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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Prove an IT Manager Is Incompetent?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the terrible-bosses dept.

IT 331

An anonymous reader writes "I have been asked by a medium-sized business to help them come to grips with why their IT group is ineffective, loathed by all other departments, and runs at roughly twice the budget of what the CFO has deemed appropriate for the company's size and industry. After just a little scratching, it has become quite clear that the 'head of IT' has no modern technological skills, and has been parroting what his subordinates have told him without question. (This has led to countless projects that are overly complex, don't function as needed, and are incredibly expensive.) How can one objectively illustrate that a person doesn't have the knowledge sufficient to run a department? The head of IT doesn't necessarily need to know how to write code, so a coding test serves no purpose, but should be able to run a project. Are there objective methods for assessing this ability?"

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OMG, John is that you? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959803)

I can't believe you submitted this to Slashdot!

Re:OMG, John is that you? (1, Offtopic)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about a year ago | (#43959849)

Yeah John. Get it through your thick head: You're not going home early on Friday. Now get back to work.

Re:OMG, John is that you? (4, Informative)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43959929)

There is nothing to prove as everyone already knows it. The trick is getting senior management to stop ignoring it but that might be tricky as they are probably as incompetent anyway.

Why not (3, Interesting)

skirmish666 (1287122) | about a year ago | (#43959979)

Suggest an incredibly expensive, complex project that has no benefit to the organisation. Off the record, of course. Let him take _all_ the credit.

Re:Why not (1)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | about a year ago | (#43960055)

Fuck that. I usually propose running Cat 5e in a single strand for 300m. If the project is approved.....

Re:OMG, John is that you? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960071)

Dear John,

If you have been hired as a consultant to fix a companies problems with their IT department and you have to turn to /. for help; Do you really feel that you are in the place to criticize another professionals competency? /Sheldon

Circular logic (5, Funny)

Carewolf (581105) | about a year ago | (#43959805)

He is the IT manager because he is incompetent, or possibly incompetent because he is the IT manager. Not sure which comes first but they always follow.

Re:Circular logic (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959859)

The Peter Principle is a proposition that states that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, "Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence." In more formal parlance, the effect could be stated as: employees tend to be given more authority until they cannot continue to work competently. It was formulated by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, a humorous[1] treatise, which also introduced the "salutary science of hierarchiology".

The principle holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Eventually they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. Peter's Corollary states that "[i]n time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties"[2] and adds that "work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence." "Managing upward" is the concept of a subordinate finding ways to subtly manipulate his or her superiors in order to prevent them from interfering with the subordinate's productive activity or to generally limit the damage done by the superiors' incompetence.

This principle can be modeled and has theoretical validity for simulations.[3]

(wikipedia)

Re:Circular logic (5, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43959927)

It's how you evidence it though, but honestly I think the person posing the question answered it for themselves.

The IT department is running at double the cost of departments in equivalently sized businesses (and fields?) and that's all the evidence you need. Though if you need other objective methods for things like project delivery then simply ask if they're on time and on budget. If they're not and the justifications he provides as to why don't stack up then that's about as objective you can get in something that is semi-arbitrary in nature like project management. Other things you can measure objectively are number of outstanding support tickets, average response times, that sort of thing - make his support function adhere to a reasonable SLA and if he can't adhere to it look at the reasons why, if it's poor management again then there's some more evidence for you.

As for what to do, well a few options are common in this scenario:

1) Sack him.

2) If you can't sack him right off, reorganise - state that IT isn't performing so the company intends to split IT into two, support and operations or some such. Leave him in charge of one, bring someone in who can do the job, split the budgets taking away most of his and his responsibility to the new guy. In a year or two decide to merge the departments again eliminating one of them and removing redundant posts - guess which ones lose their jobs? the incompetent manager and his incompetent underlings, keep the good ones. Enjoy your shiny new IT department.

3) If the CEO/directors are part the problem and don't want him to go, quit and go elsewhere. It's no longer your problem.

Really it depends how much you care, how much the management above him cares, what country you're in and what the employment laws are, and how much of a shit you give about lazy/incompetent people remaining in employment, or at least, under your company's employment. These things are all highly subjective so it's no point listening to me or anyone else on but something you have to figure out for yourself.

