Networking

Diary of an IT director: Tom Ranalli (Wednesday)

IT Director Tom Ranalli has big numbers on his mind today in this mid-week installment of his daily diary. He is crunching numbers to justify spending more than $1 million on an infrastructure project.


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.

6:05 A.M.
This must be my lucky week. My inbox is empty again when I check it first thing. Instead of reading e-mail, I catch up with the technology and business highlights on a number of newsletters to which I subscribe. I have become a real aficionado for business publications and related news since I’ve become an IT manager, and I apply the helpful tips to my department. I frequently tell my staff that I want to run our department like a service business and use related metaphors regarding how to do our jobs.

8:30 A.M.
On my way into the office, I get an e-mail from my network admin that our WAN circuit on the East Coast is once again causing us trouble. Yesterday, there were some minor complaints from the network equipment that sync was being lost, but there were no other negative effects. I check with the admin on my arrival and find out that he already talked to our carrier and, unlike the major outage from last week, this is only affecting our firm. It appears that it’s internal to our Washington, D.C. office network.

Read what you missed!
Get caught up on this week’s diary: Monday: Working and commuting Tuesday: System upgrade woes

8:50 A.M.
After I settle in, I bring in my WAN admin for a meeting about our aborted upgrade of our financial system. We review my conclusions with our finance director, and he feels confident—now that IT is leading the project—that it will complete on schedule the next time.

9:30 A.M.
I’m surprised to get a call from the finance director telling me that someone from the financial system vendor is here to do the upgrade (which everyone agreed was cancelled). He brings the visitor to my office, where his analyst and my admin join us. After a couple of minutes of conversation, we realize that though he is a consultant sent by our vendor, his purpose was not to do the upgrade at all. Instead, he came to do an analysis of the system issues that were precipitating the upgrade in the first place! We finally figure out that the sales group (who sent today’s consultant) and the technical group (who are responsible for the upgrades) never talked to each other—amazing.

We are pleased to have the consultant here—for two days, as it turns out—especially since he already has a working theory as to why we’ve been experiencing increasing performance degradation over the last four months. We’ll find out tomorrow if his hypothesis is correct.

10:30 A.M. to 3:15 P.M.
Except for a 25-minute break for lunch, I worked nonstop on the business case document that will justify our $1 million-plus technology initiative over the next two years. I conclude after doing a fairly comprehensive search of the Internet (again) that there is nothing satisfactory on which to model my proposal. I have a meeting scheduled tomorrow afternoon with a consultant, a former executive director of our firm to be precise. I’ll be picking her brain about this during our meeting.

After rereading the Technology Forecast white paper I wrote for our executive committee, I can’t see what else they need to know except for return on investment—and that is incredibly difficult to predict. How can one calculate a return on a fact that it takes three seconds less to retrieve a letter from the document management system if the desktop and server are running on faster hardware with faster software components?

When is that three seconds meaningful? When it accumulates to five minutes? When there is less user frustration, therefore making them want to stay with us instead of going to a competitor? Will the attorneys be able to successfully bill those found five minutes?

4:15 P.M.
I need a mental break from the monotony of researching the business case from hell, so I spend some time doing some intranet redesign. Our intranet was originally built by an IT person a few years ago and maintained by another IT person after she left. I took it over after that replacement was let go and have been responsible for it ever since.

I do Web site design as a side business and have built several Web sites in the past. I believe I have a good feel for what makes an attractive and functional Web site.  When I first saw the firm’s intranet, I noted a lot of areas of improvement that were needed. Since that initial review, I have come to the conclusion that it should be completely scrapped and replaced.

I have a head full of ideas for this new intranet, and I’ve been working with prototypes and styling guides since the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, this is my lowest priority project, so I don’t get to spend more than a couple hours a week on it. This is the way I get to stay hands-on a little bit, and it gives me an outlet for my creativity.

Creativity and management: I’ve been participating in a TechRepublic discussion group that explored those two concepts. I proposed that creativity and management are mutually exclusive—a position that I knew would be somewhat controversial but one in which I strongly believe. One IT manager strongly challenged my proposition, suggesting if I believe that, I’m not doing the management job right. Regardless of what he believes, I see that the majority of respondents would prefer to have stayed technical if they had a chance to do it over again or would do anything to avoid going into management in the first place.

4:45 P.M.
I’m leaving early today. I have a personal meeting over in West L.A. Tomorrow morning I should have feedback from the financial system consultant. The other major open issue of the day is that problem WAN circuit on the East Coast.

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