Your small company decides it's time someone was made responsible for "all the IT stuff." You're "good with PCs," so you're now the de facto IT manager, possibly in addition to your current job. You may not have a job description, a team, or a budget; in addition, you might have been appointed to address specific urgent problems. Congratulations. In my case, several people were involved in IT (myself included), but nobody was in charge, and therefore likely to be keeping an eye on the big picture. One step I took when "officially" becoming IT manager was to create an IT operations document. By operations, I mean any tasks necessary to keep systems available, appropriately configured, and secure; I also include user support. In other words, IT operations consists of whatever we have to do to "keep the lights on," as distinct from projects or other development work.
Let's face it: While IT departments are constantly urged to innovate and be an enabler of business change, what most people want first and foremost is for the stuff you already have to do its job properly — hence, my focus on operations.
IT operations list
My take on this was to come up with a list of categories for my operational tasks or duties. Looking at the categories now, I think I might do it differently. Here's what I used:
- General (that's the one I don't like)
You don't have to use categories, but they help me to organise and to think.
Next, for each task I assigned a frequency (how often we do it) and the person responsible (with a backup name if necessary). My frequency ranges from Daily to Annually, with several being designated Ad-hoc (i.e., we just do it as required). The result is a list with entries such as those shown in Table A (these are just samples — the full list runs to three pages).
Samples from the IT operations list
Here's why I bothered to compile this IT operations list:
- It helped me get a feel for the full scope of my role, and having colleagues review it highlighted areas I'd forgotten.
- It showed me where I either needed to learn new skills or where we lacked cover for day-to-day needs.
- I still review it from time to time and take stock of how we do things and whether any changes are warranted.
As a new IT manager, compiling an IT operations list helped me get started. The list still proves useful for reviewing operational practices and allocation of duties. I would recommend anyone new to the role to give it a try.
Mark Pimperton BSc PhD has worked for a small UK electronics manufacturer for over 20 years in areas as diverse as engineering, technical sales, publications, and marketing. He's been involved in IT since 1999, when he project-managed implementation of a new ERP system, and has been IT Manager since 2008. The first major project he undertook in that role was a second ERP deployment. While still involved in operations, system management, and even a bit of development, Mark is now also responsible for IT risk management. He finds that risk assessment leads to many improvement initiatives, such as a current project to switch from tape backup to disk-based and online backup. Mark is fanatical about documentation, taking special care to record unfamiliar processes. His TechRepublic articles on SSL certificates and PCI DSS compliance are prime examples. Mark is married with two grown-up children.