Tag Archives: management productivity

Is “meeting chaos” taking over your company?

From Mike Sisco’s Practical IT Manager Newsletter

treadmill-2Meetings, meetings, meetings, , , all we do is meet!

Sound familiar? You bet it does. In today’s world, technology has made accessibility much easier and our productivity is better than ever.

Or is it?

Seems like we meet so much there isn’t time to do real work. In fact, we have so many meetings I’m sure there are times when you are double booked. It’s a common complaint I hear from IT managers all over the world.

I call it “meeting chaos”.

Here is a picture of what happens to many IT managers on a busy meeting day:

  • 8:00am – Start the day with a quick stand-up meeting with fellow managers to announce your schedule for the day.
  • 8:30am – A daily team status meeting keeps your team focused.
  • 9:00am – Project-A weekly status conference call
  • 10:00am – Employee meeting to discuss issues
  • 11:00am – Monthly status meeting with your boss
  • 11:30-1:00pm – Open time – check email and phone messages
  • 1:00pm – Project-B weekly status meeting
  • 2:00pm – Planning meeting for Project-C
  • 3:00pm – Budget meeting with CFO and Controller
  • 4:00pm – Monthly Project Portfolio update meeting
  • 4:30pm – Performance planning meeting with an employee
  • 5:30pm – Conference call with client on a later time zone

meeting-3This is the life of an IT manager on many days. So, when do you get work done? You got it, early morning before work time, after work time and nights, , , or weekends.

Oh, I forgot, , , we have a 1 1/2-hour block of time during lunch to do some things, , , check email and phone messages, follow-up on a few items, and probably last minute preparation for one of the afternoon meetings. 🙂

Does the image of “being on a treadmill” start to form in your head?

I’ve experienced this when doing consulting work providing a few companies interim CIO services recently, , , it’s a real challenge.

I can tell you firsthand that company meeting time has increased significantly since I left my permanent CIO role and created MDE Enterprises, Inc. in 2000. When I’ve provided interim CIO services in the last 5 years, it was immediately obvious that we are now in a “meeting chaos” world.

Why is this?
My belief is because we are doing more for one thing. The need for new technology has increased, , , both by the Users as well as within our IT organization.

Let’s take the Users, , , our clients have gained more knowledge about technology and there are more options for them to use new technology to operate their business. They haven’t necessarily gotten to expert status, , , but the demand for new technology is certainly there and the IT organization must support them.

Now, the IT side, , , our technology world has changed immensely in the past 10 years, , , the cloud, SaaS, BYOD, cybersecurity issues, , , plus the fact that new technology is more cost effective and drives our organizations to implement these new products to help drive down or maintain our IT expenses. It’s constant change just to maintain the status quo.

meeting-5Another reason we meet more often is because we have technology that makes it so easy like inexpensive, even free video conferencing capability, free phone conferencing options, etc.

These technologies make it so easy to fire off a new meeting invitation that our calendars fill up quickly, , , and regularly.

OK, , , we get the picture, , , bottom line is we are busier and this requires more meeting time for planning, getting updates, troubleshooting issues, and the like.

What can you do?
There are actually several things you can do. Here is a list of ideas you might consider and try in your company.

  1. Analyze the value you and others receive from meetings and try eliminating a few.
  2. Combine meetings that require the same people.
  3. Start meetings on time and don’t let them linger longer than needed.
  4. Stop over booking yourself, , , make a choice of which meetings you must attend and opt out of others.
  5. Assess whether you can reduce the time allotted for certain meetings.
  6. Do conference calls instead of requiring people to assemble in a meeting location. Won’t eliminate a meeting but can save people time commuting to/from the meeting.
  7. Try “stand up” meetings to reduce meeting time.
  8. Ask the meeting organizer if your participation is optional. What I find is that quite often meeting organizers put me on the list because they think I might either want to participate or should be invited, , , when the reality is that my presence isn’t necessary.

Another idea came to mind as I was writing this article. Do you remember back when IT organizations used to print every report and distribute to users because it was “how we used to do things”?

I’ve been known to stop printing certain reports just to see if anyone actually looked at them. To my surprise, in many cases they were not being reviewed, , , so we started eliminating the requirement to print many of them.

My sense is that you can probably take the same approach with many of your meetings, , , cancel a few “less important” ones and see if anyone feels pain. If not, you are on a path of “getting back some of your productivity time”.

Mike Sisco’s Top 15 IT Manager Tools

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

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

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

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

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

15 Tools Every IT Manager NEEDS

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

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


Read on for a Description of Each Tool

IT Staff Skills Matrix1. IT Employee Skills Matrix

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

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

IT Training Plan - General2. IT Training Plan

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

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

Tool_New IT Employee Orientation3. New Employee Orientation Checklist

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

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

Performance Plan4. Performance Plan Template

(with examples)

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

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

Project Schedule template5. Project Schedule Template

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

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

projectplan6. IT Systems Conversion Project Schedule

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

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

Move Checklist7. Move/Relocation Checklist

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

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

IT Initiatives Portfolio8. IT Initiatives Portfolio

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

Vendor Contact List9. Vendor Support Contacts

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

escalation procedure - loss of connectivity10. Escalation procedure

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

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

Annual IT Accomplishments11. Annual IT Accomplishments

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

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

Client Rescue Guide12. Client Rescue Guide

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

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

costofdowntime13. Cost of Downtime

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

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

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

Budget Templates14. Budget templates

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

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

IT Support Survey15. IT Support Survey

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

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

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

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

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ToolKit Cafe

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