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You know what you want to do - why isn't it happening?

By bob_steel ·
This is something that troubles me. I see examples all over - in my own company and many others - of IT managers not having the bottle to put into practice the policies they know to be best for the company.

Plaintive excuses - "The uses won't like it", "We have to do it that way because they insist on using software x in the accounts department", "but... managers insist on having a printer each", "I'm lumbered with this system - the directors chose it, I just have to put up with it", "I told them what the best solution was - but they chose to stick with platform y".

The list goes on. For crying out loud - who's in charge? You want responsibility, not a heart attack.

Company bosses get used to having strong sales management, strong engineering or design management, strong financial or strong marketing management depending on what the business is. It's the strength of these managers and directors that drives the business forward. But where are the strong IT managers?

If you are one of the few, strong, principled IT managers - power to your elbow - but for the rest, maybe we could have some discussion about how to build a career that has a destination and how to make that difference - and some positive examples of how putting your foot down delivers the goods.

You can't beat being right - and if you do something that in your heart you know is wrong - well, shame on you.

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You got it all wrong

by JamesRL In reply to You know what you want to ...

You don't exist to be a strong IT manager. You exist to serve your customers. Sometimes thats your end users. Sometimes its your peers who are department heads. Sometimes its the board of directors.

Regardless, everything you do is to serve the company's best interests. Often those conflict with the expressed interests of one of those sub groups above. That doesn't mean you go all "bull in a china shop". That means you give your persepective and engage those other stakeholders whose interests you are protecting.

I've seen some very strong IT managers end up outsourced and unemployed because they had such a strong sense of mission that they neglected to understand their role as a service provider.

Yes sometimes that means you have to plow ahead and make some people unhappy - especially when protecting security. Thats doesn't mean that you can ignore them just because you think they are wrong.

James

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Concur - Need to be Proactive

by Wayne M. In reply to You got it all wrong

JamesRL has said it nicely. The job of the lower level IT staff is to support the IT needs of the company; to support the IT decisions made by the company. The indication of a strong IT manager is not standing up and saying "No" to a decision that has already been made, but in helping to make the appropriate decision.

The decision to provide a local printer for some staff is not a concern of IT. If the user needs justify it, IT need only be concerned with specifying an adequate printer and then maintaining the printers.

The selection of corporate software is a complex and often costly process. Replacing existing software because the IT staff does not like it is a non-starter; it is really an unjustifiable proposition. Realizing that the software will eventually need to be upgraded or replaced, however, a strong IT manager would be working with the appropriate department managers and staff now to guide the decision to one that addresses both department and IT needs.

IT is a support function. Unfortunately, too many IT departments fail to be proactive and leave it up to other departments to make decisions in isolation. Most external customer facing departments are contantly trying to influence future customer decisions. It is a pity that most IT departments feel their only role is to be a roadblock to decisions that already have been made.

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Maybe this is the tension

by bob_steel In reply to You got it all wrong

Thanks James,

Valid points every one. I think you've nailed the source of my point. Is it not a question of whether IT in a business is there to serve the needs of the other functions of the business - "I need a database making like THIS to do job x - IT department, make it happen"

Or whether IT is the driving force in the business. "Sales will need a CRM - IT will produce, procure or whatever - the best CRM possible that will integrate with ALL the other functions of the business."

I still hold that if the IT department is 'right' about its choice of system or process (and your security scenario is a good example) then it doesn't matter if any other department is upset by the decision. They just need educating - and that's the job of the IT department too.

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Just give me the requirements

by JamesRL In reply to Maybe this is the tension

As a former project manager, I spend a lot of time telling the customer, tell me what you need, not how to get it for you.

IT has to balance the needs of the users with the needs of the business; both are customers. The business needs you to help its users and at the same time be reasonable on costs.

On most of my projects, we ask the data centre/development folks for requirements, just like we ask the users. If the long term direction of the company is to leverage their expertise in Oracle databases, that becomes a requirement.

Not all businesses are "driven" by IT. Those that chose to be have to have a closer linkage of IT's strategic plans to the company's strategic plans.

Gees that course on "Aligning IT with the Corporate Strategic Plan" just paid off.

James

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Follow JamesRL's Lead

by JP_The_IT_Guy In reply to You got it all wrong

JamesRL has very sage advice. The fundamental principle that I.T. exists to serve the core business needs for the company is a crucial concept to keep straight.

The responsibility of I.T. management, once the requirements are fully understood, is to either make the descision or guide non-I.T. management in the decision making process. When guiding someone else, it is primarily a matter of education as to the relevant costs, risks, and benefits. When you illustrate the costs & risks, and not in an overly dramatic fashion, and the other managers buy into that analysis, then arriving at the same solution should be trivial.

