Part 2 of 3 – The Truth is…. I’ll share some truths about developers, managers, and processes in IT.
Just what is an IT Manager?
The management career path in the Information Technology field is often a major “fork in the road” or decision point. Individuals weigh options between maintaining their technical skills and job assignments with responsibility for managing people. In IT, it’s not uncommon to find workers that have zero-interest in management. The technology is what attracted them to IT and they prefer to interface with technology more than people. For those workers that choose the other side of the fork in the road there is an important lesson to be learned; Managing IT requires more than managing technology and technology workers.
We need to redefine what we expect of IT Managers.
A large component of IT management is comprised of understanding technology and managing the people that implement technology. But the most successful IT managers are those that align with and create partnerships with other business units in the organization. Managers from marketing, finance, operations, customer service, and other areas of the business want true partnership from their IT management counterparts. IT managers that just provide a technology service, follow IT rules and processes, and enforce standards are missing the mark. When that happens, IT becomes an island in the organization. Other business units start to look for ways around IT (often called Shadow IT). Business partnership is the place where IT managers connect the technology with solutions that the technology provides. The technology exists to connect people-to-people and businesses-to-customers.
Some truths about IT Managers.
Getting up every morning to work with technology is a good place to be. Opportunities abound to be the hero. But with every opportunity is the risk of being the goat as well. IT managers can be viewed as value-add or expensive overhead. These boundaries and risks provide the framework for a few truths that I’ve learned:
- IT managers wonder is it possible to please everyone. Business leaders want IT managers to have their IT organizations accomplish more, use more nimble processes, and cost less money. At the same time security and compliance officers want more controlled changes, more thorough processes, and added costs for additional security.
- IT managers are caught somewhere between run-the-business and grow-the-business. Traditionally business leaders wanted IT to keep information flowing through the organization so that business orders are processed, produced, and billed. But business environments change and products mature. When customers start looking for new products and services, business leaders wants IT to help grow the business as well. On the income statement, IT is a cost center. The IT manager must prove the value-add of how they help grow-the-business by mapping their actions to ROI and profit.
- IT managers struggle with prioritizing what’s important from what’s urgent. Internal customers create urgency with a variety of tactics when their routine is interrupted. Their urgency often interrupts IT managers from working on the important projects for the organization.
Next time you see your IT manager, say some kind words and help them build the IT-Business partnership. At the end of the day, they want to make their customers happy and provide better solutions for everyone. It’s OK if you tell them that they need to work faster and cost less. They’ve heard it before and it gives them a little challenge. 🙂
Onward and upward!
Part 1 of 3 – The Truth is …. I’ll share some truths about developers, managers, and processes in IT.
I almost became an IT developer.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Georgia Tech. The curriculum was heavily weighted towards programming to teach computer science concepts and initially I thought I would become a developer. While I made As and Bs throughout college I realized my senior year that I wasn’t a gifted developer and couldn’t see myself doing that 40 hours each week. I could write code. But for many assignments, the code didn’t flow naturally for me. I saw myself an average-joe developer.
Fast forward to today.
My development skills have served me well in my 20+ years in a technology profession. I’ve been able to do light coding for some work tasks and productivity routines. I know enough to speak intelligently with developers and ask probing questions. Today, I work with development teams to provide solutions for our internal business partners and customers. The importance of IT developers in an organization is immense. Some of them excel at not only knowing how to write code, but they become a repository of knowledge for business rules that govern the day-to-day operations of their business. You probably know a few people like this. They are intertwined with the system, the rules, and the output of work in your organization. I think of them as an organizational czar. They are experts in their area and hold a large amount of influence in how work is produced.
Some truths about IT developers.
Working with developers for so many years I’ve come to realize a few things about them. These are characterizations and not criticisms in any way. I love my development teams. For better or worse this much I know to be true:
- IT developers want to please you so they will tell you what you want to hear. They don’t like to commit to dates but sometimes they’ll give you a date that you want to hear. I often say developers are some of the most optimistic people I know.
- IT developers really prefer to be single threaded and not be assigned multiple things at once. The trick is to figure out how to keep the development backlog full without letting the developer get stressed about having too much to do. Don’t interrupt a developer during the middle of a sprint and ask them to do something different!
- IT developers don’t like to fill out status reports, track time, or write documentation. I’ve not been able to convince most developers that if they use the proper tools to update their status then they’ll see the project manager less.
If you haven’t told your development team how much you appreciate them lately then use this as a reminder to do so. When they give you an optimistic estimate, just smile and thank them. Add a little buffer and make sure to not interrupt them once they get started. 😉
Onward and upward!
A penny spar’d is twice got.
The root of our well known proverb “A penny saved is a penny earned” is traced to George Herbert’s Outlandish Proverbs (1640). The idea is that by keeping a penny, you have the penny to count in-hand rather than counting the penny spent. Hence the thought ‘twice got’. Over time the phrase was evolved into other variations including:
A penny saved is a penny Earned.
It seems we don’t know exactly who to attribute the modern phrase to. It was printed in Pall Mall Magazine in September 1899. While the phrase has obvious implications for our personal finances, it also plays well into the business world when we consider the application to profits.
Those who know and work with me know that I’m a stickler for company expense control. Since I’m currently positioned in IT, that means I constantly look at the Sales General and Administrative expense on the company’s income sheet. I don’t consider myself obsessive over it, but I do know it’s my job to keep up with such things. IT has an indirect contribution to sales and the top line revenue, but it has a direct contribution to the SG&A costs and the bottom line. Dollar-for-dollar and penny-for-penny, IT spend impacts the profit line of the company.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
William Boetcker is attributed with this phrase as a part of his Ten Cannots. I suspect he was talking more to individuals and personal finance than business. But if I play this thought out for the business world it has good meaning.
I don’t own my own business. I work for someone else. But I take the approach that I’m employed and entrusted with spending the owner’s money. If I were the owner, I would certainly want employees who were concerned about how they spent my money.
In the business world and in IT, we don’t always want to be known for being thrifty. We all know that’s it’s not always wise to go with the lowest bidder for goods and services. As the saying goes, ‘you get what you pay for’. But the idea is that prosperity is linked with being wise about how we spend the pennies of the company. So we should think about why the pennies are spent. What’s purpose? What’s return? This is how we all contribute to the bottom-line. On the income statement, a penny saved translates to a penny earned. The bigger trick is to figure how to take a penny spent and turn it into three pennies earned.