Tag Archives: practical it manager

IT Manager Institute and ITBMC Program Overview


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:


2017 New Year Message from Mike Sisco

Click image to view video




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 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

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

Make your resume look like you know your business

Most of the resumes I see of IT manager applicants have far too much technology expertise in them. Business managers aren’t as interested in your technical knowledge as you might think, , , or even as much as you might think they should.

Senior managers are looking for candidates who can deliver the goods, and when you load up your resume with all kinds of technology knowledge, , , it doesn’t say a thing about being able to deliver.

Please note, there are exceptions but they truly are exceptions, , , it helps to know what your interviewer is interested in, , , technology or results.

Senior IT managers and business executives generally want a manager who has shown they understand business need and can show they have delivered. What this means is that we need to list accomplishments and what our results have done for our company.

I literally would refrain from listing a dozen certifications and technology expertise, , , it tells me you are a technician, not a business manager who knows how to get results from their IT resources.

Benefits, accomplishments, and results, , , why would someone want to hire you? It’s usually not what you know about technology when interviewing for a management position.

Your resume is a sales tool that helps you get the interview or it will hinder your opportunity for that interview. Load your resume up with benefits and results and you might find yourself getting more interviews.

Develop a quick PowerPoint presentation

Let’s say you are the senior IT manager for a small company and your CEO has asked you to present an IT update for the Board of Director’s Meeting next week.

Where to start?

If you are like me when I first encountered such an opportunity, there may be some initial shock. After the panic leaves you, it’s time to prepare, , , where do we start?

Let’s outline what I do and then I’ll explain each part:

  1. Gather information about the presentation objectives
  2. Collect the data
  3. Make a list or two
  4. Develop a draft of title slides
  5. Fill in the slide bullet points
  6. Create your PowerPoint presentation
  7. Prepare for the presentation

Developing a presentation can be fairly quick, , , or you can agonize over it for days. Use this simple approach and it might make it easier for you. Let’s take a look at each step:

1.  Gather information about the presentation objectives
First of all, you need some information from your CEO, , ,  things like:

  • Anything specific you need me to cover?
  • What’s the background of the Board Members?
  • What’s the objective or goal of the presentation?
  • How much time do I have?

You may also want to get some other quick facts, such as:

  • Board Member names and where they are from
  • Sample of past presentations that worked well
  • PowerPoint format or template to use

Once you know what the objectives are and what your CEO wants you to cover, you should be able to identify the appropriate content to develop a presentation. That’s actually the easy part.

You also now know how much time you have, , , let’s say it is 30 minutes.

You need to get a feel for the type of people on the Board. Is this a group that usually lets the presenter walk through a presentation and asks questions at the end, , , or does it have Members of the Board who ask questions every step of the way.

The latter will eat up your time quicker than a bee can dart past your nose, so you need to know that this group can only absorb a little information.

In fact, that’s an important piece of information for presenting to any Board of Directors. In general, members of the Board of Directors are high level and mostly concept people, , , not highly detail oriented people who want to get into the muck. But, there are some who like to get into the detail so learn from your CEO what type of audience to expect.

For an audience who waits to ask questions at the end, , , count on 1 -2 minutes per slide, , , that means you can deliver 10 to 12 slides at most and still have time at the end for questions and discussion.

For the interactive group who asks lots of questions, consider 3-5 minutes per slide, , , that means you can only get through 5-8 slides comfortably.

2. Collect the data
What to cover is very important to know from your CEO. He may want you to deliver a general overall view of what’s taking place in IT for the company, or he may want you to spend the majority of your time to provide an update about a specific IT initiative the Board is interested in.

Once you know what the presentation objectives are and the subject, collect the data you need to develop a presentation. It might include recent management reports, cost justification analysis, project status updates, etc., , , whatever data you have that supports your topic and allows you to develop a few PowerPoint slides to discuss the subject.

It is also reasonable that every bit of the material could come out of your head, , , read on.

3.  Make a list or two
At this point, step back and put yourself into the mindset of your audience. In this case, the Board of Directors represent the owners of the company, , , so what would a company owner want to hear about this subject you are about to present?

Make a quick list of what you think they would want to know about. Ask your CEO or the meeting sponsor the question and gain their insight, , , always helpful.

When completed, think about key points you think are important to share. Make another list.

Now, you have a list of what the audience wants to hear and important points you believe need to be presented about your subject, , , plus you have supporting material by which to start developing slides.

4.  Develop a draft of title slides
Each of your slides needs a title, , , this is sort of like an outline of a book if you were writing a book. What I do when I plan to write a book is start by developing the Table of Contents, , , this is my book outline. A PowerPoint presentation works the same way, , , each slide is a key point you want to make as you walk through your subject, so create a title for each slide.

A quick and easy way to do this is to take a blank sheet of paper and draw a set of rectangle squares , , , I usually put 6 to 8 boxes on a sheet of paper. Each box represents a slide in your presentation.

Now, put the title of each of your slides in the top part of the boxes. I work left to right and to the bottom in the sequence I want my presentation.

Going into this process, you may not know how many slides your presentation will be or in exactly what order. Creating a paper draft makes it easy and creates thought as you work through the process.

When finished with identifying your title slides, check the number of slides and be sure you have ample time to present the content you are going to end up with based upon the guidelines I discussed earlier.

Once you get the slide titles defined, the rest is fairly easy, , , creating bullet points for each slide based upon its title.

When you start developing the detail of the slides, you may identify new slides you need to add or possibly slides that can be better discussed by combining them. The point is that the finished presentation will be slightly different from what you think it will be as you start working on it in the beginning.

