An interesting look inside the world of IT

with an expert survival guide

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Chapter One

Today's Information Technology Environment: Putting out Fires

It's Monday morning, and everyone is returning to his or her desk or cubicle from a nice, relaxing, leisurely weekend. Among them is John, a trepid fellow who heads the IT department. He casually rides the elevator to the third floor where he expects to step into his normal routine. But this Monday is different (or perhaps unfortunately not), it seems. John is immediately greeted by several colleagues, and his phone begins to ring nonstop in the background. Apparently the server had been down for the entire weekend, and no one can communicate within or from outside of the organization. The office is in panic. Fortunately, John is well equipped to handle such a catastrophe... or is he?

As have many information technology managers, John inherited his job almost by default. When he began working for the company twelve years earlier, he mentioned that he had taken a course in Microsoft technologies and was certified in one of the company's products. That was enough for the company owner to place John in charge of all technical issues. The company was quite small at the time John started but has since nearly tripled in size. Despite John's dedication to quality performance, the task of staying abreast of all the changes in IT has become overwhelming for him to manage by himself. Rather than being able to plan ahead for the company's IT needs, he has become a firefighter, fixing many small problems as they arise. Each week, several IT "fires" would be brought to his attention, and one by one he would try to extinguish them. Handling a company's information technology in this manner was far from ideal.

Unfortunately, many organizations have people just like John managing their IT departments. A lack of standardization in management qualifications, a rapidly expanding field, and a lack of appreciation of IT in general contribute to the problem. Business owners and executives do not understand the importance of budgeting for IT expenditures nor the variety of components in the IT department that likely require attention from other professionals.

Conversely, IT managers often lack the soft skills needed to explain this importance in practical terms. As a result, preventative maintenance, upgrades, and audits of the organization.s information technology are neglected, being either outright ignored or put off until time becomes available. The only time IT issues are considered is when a malfunction occurs in daily operations. By then, the problem has likely snowballed into a much bigger issue that will cost the company resources, bottom-line dollars, and client loyalty!

So where does the problem lie? Is it John's fault for not staying abreast of what the company needs and pushing for IT financial allowances to accomplish them? Perhaps the company's executives and/or owners are to blame for their shortsightedness regarding the importance of investing in information technology. Most of the time, a combination of these factors are at the heart of the matter. And with such a rapidly expanding field, an inherent lack of understanding and knowledge of current technologies is always present to some degree. Therefore executives, owners, and IT professionals must understand the importance of information technology and its value to an organization. Without this realization, the company will move from one fire to the next, handicapping its ability to grow and succeed.

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