I Don't Get It (3, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#43960227)

group is ineffective, loathed by all other departments, and runs at roughly twice the budget of what the CFO has deemed appropriate for the company's size and industry.

Is this not objective proof that a person doesn't have the knowledge sufficient to run a department?

Re:I Don't Get It (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43960313)

Or that the CFO doesn't have any say.

Leading to point out the whole company is mismanaged.

I'm not a manager, but... (5, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year ago | (#43959811)

IANAM, but the simple pseudo-code I came up with would probably work.


for each job responsibility
          if !manager.capable(responsibility) then
                        ++strikes;

if strikes > threshold
          new CafeteriaCashier(manager);

Re:I'm not a manager, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959933)

Wow, each incompetent manager gets his own cafeteria cashier? I guess it's so that they spend less valuable time waiting in the cafeteria queue, right? ;-)

Re:I'm not a manager, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960093)

I suspect he was trying to promote a cashier to manager? But that can't possibly be right, not where I work. ...We almost never promote from within.

Re:I'm not a manager, but... (4, Funny)

ameen.ross (2498000) | about a year ago | (#43960047)

The only problem is that usually
// Usually the people who get the management jobs are brother-in-law, nephew, schoolbuddy etc. of the CEO.
set threshold to 9999

Manager skills are not the issue (4, Insightful)

hsa (598343) | about a year ago | (#43959813)

You must be a techie. The coding kind.

Head of IT doesn't really need to know that much tech. His blind trust in his underlings might be an issue, but lack of technical skills is not really an issue.

What they lack is manager level (paywise) position for Solution Architect - or just good old fashioned software process, like Scrum .

Is this the real issue? (4, Interesting)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about a year ago | (#43959847)

Head of IT doesn't really need to know that much tech. His blind trust in his underlings might be an issue, but lack of technical skills is not really an issue

There is a minimum level of IT competency that leads to credibility as an IT manager, however ... actual managerial skills? That's all about goals, deadlines, motivation, people, targets, and deliverables (among other things).

The most common metric for managers is project completion - not project satisfaction.

If your manager is consistently meeting their targets and performance objectives, you don't have much recourse - Unless you're at one of the very forward-thinking companies that actually accounts for subordinate satisfaction in managerial performance reviews. Which is unlikely, because even companies that adhere to that philosophy don't generally put it in practice.

Re:Is this the real issue? (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | about a year ago | (#43960095)

... actual managerial skills? That's all about goals, deadlines, motivation, people, targets, and deliverables (among other things).

Yes, and the way to "objectively illustrate" that the "head of IT" doesn't have the skills is to let the CFO know that projects are "overly complex, don't function as needed, and are incredibly expensive."

Oh wait.

Re:Is this the real issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960335)

This has led to countless projects that are overly complex, don't function as needed, and are incredibly expensive

There are apparently C-level problems in this company as well. Communications and risk assessment probably don't work very well. There is no gel in this one. Off to the wild with the grizzly bears and over-sized wolves to build some teams!

actually accounts for subordinate satisfaction in managerial performance reviews

Employee turn over times costs associated with it should be a more objective measurement.

Re:Manager skills are not the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959925)

What a way to layer on the costs.. sheez

Re:Manager skills are not the issue (1)

Tridus (79566) | about a year ago | (#43959973)

This is what tends to lead to meetings where the head of IT comes in and tells everyone that they're adopting because the sales rep showed him a powerpoint presentation of how it would magically fix everything.

People acting as managers in a field should have at least a basic understanding of what it is they're in charge of.

Re:Manager skills are not the issue (1)

Tridus (79566) | about a year ago | (#43959987)

... that should be "adopting <absurdly expensive corporate software>"

Sigh, mornings.

Re:Manager skills are not the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960069)

I don't know. I'm used to having Ops VP's above the IT group, and they never understood the technology.

Their job was to protect us from outside BS, make sure we got what we needed, and carefully evaluate the pros and cons of different solutions as we presented them to him. A good one is a godsend, even if they can't write code, fix a router, build a server, etc.

