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  • #2190209

    The Life in IT


    by kehogan ·

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    • #3073229

      Welcome – Living LARGE or so it seemed

      by kehogan ·

      In reply to The Life in IT

      I want to thank you for reading my blog.  It will be based on real life situations that I have faced in my 10 years in IT.  Some good, some not so good.  But never the less, hopefully entertaining and enlightning.

      Living LARGE or so it seemed

      Well it finally happened to me.  I was in a position where I was charged to align the business needs with the IT departments ability to perform and execute work.  The Business was shouting for IT to do work and IT was shouting back saying, “give us the requirements”  In the meantime, both sides were stuck in the mud.  The larger problem was that assumptions started to surface.  IT was being accused of doing work that was not approved from the Business and the Business was being accused of by-passing IT.  Ever been there?  It’s not pretty, especially if you are stuck in the middle.

      Some of the obstacles we faced were:

      • Had over 1000 work requests
      • Had no central repository to track this work
      • Had multiple project managers (all with opinions)
      • Had a PMO that was being established at the same time but was getting redirected every hour it seemed
      • A pushy program Director that did not feel it was right for IT to sit back and wait for business to supply requirements
      • an existing organization methodology that was not 100% adopted.

      The reason I included “Living Large” in the title of this is because the company I was working at was a huge, highly respected company and I found myself continuously asking myself, how can a compay like this with so many smart people and so many resources be so unorganized in its ability to perform IT related work that aligns with the ever-changing business needs.

      In an attempt to “get sane” and get under control, we instituted daily calls and then began tracking things in a central location.  This seemed to work since we were able to use this as a way to communicate with the business and keep track of the actual things that would need IT attention.  We took our so-called list to the business and required them to prioritize it.  (I will post a future blog on prioritizing later)  Once we did this, we actually had actual approved work.  From there we developed a Workplan template to be used for each sub project. 

      Now we were tracking against milestones which showed the business that IT was working on their needs and showed that IT had the ability and flexibility to get work done that was releavant.  Other things, we had to incorporate was a service level agreement as well as an issues and change control process.

      I will continue with this story some more in my next blog post but for now I hope it generates some interest and comments.  Thanks for reading.

    • #3115691

      Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

      by kehogan ·

      In reply to The Life in IT

      An integral part of being successful in IT is leadership. Because leading takes many forms, there is no absolute blueprint for its installation or existence. Some components of leadership specific to quarterbacking your IT team merit examination.

      • All successful leaders are good managers of people and information.
      • Their approach and manner may be radically different, but approach is not the most important thing.
      • Accomplishment in leading is a process.
      • A leader must be able to demonstrate different personality traits at appropriate times and places and in different situations.

      To lead successfully in the IT playing field, good leaders should possess these 10 common factors:

      1. Ability to perceive, digest, and deal with many different personalities.
      2. Ability to give appropriate guidance to those around him.
      3. Ability to handle the pressure of any given situation.
      4. Mastery of self-sacrifice for the good of others.
      5. Awareness of morale, harmony, and optimism of the team.
      6. Ability to think positively in a negative environment.
      7. Drive to be first in all endeavors requiring commitment to established goals.
      8. Mastery of effective communication skills and the desire to continually develop them.
      9. Desire to go out of the way to motivate others.
      10. Knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of all aspects of the project engagement, personnel, and program history.

      These 10 principles are the foundation for quality leadership on the IT playing field. Some IT leaders have more of these than others. A leader can use many methods to get effective results from those he leads. Approaches to leadership range in style from the tough, strong, noncompromising person to the soft-spoken, interacting, hands-on person.

      Two contrasting giants from the world of politics who illustrate the point of leaders with diversified styles are Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Roosevelt demonstrated an authoritarian, dynamic, vociferous personality. Lincoln often said “we” and had deep convictions for those he led and served.

      Some of the most proven leaders in football were masters at communication and leadership. Heading the list is former Miami Dolphins quarterback, Dan Marino who was said to be extremely direct and challenging to his team. Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts was able to ignite others with the spark in his eyes. The San Francisco 49ers have had many great quarterbacks, but Joe Montana led his 49er teams with what has been described as visible confidence.

      There are numerous ways an IT leader can demonstrate leadership. The three great quarterbacks singled out – Marino, Unitas, and Montana – all had different styles of commanding others. To say one method is superior to another would not be fair or accurate. There are many approaches to leading, as can be seen in sports as well as in the business world or politics.  In our own way, we can develop ourselves to become strong and successful leaders.  The common denominator is that we have a vast number of leadership methods that have worked and worked well in the past.  We can use a combination of these to develop our style of leadership.

      Success in leadership also depends on the leader knowing and understanding ones strengths and weaknesses as they relate to their place on the team. To make correct decisions, the IT leader first has to be completely honest with oneself. The IT playing field responsibilities require the use of good judgment. We should ask ourselves these questions:

      • Is this decision mine to make?
      • Will my decision be accepted or rejected?
      • Will others see this decision as good for the team?
      • Am I asking other to do something I myself would not do?
      • Do I present my instructions with encouragement and purposefulness?

