Managing the IT Management Crisis

Some people are happy working in a purely technical IT position. They like to roll their sleeves up and focus on skills they earned in their information technology degrees and building practical experience.

Others want to gain authority and responsibility by going into management. But what once worked in sleepy, slowly moving IT shops is no longer good enough. There’s an IT management crisis coming. Budget restrictions, an explosion of IT assets, heightened expectations from upper management, lightning fast changes in technology, and users bringing their own hardware to work in the form of smartphones and tablets are just some of the factors that make yesterday’s management practices inadequate.

What technology managers should do is build a solid set of management skills — maybe through going back to school for a business degree, or possibly through research. Then they need to have an overarching strategy to deal with the reality of modern corporations.

Look to standard IT governance frameworks like COBIT, to help develop good policy and practice for the organizations, or ISO 17799, which is for controlling and improving information security. Use such IT strategies as server consolidation, automation, rationalization, and virtualization to lower capital and operating expenses. Work to shift to standardized tool sets and software across a company to get more efficiency in administration and better deals in purchasing. Also, work with contract and purchasing teams to drive the best deals possible with vendors.

Even if you’re not in charge of an entire enterprise, there are techniques you can use to improve how you carry out your responsibilities. For example, consider alternate technologies that can lighten the management load. Connecting a branch office to a main one through a VPN (virtual private network) rather than a traditional dedicated wide area network (WAN). The VPN uses encrypted communications over the Internet, which means the company leverages the existing communications capabilities rather than creating its own. It saves time and makes systems administration much easier.

Or use cloud computing to offload maintenance of major systems. If the company plans to outsource some IT operations, make sure you use smart metrics to track whether the outsourcer is providing the necessary level of service and performance. A list of five will get you a long way:

  • number of service requests
  • service response time
  • time to resolution
  • length of system downtime
  • frequency of system downtime

Don’t crush yourself under the weight of so many numbers that you give up looking at them. The best CEOs do well managing large corporations with a dozen or so well-chosen metrics. The best management is a matter of working smart. So give yourself every advantage in your career.

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