CXO

Three tips for managing the stress of year-end and year-starts In IT

The closing of the calendar year can be a stressful time period for IT management. Here are three tips to help make year-end and year-start a smoother transition.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

At the office, the third quarter of each calendar year means that the fun of summertime is over. You put away your wake boards and golf clubs to get ready for the toughest period of the year: year-end and year-start. Regardless of the size of your business, year-end and year-start can be stressful for employees—particularly accounting and finance staff members. On the enterprise level, the IT staff shares the stress along with the accounting and finance departments, as many of the their needs go hand in hand. Getting through year-end and year-starts (YEYS) with minimal scars as an IT manager is possible. Here are a three tips that may help.

SEE: 5 New Year's resolutions for new managers

1: Keep expectations realistic

As the year closes, the varying business units and departments of the enterprise will have specific needs. Increased onboarding of new internal staff, massive data loads and requests, and additional hours of IT support are all examples of department needs. As an IT manager, you must consider all the needs and work to meet them if possible.

"If possible, Ant?" Correct. As much as you aim to be the best IT manager on the planet, there may be a small percentage of YEYS needs that aren't met. Try your hardest to meet the needs, but don't be hard on yourself if you don't.

Align your calendar to set up meetings with the different business units to discuss needs for YEYS. Have an open discussion about prioritizing the needs. For example, ordering 50 new workstations with Core i7 chips and 16GB of RAM may not be in the cards for year-end. As an alternative, ordering 15 for year-end may be an option and allow for 40 more to be ordered within year-start. This gives a potential 15 net-gain of workstations.

In some instances, departments may need to work extended hours to meet corporate goals. These extra hours may include a lot of data entry and data requests, such as internal reporting. During a stressful time such as year-end, data entry can be riddled with mistakes. This means IT support will need to be available to aid in cleaning up dirty data. Even if it's outside the standard 9-to-5 business hours. As an IT manager, it's important to understand which teams beyond Tier 1 support should be available. Hopefully, there's an on-call list for various server admins.

SEE: 10 mistakes to avoid when troubleshooting IT problems

2: Stay on top of project milestones

As the year progresses, corporate projects are put in motion with specific milestones and goals. Understanding the importance of milestones can aid in analyzing how well you're doing with the various projects. At the end of the year, it's important to take note of milestones and the project schedule. Are you on track? If not, just how far off track are you? With the right balance of resource management, the leaders of business units may still successfully close a project during year-end. It may be stressful to handle the tasks in addition to other duties involved in year-end, but it could be beneficial for corporate goals. If you're too far off track, pushing the project into year-start may be the only option. Oh and by the way, you have to consider this along with managing resources for projects already slated to kick off in year-start.

SEE: How to manage the top 4 tech culture challenges

3: Review and reflect

Follow up! Year-end and year-start is not the time to ignore your calendar, emails, or phone calls. Keep yourself accessible to your staff as well as other department leaders during this time. Strategy and goals can change at any time. You'll need to know of these changes and openly discuss them with the business units. You may have to be the bearer of bad news and discuss thoughts on why a change will disrupt the path to success. It's not a fun task, but it's necessary. Be sure to further discuss the service level agreements (SLAs) you have in place, as well. Just because it's year-end and year-start, SLAs shouldn't be ignored.

As you close the year, take a look back at the previous projects and strategies. Analyze what went well and what didn't. Have a post mortem meeting with leadership to discuss how the year closed. This will allow you to document ideas and lessons learned during year-end to carry into year-start.

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Other tips?

What are some of your suggestions for managing IT during year-end and year-start? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Ant Pruitt

Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.

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