Tag Archives: it organization

IT Organization: right-size your organization for success

IT Organization: right-size your organization for success
An IT manager needs an organization plan that builds the appropriate mix of skills, experience, capability and capacity to meet your company’s technology support needs. Don’t spend more than is needed, , , right-size your organization.

The best lesson any manager can learn is that it’s more important to the company in what the IT organization can accomplish as opposed to what the manager can accomplish. A heavy emphasis on ‘team’ and ‘teamwork’ make this publication essential in developing leadership skills that help you build an appropriate organization to meet the needs of your company.

Table of Contents

Book excerpts

Tools

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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.

Preparing for an IT Manager role

I receive quite a few inquiries about how to prepare for an IT manager role.  Often, these inquiries come from a parent who wants to help a son or daughter position themselves for a successful career.

Here is a message I received just this week from a supportive parent:  “My son is studying computers and he is in his early year of computer engineering and later on he will decide which branch of IT to specialize in. I want your help to give him tips and a head start to become an IT manager one day.”

In many cases, the parent has little or no knowledge of technology or how to prepare for IT management. What they do have is concern for their child’s future and a strong  interest in helping them prepare for the future. Often I will hear, “When he (or she) gets the opportunity to manage, I want him to be prepared so he will be successful.”

It’s something anyone who wants to be an IT manager one day should think about and devise a plan to prepare for.

My response:

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Here is the path I would suggest:

1.  Read the free book you receive when signing up for my Practical IT Manager Newsletter – IT Management-101: fundamentals to achieve more. This book is a good foundational starting point. Sign up at www.mde.net/free

2.  Have him subscribe to my ITLever Blog at www.itlever.com so he receives free weekly tips and tools directed to helping IT managers achieve more success. There are hundreds of free articles, tools to download and other items to help an IT manager and I add new content every week.

A recent ITLever post will be of particular help titled, Solve the IT Management Maze with an IT Management Process. CLICK HERE to see it.

3.  Watch the 20 Minute IT Manager session titled Fast Start for a New IT Manager  at  http://www.20minuteitmanager.com/sessions/060602FASTSTART

There are 162 sessions in the 20 Minute IT Manager series, , , purchase all for $249.00 or $9.99 each. Details at www.20minuteitmanager.com
CLICK HERE for a special 50% discount offer for ITLever Blog readers – only $249.00. Included in this bundle are 12 sessions of a series titled, “12 Secrets to IT Success” that outlines the IT management process I use in managing technology resources.

4.  He will need to establish a positive record of delivering projects successfully in his technical role. My IT Project Management: a practical approach book is a simplified methodology that can help. There are 14 books in my library, , , available for $29.95 each or $279.00 for the first ten, , , $399.00 for the entire library that includes my IT Manager ToolKit.  Details are at www.mde.net/cio

5.  If and when he truly decides to position himself for a manager role, he should attend the IT Manager Institute. It is available in classroom and online self study and includes Bonus items of all my books and tools.

This class will do more for his preparation in becoming an effective IT manager than anything he will find. Both the classroom version and the self study are exactly the same material and lead to an IT Business Manager Certification (ITBMC) that was co-developed by Belmont University and my company to focus on the importance of IT organizations to provide tangible business value for their company.
    Self Study  –  www.mde.net/selfstudy
    Class schedule   –  www.mde.net/institute 

6.  Find an IT manager mentor, , , someone who is interested in helping your son learn about aspects of managing technology resources and a resource to go to for questions and discussions of interest. It is helpful to work with someone local who is willing to be a mentor at no cost, , , as long as the “mentor” knows what he is doing and has a successful track record. Poor or weak resources can actually damage your son’s career.

I have plans to provide a monthly IT manager membership program to provide mentoring services and IT manager development training because of the need we have seen. Watch my ITLever Blog or Practical IT Manager Tips Newsletter for a future announcement. Contact me at info@mde.net if you are potentially interested in a monthly IT manager mentoring program. I must warn you beforehand, , , it will not be cheap due to the effort required to set it up and it will be limited to a designated number of members.