5.  Fill in the slide bullet points
Next, put in the bullet points for each slide on the paper to complete the draft of your presentation.

A couple of key things to remember. First, you need to resist your urge to provide too much detail. In a slide presentation, too much detail makes it difficult for people to follow. Use short and crisp bullet points that you can talk about.

Next, keep the number of bullet points on a slide to a reasonable list, , , no more than 4 to 6 points on a slide. Anything over that is too much detail.

Finally, a single point and graphic on a slide can be a powerful message so focus on highlights, , , not detail, unless of course your CEO says he wants you to discuss the detail.

6.  Create your PowerPoint presentation
When you are comfortable with the presentation “draft”, create the PowerPoint slides using the presentation template needed to make it consistent with your CEO’s presentations look and feel.

As you build each slide from your paper draft, think about graphics that add value to the presentation or make your points easy to follow. Don’t be too cutesy, , , but good graphics can add a lot. As you build the slides, you will also make adjustments to your bullet points because you will think of things that need to be in the presentation.

Another point about graphics, , , senior executives love charts and graphs that make your message visible. A good chart showing positive progress can add tremendous value to your presentation.

By drafting the presentation on paper first and then building the PowerPoint slides from the draft, it allows you to walk through the presentation a couple of times, , , and this is always helpful for your thought process and will ultimately make the presentation better.

Let me repeat something here. Fight your tendency to provide too much detail, , , we want the major points, , , just the major points.

Fewer bullet points is better than lots of bullet points. Remember, these guys are high level, , , they want the answer, not all the detail. If they need detail, they will ask you questions and you can fill in the blanks.

IT people think everyone needs all the information possible. Just the opposite is the case, so keep your presentation at a high level, , , and use graphics to enhance the message.

Here are the first two slides of my presentation:

7.  Prepare for the presentation
Before the presentation, do a few things:

  1. Prepare a good opening to get things started smoothly, , , it will help calm your nerves.
  2. Rehearse what you plan to say and become intimately familiar with every slide you present.
  3. Anticipate questions you may be asked and come up with appropriate answers.
  4. Develop a list of key message points you want to make for each slide. This can help you stay on message and insure you emphasize each key point.

Prepare and you will come across knowledgeable and on top of your game. Go in there unprepared and they may rip you apart, , , so be prepared.

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:


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.


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.

Make others the hero

Wow, this is a tough one, , , or at least it was for me for many, many years. It’s also one of the more important lessons you can learn.

As a high achiever, you are mentally “programmed” to strive for success and to be the “hero”. We like to succeed, and there is certainly nothing wrong with this. In fact, you should be proud of being a high achiever and always want to accomplish great things.

That’s certainly the type of people we want on our team – right?

A challenge many of us have when we transition from technical expert to manager is that we tend to want to continue being the hero.

Key point of the article
If you don’t pick up anything from this article but the following point, it will be worthwhile. The key point is, “The manager is the hero when and only when your employees are successful and they are heroes.” As a manager, it becomes more important for you to help others become the hero.

Let’s take some examples:

A.  Make your employees the hero
In late 1999, I joined a small company as their new CIO and quickly identified a few key needs for the business. One of the projects was implementing e-mail services across the company if you can believe it. I made these projects a priority, got them approved and funded, and made it happen. In a national manager’s meeting the next year, I received a standing ovation when I announced the delivery of these key projects, , , something the former CIO had promised but never delivered.

Instead of taking credit for this effort myself, I gave credit to two of my IT employees and asked the managers (about 100 of them) to tell my employees how much they appreciated their effort, , , or maybe even send them an email message.

The point, , , yes, I made it happen by going after the money and placing a priority on the work, , , but the real work was done by my employees. They are the ones who really deserved the credit.

“the real work was done by my employees

Do you think these two employees appreciated me passing the credit to them? ABSOLUTELY,  and they worked even harder for me in the months to follow.

B.  Make your customer the hero
In another company, I identified some tangible cost savings that could be achieved by simply making a management decision.

Our postage cost was significantly higher than it should be because we were sending FEDEX packages to every office every day of the week. By making a management decision to limit overnight deliveries to twice a week and for emergencies, we cut out $15,000 a month in postage cost in a company that was challenged by poor cash flow.

As a young manager, I would have gone to my boss, the CEO, and become a hero in identifying this easy cost savings opportunity. We’re talking about some very low hanging fruit here, , , literally no effort to get the savings, , , in fact, it also reduced significant effort in our Mail Room.

The problem with this is that if you go to the CEO and become the hero, you alienate the CFO. He should be all over this issue but he wasn’t because he wasn’t doing his job. Now talk about something hard to do, , , help someone be a hero who isn’t doing his job.

I can tell you it is extremely hard to do this, but you need to make yourself approach a situation like this by giving the CFO the information and let him be the hero with the CEO, our boss.

The reason is because you need the CFO on your side and will need his help often in future situations. It is better to build these alliances than to try and be the hero and end up making enemies. You need to evaluate the cause and effect of how you handle things, and make a situation like this a win-win because it truly is.

C.  Make your vendor the hero
Give your vendor credit as much as you can. When your Vendor knows you are supporting him, he will work harder to support your efforts.

It’s all about building good teamwork around you. You never have too many allies and partners. When you build a culture where people are looking for ways to give others credit where credit is due, it’s a very positive and healthy work environment.

As I mentioned before, some parts of this are NOT easy. Giving someone opportunity to be a hero when they aren’t doing their job is difficult, , , truly difficult. The key thing to remember is that your gift can come back many times over and if you create a “giving” environment, you will have many people in the company trying to make you the hero over time.

Always try to be aware of the support you need within your company and make conscious efforts to develop and reinforce them.

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.