      If the IT quarterback can ask himself these questions and answer them positively and if he receives positive feedback from others, the indications are excellent that he is on target as a leader.

      • #3137290

        Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        by hmx ·

        In reply to Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        whew!  i’m just glad i don’t have to look good in those football pants, too! 

      • #3137227

        Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        by angry_white_male ·

        In reply to Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        Excellent!!  I’m printing this out and leaving it on my boss’
        desk.  A must-read for any IT manager.  If you’re an IT
        manager and can’t fulfill any of these objectives – then I suggest you
        step down and go back to the helpdesk.

      • #3137143

        Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        by james.burke-ii ·

        In reply to Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        Two items stand out in this article – the ability to manage 1) people 2) information. My experiences show that it’s either one or the other and, on a rare occassion someone will posess both. To be effective without both qualities, the leader MUST IDENTIFY which one he/she is lacking and relinquish the demand for “total control” of both hats. They need to reach out and make it a “managed control” situation – offering others to assume roles and be managed in order to achieve the level of teamwork necessary in this field.

      • #3078805

        Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        by ts_sim ·

        In reply to Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        Thanks, a very refreshing article that focusses on the human aspects of IT management instead of technical skillsets. In a group or team of staff, these qualities are critical but for, say a 2 person team, the ability to do appears to be more important. Very often these managers then get to grow and lead a large team through the growth of the company and this leads to many potential issues just because the right type of manager is not available.

        What about the “Ability to make decisions” as an attribute of an IT leader? This is often absent and leads to prolonged periods of project teams waiting for a decision to be made.

      • #3078803

        Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        by kehogan ·

        In reply to Quarterbacking the IT Team in the Field

        The ability to make decisions starts with what decisions are mine to make.  Many times I see IT managers make decisions that should really come from leaders from other business functions.  Instead of making the decisions ourselves as IT managers, we need to build relationships with the other functional leaders and facilitate sometimes, the decision making process.

    • #3147696

      Ever have a hard time setting realistic goals?

      by kehogan ·

      In reply to The Life in IT

      My firm is currently involved in our annual review process.  This means a busy time for everyone.  However, as I reflect back and prepare to defend myself against my career goals, I again feel like I didn’t measure up.  Despite doing an above average job this past year, I will soon be asked yet again what I want to accomplish in 2007.  I realize that when listing your goals, they should be listed in a quantifiable way.  It’s okay to make a qualified goal as long as you have detailed actions that specifically state how that goal will be achieved. 

      I have listed some goals I have had over the past in my career or have seen from those that report to me.  When it’s time to list my goals for the upcoming year, I review this list and make modifications where necessary.  This saves me time and proves very efficient.  Using this as a guideline can help take the stress out of defining your goals for the upcoming year. 

      Some Potential Goals Are:

