage a project. In just a few days there was over 15,000 downloads of this template. It was one of the simplest tools I have and I was amazed at how many downloads took place from that one article.
  2. My brother told me he had discovered this new technology gadget. When he tells me something like this, there is usually something pretty neat I’m about to learn about. Then he shows me a wireless PowerPoint Presenter device. I thought he was kidding because I carry one with me all the time and have used these devices for 10 years. He wasn’t kidding, , , he had just discovered it.
  3. Early in my management career I discovered the team I was managing didn’t know how to troubleshoot a client problem. They had significant experience with the technologies we were supporting but struggled in defining the problems and underlying issues causing them. It was a surprise and an example that employees can sometimes lack the basics. IT managers need to coach employees the fundamentals just like they do in sports teams.

The point of all of this is, “Don’t assume others know what you know.” I see it all the time in my IT Manager Institute classes, , , many of the basic processes or templates I share are game changers for some of our students, , , and sometimes they have been managers for many years.

An example of this is that I shared a New Employee Orientation Checklist with a class and the senior manager in the room thought it was great. He had been managing IT for 20 years and didn’t have anything like it, , , and as he said, “This is so simple and basic, I should have created something like it 15 years ago.”

Don’t assume others know what you know. It would be a big mistake.

IT Manager Institute headed to Dubai and Accra

We have two new IT Manager Institute classes coming up:
– Dubai (May 22-24, 2016)
– Accra, Ghana (June 13-17, 2016)

Take a look at the short video for information.

7 reasons IT managers have the toughest management roles

itmanager_mazeIT managers have the toughest management roles in a company and there are 7 reasons that make IT management so difficult. Gaining insight into these dynamics will position you to achieve more success.

1. Technology is changing rapidly
No one disagrees with this point. In fact, most would say technology is changing faster than any time in history. “So what?” you might ask, “This affects all managers doesn’t it?”

Well, yes it does to some extent but not to the same level it affects IT managers who must implement and support the technology. Paradigm shifts occur regularly in how we deliver technology services.

Think about the impact three innovations have had in recent years:

  1. The cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS)
  2. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) implications with cell phone and tablet improvements
  3. Advances in teleconferencing capabilities

IT managers are impacted far more than other managers due to the work associated in supporting technology change.

2. Transitioning from technical expert to manager is difficult
What’s important with this one is the skills that help you succeed as a programmer or systems engineer (a technical expert) will not help you succeed as a manager. The success skills are very different.

IT attracts people with certain work behavior tendencies just like sales attract people with a different set of personality traits.

The problem is that our IT work behavior profile fits technical expert roles well, but it is not a great fit for management. A trait like poor communication isn’t such a handicap in a technical role but it prevents you from succeeding as a manager.

The good news is that when you understand these dynamics, you can change your work behavior. The bad news is that far too many IT managers are not aware so they struggle in management roles.

3. Delegating and depending upon others is a new challenge
Let’s say you were a very successful programmer for many years. Then, you are promoted to a Programming Manager position and you struggle.

How can this be when:

You were the best programmer.
You understand software development inside and out.
Your peers looked up to you and respected your programming skills.

You are in for a shock when you move into management for these reasons:

Past success was based upon what you did, not having to depend on others so much. In a manager role, success is based upon what your team accomplishes more than what you do.

When you were promoted, the programming team lost productivity because the most productive resource was pulled out of the work pool. This can cause client satisfaction issues.

Managing peers is difficult. The dynamics of your peer relationships change significantly and become more challenging the moment you become their manager.

4. IT employees are harder to manage
Managing people in any organization is difficult when you don’t have experience in it. Plus, there is a dynamic at play in the IT Organization making it more difficult for IT managers.

In IT, the technical experts (your employees) usually know more about the technology than managers.

In other organizations of the company, this isn’t the case. For example:

Sales Managers know as much about selling as their Sales Reps.
The CFO understands the financials and chart of accounts setup as well as anyone in the Accounting Department.

Not true with the CIO. If he has business applications background, he may know very little about infrastructure and depends more on his employee’s knowledge than managers of other organizations must rely on theirs.
Resources

5. No one around to help an IT manager
IT is not the core competency of most companies. In banks, it’s banking services. In hospitals, it’s providing patient care. Technology is critical in delivering these services but technology is not their core competency.

Let’s use a large grocery store chain of 300 stores as an example. If one of the grocery store managers is failing (poor financial performance, customer complaints, etc.), there are 299 other successful managers who can conduct a store assessment and make recommendations to turn the failing store around. Grocery store management is the company’s core competency so there are many who can help.

On the other hand, who helps a failing CIO?

There isn’t anyone. The CEO doesn’t know how to fix IT problems because IT is not the company’s core competency. His solution is often to hire an outside consultant for help or replace the CIO.

6. The CIO must understand the needs and issues of all company departments, not just IT
Many business needs and issues of non-IT departments require IT support to address them. The CIO is the only manager in the company who must understand the needs and issues of all departments in the company. If he doesn’t, his IT organization won’t be positioned to support them.

This level of involvement with other departments isn’t required of non-IT managers, but it’s a huge issue for a CIO and his managers.

7. Communication challenges
This is possibly the biggest issue. Most of us in IT (over 70% from my research) are shy and introverted. As a result we don’t develop our communication skills. Technical experts are more interested in developing their technical skills; they don’t view communication as all that important.

In a technical role, most communication is with other IT employees (our inner circle) about technical issues. When we become IT managers, the universe of who we need to communicate with expands dramatically. Communicating effectively is a critical skill that new IT managers must develop.

I decided to use this inaugural post of the Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders blog to set the stage. IT managers have challenging responsibilities in environments that constantly change. In future posts I’ll explore all of these challenges and provide tips to help you address them successfully.

This article first appeared in my CIO.com Blog – Practical Management Tips for IT Leaders