This book is a practical guide to the key things you need to do right to successfully manage Information Technology (IT) in today's business world. It is intended for both new managers of IT organizations and seasoned managers from other areas who have management responsibility for IT in their company. This means discussion focuses on pivotal strategic issues such as budgets, staffing, systems, relationships with end-users and senior management, etc., and gives specific advice for each.
Concentrating on strategic issues is sometimes thought of by harried IT managers as too general to be of much use. Yet paying attention to strategic issues is just paying attention to the basics. If you get the basics right, the rest follows. If you don't, no amount of cleverness will keep you from failing. When you are done reading this you be able to create and maintain your own strategic focus on IT management challenges. You will also be better equipped to approach the immediate (tactical) challenges to your plans.
Every book has its words to live by and this book is no exception. The two phrases you'll see most often are "Do The Basics" and "Live by these Four Principles: on time, on budget, no surprises, tell the truth." These will be repeated because they make all the difference between success and failure.
This book is intended for people who either are starting a new position as an IT manager or who want to update their knowledge of IT management fundamentals. Their title may be IT Manager, Director, Vice President or Chief Information Officer. The fundamental tasks are much the same, but the scale and scope of their application grows. This book assumes that you have the chair behind the desk where the proverbial information "buck stops" in your company.
Your background may be from within the IT field or you may be a line manager who has assumed control of an IT organization. In the latter case this book will be especially helpful because it avoids "techie" discussions and concentrates on the core issues and so-called best practices of good IT management. If you know how to deal effectively with core IT issues you'll be way ahead of your peers.
The focus of the book can be summarized in the phrase “Do the basics.” The “basics” in this case are how and when to apply four easy principles of successful IT management, namely getting the job done on time, on budget with no surprises and telling the truth.
What you won't find in this book is a detailed guide to managing difficult people or to the techniques of computer benchmarks. Nor does it pretend to show you how to read the minds of your management. There are dozens of good books on managing difficult people, drafting budgets, financial planning, strategic vision, and so forth. This book concentrates on how and when to use those skills and why.
What you will find in this book is both strategic and tactical advice. The first four chapters can be applied to management generally by substituting "accounting," "marketing," or the like for "IT." The rest of the book focuses upon issues that are essential to IT in particular. The goal of the whole book is to deliver a concise outline of the key things you need to know to succeed as an IT manager: coping with end-users, Senior Management, budgets, control of resources, people, and the occasional crisis among other things.
Many management books are written in an effort to fire up managerial zeal for new ideas and methods. This book takes a different tack. We're more interested here in what works than in what generates discussion, smoke, and noise. For example, this book tells you that you will occasionally meet some problems that simply cannot be surmounted by any practical means within your power. Some situations are not in your control and never will be (unless, perhaps, you own the company). Rather than raise false hopes about "surmounting all obstacles" this book points out these "bear traps" as known dangers to avoid wasting your time.
It is a cliché these days that IT management is more important to business than ever before. That's the good news. The bad news is that unless your company sells IT services as a significant source of revenue, the IT organization will almost always be viewed as a cost center rather than a profit center. In other words, IT usually will be viewed as a necessary expense rather than as an important asset. You may not succeed at the task, but part of your job is to try and change this perception.
In the business world, being a cost center is one big strike against you before you even step up to the plate. Generally, you're not going to be able to overcome this position by subsequent performance no matter how sterling. Rather than grousing about the fairness of life, you can still strive to add value to the company through the IT function. IT in most companies is already invaluable as well as indispensable. Nevertheless, IT remains a cost center on the books of most firms.
What you can succeed in doing in this environment is building a first class IT organization despite the inherent restrictions. That, after all, is what you're paid to do. The following pages tell you how by providing a quick course in the basics of IT management. If you already know them, it will help reinforce your skills. And if you don't, it could save your job and your sanity.
The style employed in this book is conversational rather than textbook. Imagine that we're sitting around a lunch table mid-week exchanging ideas about how to survive in the present while preparing for the future. We're talking about our jobs, our livelihoods -- not sitting in classroom debating topics. If we fail to think clearly about the key choices, decisions, and processes in our area of responsibility we could easily be out of work.
It's been said that only drug traffickers and computer types call their customers "users." There's truth to this bit of folklore. It's not only funny, it's accurate with respect to the dependence modern business has on computer technology. Still, the name "user" does allow us to distinguish providers from consumers of IT. I prefer the term "end-user" and employ it here to denote all those people in your company (including, possibly, their paying customers) who are your customers.
This book is deliberately brief. Keeping it short and to the point helps keep the subject in focus. This is especially true when the main purpose of the book is to emphasize doing a few basic things the right way and at the right time. If you don’t do the basics correctly, then more sophisticated activities are doomed to failure.
Lastly, there is no way that a book that focuses upon critical skills can anticipate what each reader may know. I've made the assumption that some readers know some parts of their jobs well, may be in the dark or uncertain about other parts, and some readers don't yet know anything about their job. For simplicity and clarity every topic is presented as if the reader is unfamiliar with it. Those who are already familiar with a topic should use this material as a refresher to help you know whether you're on track.
Chapter 1 describes the fundamental guidelines and principles that every IT manager must know. These are presented along with the key issues of every day IT management life.
Chapter 2 outlines what your employer expects from a good manager who happens to have responsibility for the IT functions. It describes the essentials of your job, what Senior Management expects and what the rest of the organization is most likely to expect of you.
Getting a handle on what your job is all about forms the heart of Chapter 3. Its aim is to introduce you to the essentials of executive IT management and to offer advice for those new to IT management.
People and how to use them wisely is the subject of Chapter 4. This discussion emphasizes the basics for relating to peers
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