      • Lower TCO for organization (%)
      • Standardization ? process methodology ? reusability – Identify activities that are recurring and codify it, document it, preach it and train for it.
      • Complete a collaborative study of … (i.e., 7 habits)
      • Work towards developing CIO type skills
      • Produce predicatalble results that make a difference by delivering high quality and timely deliverables
      • Understand evolving trends, emerging technologies and business principles
      • Better understand organizational roles and responsibilities, organizational culture, organization and business unit visions, mission, and objectives
      • Ability to develop and implement business solutions based on trends, opportunities, market needs, and technology direction
      • Provide proactive leadership to help team achieve more
      • Don’t give headaches or (bad) surprises for management
      • Provide communication with confidence that things are on track and when they are not, provide confidence that you have a solution
      • During weekly team meetings hold training forums to advance the technical skills
      • Get certified in ? (PMP, CMM, etc.)
      • Meet Financial measures
      • Gain functional knowledge of a new technology (You pick it)
      • Read 1-5 industry articles a week from various publications and media
      • Subscribe to printed publications such as CIO insight, baseline, information week and fast company
      • Subscribe to online subscriptions related to SQL server, cold fusion, application development, crm
      • Leader in SEI ? CMM implementation levels
      • Increase ability to communicate effectively
        • Join Toastmasters
        • Learn to effectively communicate advice
        • Spend as much time talking about technology as possibl
        • Be able to explain technology limitations and set realistic expectations
        • Observe others intentions in meetings and closely watch how others act at meetings, study tone of office communications and examine how others interact with each other.
        • In every conversation, highlight one item I want listeners to remember – Always begin and end with that point
        • Make good eye contact and gesture to appear more confident and forceful
        • Do as much professional writing as possible – Take business writing course
        • Be able to translate technical information to those who don?t understand it
      • Keep project schedules under a maximum of 6-9 months
      • Create small wins to build from rather than taking on megaprojects
      • Build trust among collegues – establish credibility through small changes
      • Be seen ? Don?t use office as a bunker, increase face time with peers and upper management
      • Act quickly and build a reputation of responsiveness – be accessible and responsive to users
      • Pay attention to immediate frustrations and needs of organization
      • Improve listening and observing skills
      • Listen closely ? build up goodwill
      • Create an end-user support group to report frequent complaints as a way to probe weak areas. ? tell us what is driving people crazy.
      • Provide a plan on how to make IT within the organization a competitive advantage through differentiation.
      • Improve understanding of key business processes and operations ? Know the business
      • Spend time with end users and ask subject matter experts questions about their day to day jobs 
      • Schedule orientation meetings with those in the business to better understand their perspective
      • Measure the barometer of your reputation and that of the team
      • Gain further understanding of business model
      • Improve knowledge management issues ? knowledge retention
      • Set priorities
      • Establish a steering committee to build collaboration and use Q&A
      • Read industry journals.  Yes! even business ones
      • Attend certification courses or conferences
      • Develop network of IT and technical peers outside the organization
      • Think strategically
      • Find a mentor
      • Attend company events planning sessions/teams
      • Create more time to focus on strategic responsibilities by delegating tasks to staff which allows for building relationships
      • Keep technical capacity aligned with current expectations
      • Learn what stands in the way of the business adopting the tools they need
      • Move development closer to business operations and align and communicate IT vision with the overall business objectives
      • Focus on listening and learning, not telling – ask lots of questions
      • Work on not being defensive when challenged
      • Never say no to an idea
      • Learn to talk in the business terms, not the technology
      • Enable IT to leverage the businesses ability to do more, faster, better and cheaper.
      • Simpler is better ? 12 base hits are easier than 9 home runs
      • Focus on outcomes and benefits
      • Learn to facilitate change ? become the champion of change within the organization
      • Hone ability to facilitate the thinking of others
      • Get the right people communicating
      • Deliver results not excuses ? IT is in the critical path of peoples ability to do their jobs.
      • Adopt and promote a sense of stewardship and not ownership
      • Let the users own the applications ? Own nothing. Facilitate everything
      • Create a pragmatic approach for prioritization of projects – Rate on fit and payback
      • Separate maintenance from development and rotate members
      • Always have a roll-back strategy
      • Make it easy for management, users and vendors to do business with IT – Make each exchange positive and supportive
      • When things go wrong, over-compensate to make things right again
      • Give as much instant gratification as possible
      • Continue to evolve service level agreements and take technical inventory
      • Instill a customer service philosophy into IT team
      • Send junior staffers into the field so that they can learn firsthand what goes on in the business
      • Get an MBA
      • Get Project management certification
      • Become better problem solver and crisis manager
      • Devote part of my time and my staff?s time to learning our organization?s business needs.
      • People development – Make commitment to building best people
      • Develop employee skills matrix which allows you to focus on the right skills necessary for your employees to know, as well as, what?s exactly expected of them if they want to advance within the organization
      • Mentor someone

      Whew!  You made it through this long list.  Remember, people will evaluate you based on whether you can solve their problems or create their problems.  If your not delivering every day, you’re wasting your time.

    • #3166406

      Ever blame it on the testing process?

      by kehogan ·

      In reply to The Life in IT

      The testing process can be as simple as running one or two scripts or as complex as executing thousands of test cases in multiple environments dependent upon multiple systems and people.  During my experience with software or systems testing, I have not yet looked at my process or method after testing has completed and said, “Now that was a flawless process”.  I want to share with you a basic process I’ve used repeatedly.  Now this is basic and has been adapted to fit various testing projects, but as a shell of a process it’s proven to be effective.

      The Test Process

      Requirements Management

      • Make sure requirements are defined clearly
      • Group according to mission critical success (order them by importance)


      • Compose the test plan/strategy document
      • ID testing standards and guidelines
      • Select the hardware and software for the testing environments.  FTP clients just don’t appear.
      • Assign roles and responsibilities to your testers as well as all support resources including the development staff
      • Create your test scenarios that show every possible iteration
      • Define a testing schedule listing out a daily activity log
      • Set the test run procedures that describe how the tests will be executed.  These are often referred to as the steps associated with a test case
      • Set procedures for controlling and measuring the testing process.  Examples include daily touchpoint calls or status reports
      • Prioritize your test cases and determine which tests need to be run no matter what so when time, cost or resources become an issue, your team can focus on the most critical tests.
      • Perform a risk assessment covering business constraints, environment constraints, data, resources, other projects, politics, and documentation
      • Set the ground rules…with everybody.  Involve everyone and set standards for documentatoin, defect management, naming conventions, and communications
      • Set up the test environment and identify any issues that may require extra long lead time.
      • Determine if there is any overlap in your testing and if automated testing can be applied.

      The above is just a sample of some actions needed in order to solidify your testing process.  In my next blog, I will expand onto this and cover the actual setup of testing and shakedown of the environments as well as provide more on successful test execution


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