I mean, you don't have to be a janitor to make sure a building stays clean.

Re:Manager skills are not the issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960235)

Actually no, people acting as managers in a field should know how to hire and retain effective subordinates, and manage people and projects.

Those subordinates should have the in-depth understanding of the technology they're working with, and he should trust their judgement and advice, and when a sales rep shows him a powerpoint presentation, he should say, "Wait, I need my trusted advisers in on this meeting so they can see what I'm seeing."

Then after the meeting he should be meeting with those trusted advisers and saying, "Okay, so... is this tool worth looking at?"

Why do geeks always assume that managers should just be "programmers, with a promotion"? It's a completely separate skill set, and one which, frankly, many developers simply do not have, because they neglect developing the skills required to do the job properly.

Re:Manager skills are not the issue (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43960041)

Head of IT doesn't really need to know that much tech

The head of IT certainly needs to know enough tech to know what his people can do and can't do, when they're bullshitting him and when they're telling the truth, what resources he realistically needs, when he needs to bring in an outside contractor and when he doesn't (and how to tell when a contractor is full of shit), and how to set a realistic timetable for a project. If he doesn't know enough of the tech for at least that, all the management skills in the world won't save him.

Re:Manager skills are not the issue (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43960167)

"Head of IT doesn't really need to know that much tech. His blind trust in his underlings might be an issue, but lack of technical skills is not really an issue."

Yeah because proposing projects he read about in CTO magazine and running with them even though they are technically stupid is a good thing?

Duh (2)

jabuzz (182671) | about a year ago | (#43959817)

Current incumbent is repeatedly failing. QED. What more do you need to know?

Re:Duh (2)

hsa (598343) | about a year ago | (#43959893)

Current incumbent is repeatedly failing. QED. What more do you need to know?

..and replacing him with someone who knows all the technologies today will help how?

The projects are already underway, late and technological decisions have already been made.

The problem is, he shouldn't have been making these decisions in the first place! They need a technological guru to tell them how to design the architecture, what technologies to use and how to implement this in reasonable time.

The original manager can still keep his paycheck, make decisions about schedules, go to customers and explain why everything is late, worry about tracking resources (humans) and reporting to his superiors.

They just need a high level position for technical guy, who really knows his stuff, but doesn't like to become an evil manager (all managers are evil by nature) and can help the with the big picture. Hell, this could even be a career path for successful techie in their own company. Why does everyone always think to get promoted you must become a manager?

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959903)

Yea, what is your goal -- to embarrass a manager? Beyond that, I don't get the real question. Sounds more like "how do I have the guts to tell people the truth and get paid?"

Re:Duh (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#43960085)

While I agree the IT manager is failing, it seems that the employees he's managing are also failing by taking advantage of his incompetence. While the IT manager should have enough knowledge to know better, it's the responsibility of his employees to give him the best advice possible for completion of the projects. Perhaps (if he's doing the hiring) his lack of expertise has caused his staff to be incompetent as well, by hiring the wrong people in the first place, or just following the advice of the other employees, so current employees recommend their friends, because they are friends, not because they are actually qualified. At then end of the day, a manager has to be able to trust their subordinates, and has to have good employees, or there's no chance of them succeeding. If the employees were doing their job, they would make the manager look good, even if he had no idea what he was doing, especially in this situation, where it seems that the manager just does whatever the employees recommend is best.

Re:Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960283)

If we acknowledge this, then we also must acknowledge that submitter is at least 50% of the problem.

And no geek on slashdot is ever wrong. it's always the manager's fault.

The truth is concrete (1, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#43959821)

Managers should be appointed by the district Soviet and recallable by direct vote of the workers. They should be fed lots of corn and sometimes a melon or a sausage if they are good. If they are bad, spray them with the hose on their noses! Otherwise they will not learn. Also, USA is the shittiest country and everyone who likes USA is a moron. China is the greatest! Also North Korea is awesome fuck lying American war propaganda!