7.  Your son can gain a sense of management by managing a project. In doing this he will be exposed to people management, managing client expectations, and budgeting. If he learns to manage projects well, it is good development for future IT management roles.

I hope this is of help and wish your son the best of success in his young career.

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The important thing to do when preparing for an IT manager role is to start learning from someone who knows how to manage technology resources, , , and to learn about what a successful IT manager really does, , , it is not all about technology actually. Focus only on technology and not the business and you will have major difficulty in becoming a successful IT manager.

One last piece of advice is to observe others and incorporate the best of what you see into how you go about doing things. I’ve done this throughout my career and know it has made a big difference in my management career. It’s another reason why having a good mentor is so important.

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.

Or, purchase the entire library of 162 sessions of the 20 Minute IT Manager
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

IT Manager Institute Self Study  — www.mde.net/selfstudy

“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.

Super Bowl preparations

Today is the 45th Super Bowl and the preparation is completed. Now, it’s time to execute. The team that has prepared best and goes out and executes the best will be the winner, , , maybe.

Another factor is going to be which team can react to the other team’s game plan the best and what happens during the game. Often, the team that gets the fastest start is not the ultimate winner, , , it happened last year when the New Orleans Saints came from behind to beat the Indianapolis Colts.

You can draw a parallel between your IT organization and a Super Bowl football team. You prepare your team and you execute well, , , but are you adjusting in a timely manner when game changing events occur in your company?

An IT organization has to be somewhat flexible. Business needs change, and at times they can change quite often due to real issues that come up and affect the company. Some of these issues may be negative impacts, , , others can be unforeseen opportunities.

In either case, your company may need to react to surprise situations, , , and when they do, IT support is often needed.

It’s important for you to develop an IT strategy to support your business. I emphasize this in many of my works. At the same time, be careful not to put a strategy in stone where you can’t adjust to new things that come up and impact your business.

Openly discuss these things with your senior management team. Ask them how rigid or how flexible you need to be when developing your IT strategy. Building your strategy in partnership with your senior management team is much more beneficial for everyone than developing it alone.

Senior management probably doesn’t want to be involved in the details, but they will normally be more than willing to provide guidance and advice about how flexible the plan needs to be.

Once the strategy is agreed upon and you are executing the plan, , , be observant and watch for things that occur in the business that may need you to adjust your focus. When you do, be sure you pull some things off the list so you are still working within your organization’s capabilities and capacity.

Today’s game should be a good one, , , at least on paper. I like both teams so it doesn’t really matter to me who wins, but I need to make a choice so I’ll go with the Green Bay Packers over the Pittsburgh Steelers  —  27 – 20.

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.

Management requires special skills

Moving into management is tempting to many IT pros. But before jumping into a position you’re not ready for, there are a few issues you need to examine. Review these five steps and decide if you’re prepared to move successfully into management nirvana.

I’ve been fortunate to have managed thousands of employees in my 20-plus years of managing IT resources. One of the interesting things I’ve consistently noticed during that time is how many employees want to become managers.

I absolutely love managing IT organisations and the people within them, but it’s not all glory and accolades. There is also hard work, frustration, and tremendous challenges required to do the job right. So before you start applying for that open management role, you should take a closer look at the job.

Answering the “why?”
When interviewing or counseling employees, I’m often confronted with someone’s desire to become a manager, and the first question I ask is, “Why?”

The response can provide a useful perspective. Here are a few examples that I’ve gotten over the years:

  • “I want to be the boss.”
  • “I want the authority and prestige of the position.”
  • “I want to direct others on what they should do.”
  • “I don’t know; it just seems like the natural course for my career.”
  • “I want to attend management meetings and learn what the company is planning.”
  • I want to build a big organization

At the time, the staffers who provided these responses didn’t have a clue what an IT manager’s job involved. In fact, most IT professionals don’t, and too many get thrown into management positions with little or no real preparation to do the job effectively.

