Seeking success in IT management? Then, you've got to have your head on straight, said IT professionals in response to a recent SearchWindowsManageability survey. Egocentric, buck-passing, risk-taking lone wolves and blowhards don't have the right stuff, even if they're techno-wizards, respondents said.
Asked to share the key to their success in systems management, IT pros offered thoughtful advice that can help others avoid some expensive mistakes and team-wrecking practices.
Do your homework and document everything, said Alan Meeks, an IT educator in San Antonio, Tex. "Research. Plan. Prepare. Document. Test. Document. Run pilot programs. Document," he said. "Then, execute. Follow through. Follow up. Document."
Do be honest about your capabilities and that of your systems, said John M. Sutton, senior computer forensic examiner for the U.S. Army. "This starts with myself, knowing what I can and cannot do, realistically knowing how far I can extend the envelope," he said. "Inform the boss which decisions will not work, and why, even at the risk of the job."
Don't try to cover up your mistakes. It's important to admit your errors, including interpersonal ones, and fix them quickly, said Sutton. Don't wait for someone to discover your mistake or for the other person involved to make the first or the correct move.
Do buy "substantially more horsepower than you think you will ever need," said systems administrator Dirk Faegre of Westbrook, Maine. "My boss taught me this trick when hardware was very expensive and it produced superb results," he said. "Upgrading, reloading, reconfiguring, rebuilding and re-everything is expensive." In particular, don't skimp CPU power, disk space and backup facilities, he noted.
Don't be afraid to be the first one to do something, Meeks said. "Just be prepared for all the snags and bumps you'll inevitably encounter," he added.
Don't ever trust your core processes to someone else, said Faegre. He asks: Can you really trust anyone else to safeguard the success of your company? Learn how to manage you core processes, "or go into another business," he said. "Farm out subsidiary utility stuff, but never your mission critical processes."
Don't rely heavily on consultants, said Faegre. "The consultancy has one real goal in mind: Extend the engagement," he said. That's how they make money and stay in business.
Consultants often "spend prodigious amounts of time and your money learning what it is that you do," Faegre said. "When they have finally figured out about 15% of it, they proclaim that you're doing the wrong stuff." Of course, the right practices are those that the consultant can implement. "They lead you down the path of what they are capable of doing even if it's not what you need or want," he said. In his experience, consulting firms cover their failures by blaming the customer for poor communication.
Do go the extra mile to keep your systems running smoothly, but don't sacrifice family or health, said Sutton. Also, don't work your fingers to the bone to "cover the ineptitude or inadequacy of others, especially incompetent leadership," he said.
Do choose an employer with a company culture that fits your style, said Sutton. An IT manager's goals must mesh with the company's goals, so that both can succeed.
Do build strong, mutually beneficial, respectful and trustful relationships with your vendors, said Faegre. "If a salesperson is not capable of getting to that point, demand a new and better one or take your business elsewhere," he said. Also, do some favors for your salesperson. Those good deeds will be "repaid in spades," he said.
Do hire smart people. "Really, really, really smart people," said Dirk. "They can do in a short time what an infinite number of mediocre people will never get done."
Do take care of and be an advocate for your subordinates, several IT pros said. . Fight for funding for staff training, they urged. Make sure that your staff has time for themselves and their families. Also, Sutton advised supervisors to arrange meetings that give their charges "face time" with management.
Don't let power go to your head, several IT managers said. You can undermine your own success, they concluded, by blowing your own horn, having favorites on your staff, setting impossible goals, and creating an adversarial relationship with your employees.
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