Software

Diary of an IT director: Tom Ranalli (Monday)

For Tom Ranalli, an IT director in Los Angeles, the workday begins when he boards the commuter train and checks his schedule, listens to voice mail, and answers e-mail. Look in on the rest of his day in this diary of an IT director.


This week, IT Manager Republic is featuring the daily diary of Tom Ranalli, director of IT for Lyon & Lyon, an intellectual property law firm in Los Angeles.

6:10 A.M.
The morning ritual begins. I groggily descend to my home office and connect to the terminal server to check e-mail in the office. We have a Cisco Altiga running our VPN and, with my DSL, the access speed is excellent—it’s as if I’m already in the office (great, just what I want when I’m still half in the dream state). Luckily, the e-mail doesn’t reveal any overnight crises.

7:30 A.M.
I’m on the train, heading to the office. The best part of taking the train in Los Angeles is avoiding the traffic that has worsened in the 15 years I’ve been here. On the train, I respond to new e-mail from my Blackberry, check voice-mail from my cell phone, and review my organizer for the day’s events.

As the train approaches downtown Los Angeles, I continue to respond to every buzz from the Blackberry. By the time I reach my office, assignments have been given, emergencies have been handled, and disgruntled users have been satisfied (for now at least).

8:35 A.M.
At my desk, I’m once again dealing with e-mail and voice mail that have come in since I got in the elevator to come up to the 47th floor. You’d be surprised how many things can happen during the 90-second ride to my office.

One of the latest voice mails is from a disgruntled user in another office who called me, instead of his local tech support, complaining of a problem with one of his PC applications. I confirm with the local tech that he has the situation under control and resolved the problem with two keystrokes and a sip of coffee (not necessarily in that order).

9:05 A.M.
I finally received information about the status of our WAN on the East Coast. On Friday, our vendor announced there was a major unexpected outage affecting thousands of their clients, including us. There was never an update from my staff over the weekend, but now I find out it was resolved by Saturday. Why the status was not broadcast to all of our offices remains a mystery.

I work in a law firm, and most of our users are not very sophisticated about the hardware or software, which is why they need my department. Since this firm is 24/7, my staff is on call 24/7, and we provide the tools to make sure we can offer support all the time. Unfortunately, our users will call anyone and everyone at the first sign of trouble, no matter what it may be. We remain patient in the face of it all, as a good service department should.

10:30 A.M.
I spend the better part of the morning reviewing an H1-B application for one of my technicians. The firm agreed to sponsor his work visa once his student visa expires in June.

Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get the application filed far enough in advance. Word has it that it will take three-and-a-half months (at least) for the paperwork to be processed by the INS. I have no choice but to give the employee the bad news that he will be terminated when his current visa expires and won’t be reconsidered for rehire until his H1-B comes through.

He isn’t pleased with the decision, but I remind him that he only has himself (and his procrastination) to blame.

11:55 A.M.
I put the finishing touches on a PowerPoint document for a presentation at Los Angeles Legal Tech 2001. I’m presenting with two other people on a panel discussion entitled: “Technology Assessments: Maximum Bang For Your Technology Buck!”

They’ve asked me to be on two panels in August for the San Francisco Legal Tech conference as well. I’m becoming more comfortable with speaking roles, so I agreed.

1:30 P.M.
I complete the review of an upgrade plan provided by the vendor of our financial system. There are features in this new version we want to take advantage of, which is precipitating the upgrade. Frankly, I’m loath to upgrade a major application unless it has enough bang for the buck that warrants the upgrade headache. I note a number of open items that haven’t been addressed yet, and the upgrade is scheduled for a couple of days from now.

Unfortunately, the administrator I have assigned to this project is juggling a few other priority one projects, including a move into his new home.

3:15 P.M.
I finally get a return call from our vendor who provides us with our copy machine monitoring hardware and service. We recently entered into a direct leasing agreement with them.

At the time we made the deal, we also put their software on the lease, which will allow users to associate client/matter information with every print job, enabling us to better track and possibly recover our costs. Since that time, we’ve found much better software at a fraction of the cost of the product we have. Because we never rolled out the first product, I tried to get the vendor to take it back in exchange for a refund. Unfortunately, despite my wheedling, they are adamantly opposed to exchanging the software at this late date. I’m not pleased because we won’t be able to get the software I prefer.

4:30 P.M.
I meet with our local phone carrier, who is also the vendor for the firm’s calling cards. We’ve been paying an exorbitant rate with these calling cards, and I’m trying to discern from the cost per minute what all the different surcharges and usage charges are. I let him know I still don’t have all my answers and the rep promises to dig further until he finds what I need. They want to remain our vendor, and I let him know that full disclosure is the key to retaining our business.

5:10 P.M.
I return to one of my biggest projects of the month, the completion of the first draft of a comprehensive IT policies and procedures manual. As odd as it may seem, this will be a first for our firm because, like many small companies, IT policies are considered to be an imposition. The firm has recently become amenable to more efficient and cost-effective ways to operate, so the environment is ripe for some significant changes.

I was pleased I was able to finish the first draft of the manual and left it on our HR director’s chair for her to review.

6:20 P.M.
I’m just about out of here for the day. I look over my calendar for tomorrow and note my appointments, including a 5:00 P.M. interview with a help desk candidate.

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