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Not enough people to get the job done and how to communicate to executives

By rtossey ·
I am an IT manager responsible for 5 locations (in five different states). Total number of computer users is about 300 and we have about 50 servers. I have four people on staff. Current projects for this year include collapsing the 5 domains into one and collapsing 5 different email solutions into one Exchange 2003 sever. This also includes upgrading to Windows 2003 as many servers are still WinNT. My staff and I also manage 3 different ERP systems. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention a huge upgrade with one of or ERP systems that includes implementing SQL server. I am having a hard time convincing the executives that I need more people just to maintain the current infrastructure not to mention two aggressive projects. The only way I am going to get the people I need is to put hours to the maintenance of current systems and hours to implementation of the wanted projects. This is MUCH harder then it seems. I spend a ton of time coordinating my staff (remember they are spread over 5 states) and identifying the high priorities. When I tell my boss that there are not even enough people he says ?Well maybe we won?t do anything new, maybe we will tell you to just maintain the network.? The problem I see is that there is a total lack of understanding of what maintaining the network means. I have tried to tell him that by not staying somewhat current, it is causing the IT department to work more hours just to maintain the infrastructure. Any help about how to tell the executives that they are insane and their expectations are unrealistic would be helpful.

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Opp Cost and Marketing

by ebeck In reply to Not enough people to get ...

I have a similar pain - and this is something that is entirely dependent on execs using logic and sense in decision.
You should start by presenting the opportunity costs of user down-time and start-up costs (waiting on systems to log in or get going so they can use them). Tie these into upgrade projects that will reduce or eliminate these costs. Equate with $$ using time against an hourly rate (make friends with someone in Finance to help get a nominal rate).
Get some metrics - # devices per tech, and compare to the averages. Then gauge this against the SLA expectations of management and the users.
Next you need to use PM practices and develop priorities for all these and management wants. Involve them in setting priorities, and then market how you can get the others done with more staff. You just have to be careful they do not outsource all the experience gaining projects to consultants or other staffing firms.
Last and most important - have you sat down and drafted a strategic plan aligned to their plans? A staff and systems life-cycle plan. Always tie it into their goals and plans for the company, otherwise it is seen as building your empire for technology's sake. Getting close to the "C" level is critical to get involved in those plans before they become old news.
On the NT side - if $$ is strapped, maybe it would pay off to look to Linux or blend that in to the systems. You may come off hugely successful in their eyes for pulling off a plan to expand while saving, and you may have leverage to get more staff. (and I am a MS fan BTW)
Good luck - you've got a challenge...

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Gather the Facts, Present the Facts

by Wayne M. In reply to Not enough people to get ...

The first priority is determining and communicating how your staff is spending its time.

As you are the central scheduler and there are only 4 people, it should be possible to keep track of, one, the types of tasks your staff is doing, and, two, the time it takes to do various types of tasks. In a larger size organization, you might be able to fall back on sampling rather than 100% data collection. This should give you a clear indication about how much work your staff can do.

Next, make sure your staff is working a standard 40 hour week. If you are having them continually work overtime, you are complicit in hiding the fact that you are understaffed. If upper management sees all work being completed, why should they believe that you are understaffed.

With this information in hand, you can start to project the typical workloads on your staff and how much staff and time, if any, is available for additional tasks. Now, you have the information to have an intelligent conversation with your boss concerning new initiatives and staffing.

If this information has not been captured in the past, it will take about one month of daily data to establish a pattern. This pattern, of course, will not have yearly variations embedded in it (such as holidays and summer vacations), but it will provide an objective baseline. Do not try to spin the numbers either up or down. The numbers reflect reality and must not be used to try to influence a desired outcome.

Gather the numbers and present them to your boss. Then you have a baseline to beginning planning.

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