Leadership

New IT manager tip: Decide who does what and when

When you're taking control of your organisation's IT, write down every area of operational activity and decide who's responsible.

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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:

  • Applications
  • Desktop
  • General (that's the one I don't like)
  • Internet
  • Network
  • Server

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).

Table A

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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.

Summary

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.

About

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 ...

4 comments
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I do find it funny that all you hear is 'Outsource! Outsource! Your job is history! Better retrain now!" and then you read a real practical article like this... All from the same site! ;)

MoellerTech
MoellerTech

Great article! What's interesting about this is that I just did something similar in our IT department, even though I'm not technically the manager.  There's 3 of us in the department, and we came up with a list similar to your own and then went through it seeing who wanted responsibility for what.  Afterwards, I typed up employee duties and responsibilities that outlined what was expected of each role.  We topped it all off with the department vision and mission statement then printed off a copy for ourselves and management.  I would say it has greatly improved the success of the department.

MoellerTech
MoellerTech

Great article! What's interesting about this is that I just did something similar in our IT department, even though I'm not technically the manager.  There's 3 of us in the department, and we came up with a list similar to your own and then went through it seeing who wanted responsibility for what.  Afterwards, I typed up employee duties and responsibilities that outlined what was expected of each role.  We topped it all off with the department vision and mission statement then printed off a copy for ourselves and management.  I would say it has greatly improved the success of the department.

mark1408
mark1408

@MoellerTech Glad to hear it. IT vision & mission is an interesting one, especially as you're not "really" the manager. I'd also be interested to know how you measure success. BTW, your department is one bigger than mine :-)