I have seen what are in my opinion "bad" discisions made, primarily motivated by personal or policial pressures. I wash my hands of those descisions if I feel that I have made every effort possibly to educate the descision-maker as to the costs & risks. At that point, all you can do is you best to implement & support the descision. Responsibility for the outcome shouldn't depend upon my effort in the matter, only upon the appropriateness of the solution for the problem. By removing any excuses of my performance, it should be obvious that they made their bed and now are forced to lie in it.

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Excellent Point

by shardeth-15902278 In reply to You got it all wrong

I have dealt with a number of IT managers who felt that they were the most important cog in the machine. One in particular spent a small fortune to build what he/she determined was an appropriately secure environment. The environment was certainly secure...to the point of unuseable. Users couldn't even select printers or simply browse the network. He/She was ultimately let go, and the infrastructure was overhauled. The department role changed from 'information management', to facilitation. It is amazing how much that has done to improve productivity throughout the organization.

IT most ceratinly does need more people who are strong enough to listen to other viewpoints, understand non-IT processes, and educate non-IT people on how IT fits within those processes.

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Company climate matters most

by MJGunther In reply to You know what you want to ...

A couple of thoughts:

1. Companies choose the IT directors they want. If the management is serious about IT, they will hire someone capable of insisting when necessary, or saying ?no? when appropriate. If the management knows it needs IT but sees it as a necessary evil, they will hire a patsy. No matter how strong the next-level managers are, their projects will go nowhere if the IT director is not an empowered advocate. And the empowerment comes from the company management, not the IT director him/herself.

2. IT has a strike against it from the start: IT (in non-tech companies) is not directly in the ?widget-production? chain. IT is a support, infrastructure department, like HR. Your examples of ?strong sales management, strong engineering or design management, strong financial or strong marketing management? are directly in the widget-production chain. It takes an enlightened management to divert money from the production chain to infrastructure ? and it takes solid proof of ROI by the IT director to get the bucks and the approval.

At one point, when I had a real dweeb as an IT director, I wondered why he couldn?t stand up to management and say ?What the heck did you hire me for if you don?t want the IT environment improved?? Well, he couldn?t. Ineffectual was his middle name, and that was exactly what the then-management wanted. He was axed when the management changed, and a strong IT director replaced him.

I?m sorry to have to say this, but changing the internal climate from ?oh, yeah, IT stuff? to ?IT! Let?s do it!? is going to be extraordinarily difficult. It would require cultivating powerful advocates in the upper (power) echelons of the company to bring about a change in management attitude. That takes time and delicate handling.

The corollary, I guess, is that when you next look for a job, ask questions that elicit a sense of IT efficacy in the company: Do the IT-initiated projects get green lights, or is IT?s role mostly reactive to projects initiated by other departments (i.e., marketing?s demand for the latest trendoid software)? Does IT have a head count that permits it to achieve company objectives? What type of projects have been approved for the near and long-range future ? and are they infrastructure to strengthen the company?s technology as a whole, or are they scattershot rollouts demanded by the users?

I look forward to seeing responses that give examples of mid-level IT management making the changes the company needs, despite lack of support from IT directors or management.

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I know where they are

by jdmercha In reply to You know what you want to ...

The strong IT managers are the MBA's. Yup, the ones with no technical skills. The same one's that will buy dirt cheap equipment and expect you to make it work in your environment.

By their very makeup, people who are drawn to IT are generally quite people. As opposed to the people who are drawn to sales, who tend to be very talkative.

But there are always the exceptions to this. You can find strong IT managers. They are just less common.

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Been there, done something

by irogerk In reply to You know what you want to ...

Feel and act like just another cog in the wheel.
Why you think you have to settle for that?
Age old prob.
Try this, social interaction, like find some common interest with the "them".
You be suprised where your input could go.

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Advocate for business

by Tig2 In reply to You know what you want to ...

First, I can't say it better than James- IT is there to facilitate business.

I don't champion IT, I champion solutions. I am responsible for gathering the requirements and taking them to the best technical minds we have available. What I get from those technical SMEs is the best solution fit for the requirements that business has provided.

The position I take with business is that we will solution in a manner that is consistant with the strategic goals. In working with the technical team, I keep them mindful of budgetary restrictions.

I have been in the position of going to business and telling them that the direction they are pursuing is not going to provide the expected result. Hard message to deliver but necessary- we are supposed to be a partner to business and when poor decisions have been made we are responsible for communicating that. In that process, it is equally important to provide alternative so that business has a better chance of making better decisions.

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