The answer to “Why do you want to be a manager?” reveals a great deal about what you want from a job and how you view the role of IT in the company. Many technicians see the role as one that defines the technology direction of the company and determines what tools to use. For them, the allure of a management position is the ability to make these decisions. To some extent, that’s true, but many don’t get the fact that what really drives those decisions is the company’s needs and not necessarily the technical knowledge that the manager may possess.

Current competency isn’t all that’s needed
Being good at what you do does not necessarily prepare you for a management position. Let me repeat that: Just because a person is an outstanding consultant or support pro doesn’t mean that the person will be a good, or even an average, manager.

The growth of technology in the last 20 years has created a large demand for more IT managers, and many have found themselves in the role without anything more to help them than what they knew in their former positions.

Certainly, knowing how to program can benefit you in a programming manager role, but it can also be a limiting factor. When you take the best programmers and make them managers, the company and CIO often lose their best productive resources, and a very green person is now placed in a management role that directly influences many others.

For far too many years, it was thought that the best resource in a technical area could effectively manage the rest of the team. That’s not only a false idea; it can also be a dangerous one for the company, the IT organisation, and employees touched by such a move.

The fact is that effectively managing employees and technology resources has very little to do with how technical you are and more to do with your ability to facilitate, persuade, plan, organize, motivate, and communicate. You don’t hear anything very technical in those terms.

Suddenly, what becomes more important is not what you can do yourself, but what you can get accomplished through others.

Management is like any other skill. You can learn it, but the key issue is that it’s a different skill set from what you have used as a technician. Of course, the fact that you have been successful as a technical resource does give you a head start, because it helps you relate to others who have technical roles.

When you become a manager, you have to let others do the technical part so you can focus your time and energy on doing the management part. With technology changing as rapidly as it is, you simply cannot continue to be the technical expert and expect to be an excellent manager.

If you take nothing else away from this article, take the message that when you decide to become an IT manager, you have to focus your time and full energy on issues that help you succeed as a manager. If you like solving problems, learning new technologies, and implementing new tools and technology, you may want to stay in your technical role. Managers don’t have time to become experts in the new technologies and do their management jobs well.

Positioning yourself for management
I’m not suggesting that you can’t become a manager if you truly want to. Take my insight as a message to prepare and understand what the job is really all about before taking the leap. It’s not about giving orders and telling others what to do as much as you might think. If that were the case, it would be a simple deal.

Here are five steps to take in your current role to prepare for a management position:

  • Learn how to manage projects and establish a successful track record of managing projects that are delivered on time and within budget. Developing sound project management skills is the best preparatory step, as the role requires many of the skills needed in a management position.
  • Observe successful managers managing and motivating employees. When you see something that’s effective, add it to your skills “toolkit.”
  • Find a mentor who has a successful management track record and is willing to help you develop management skills and offer you insight. Mentors are invaluable and can help you save time, avoid wasted effort, and reduce frustration because they know the shortcuts that are effective as a manager, just as you know the shortcuts in your technical role.
  • Tell your current supervisor that you’re looking to move into a management position and would like help preparing for the new challenge.
  • Ask for more responsibility so you can develop new management skills. Be sure you preface the request so that it’s clear that you want it to help you develop skills that will prepare you for a management role.

There’s no quick shortcut
Depending upon your background and experience, you may have a long road ahead in your preparation efforts. Don’t expect to be offered a management position the week after you ask for it. You need to realize that management roles require new skills, so you should be prepared to make the investment to develop those skills.

Over the years, I’ve turned down many management/promotion requests from staffers who were not ready to become managers. But for those who showed a genuine desire to become managers, I made an investment in that goal, and many turned out to be exceptional technology managers. If I had moved them into management roles, unprepared in both perspective and skill set, I would have been negligent as a manager myself and could have damaged their careers.

In every case, the first question I ask is, “Why do you want to be a manager?” In most cases, the initial answer is not the same answer given a year later when they better understand the role.