Parroting what his subordinates have told him? (4, Interesting)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | about a year ago | (#43959825)

Sounds far better than a couple of managers I've had. One asked for our advice, which we duly gave, and he ignored, going with a contractor's more-expensive and convoluted suggestions every time - he was sideways transferred when it became apparent that he was getting kickbacks from this contractor. The next manager asked us for options, which we duly gave, and a recommendation as to which we thought was best and it's reasons, and so he chose the cheapest each time, regardless of budget... I then left when they gave the control of the IT department to the HR manager, after that IT manager quit.

The same way you prove any other department head.. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959829)

Take IT out of the equation. How do you prove any department head is incompetent?

The company should set specific goals for it. If the manager cannot meet them, demote him or let him go. It's really that simple. Be sure to include specific documentation requirements. If this guy or gal has bad project management skills, they won't be able to show what the department is doing. Be clear that things must improve or else. Give them a chance, but be firm.

You could also enact some form of employee survey in that department. Have folks turn them into HR with no repercussions. Have managers evaluate employees and employees evaluate their managers. This was done at a previous employer of mine and it was annoying to do but it did show upper management there were communication problems and things did improve. No one was fired, but there was significant training done with a few of the managers.

Several things (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about a year ago | (#43959833)

#1 - Figure out what convinced you that the head of IT is the problem. If you're thoroughly convinced, present those reasons to the business. If you have any reservations about your conclusion, then ask yourself if you really should be as convinced as you are about your conclusion.

#2 - Are you an employee, or a consultant brought in to investigate? Your fear of reprisal might temper how much you say.

#3 - Consider presenting some solutions at the same time you present your analysis. It might soften the blow. It also might leave a better taste in peoples' mouths if you find some nice things to say about the head/department as well.

Hire a Consultant (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959835)

I expect to be downmodded into oblivion for this, but...

Your best bet it to hire a management consultant to review the practices of your IT department to see where they are failing and and how to correct it.

Not only will you receive a (relatively) unbiased review of the state of your IT department from a third party, it will be coming from an outside source, which will give the report more weight with management even if your internal report reaches the same conclusions.

Re:Hire a Consultant (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43960183)

"Your best bet it to hire a management consultant to review the practices of your IT department to see where they are failing and and how to correct it."

Comcast did this. They did not like the answer so they fired the consultant and threw out everything he found and said.

Give him more responsibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959837)

i.e., promote him and give his job to someone else. (* [wikipedia.org] )

Slashdot metric (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959839)

Start tracking a daily metric of how much time he spends on Slashdot.

Re:Slashdot metric (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960005)

And if he's not spending enough time on Slashdot, it's proof that he is incompetent?

taste the pudding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959841)

Do projects get down on time, within budget and meeting the spec? Do the specs satisfy the business objectives? Is the department happy to come into work?

If yes, what's the problem, but I suspect in your case there are a lot of no's.

Re:taste the pudding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960349)

Do projects get down on time,

My good man, if there's one thing I've learned from the life and music of the godfather of soul, James Brown, it's that projects get down when they're good and goddamned ready - and not a second earlier.

You can't schedule "getting down," you can't forecast "getting down," you have to just let it happen when it happens.

Industry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959843)

What industry are you in?

Talk with the grunts (1)

Begemot (38841) | about a year ago | (#43959845)

Talk with the IT engineers. They know what's happening. If most of them say the head is incompetent, then kick his sorry ass out of the company. Even if they're wrong, it's his job to make them feel "in safe hands". You can't go wrong.

Otherwise you need to do some serious checking whether:
1. Your goals were feasible, and
2. Your budget was adequate

Hope that helps

Dear Slashdot (3, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#43959853)

I've been asked to do something as part of my job, have no idea how to do it, can you help me?

Sounds to me like the dimwit submitter is just as incompetent at doing what he's been asked to do as the IT manager.

Which given that and the presupposed IT manager's incompetence suggests its actually the CEO that is the issue at the company.

B players hire C players.

Isn't an IT manager just a project manager? (1)

The_Revelation (688580) | about a year ago | (#43959857)

I would assume that your company adheres to a basic ITIL management infrastructure. Who knows? Your post is incredibly vague. Surely ITIL allows you to quantify successes vs. failures / overtime / overbudget results? Can a root cause analysis be performed on these projects to see where fault lies? Maybe I'm telling you how to do your job here, but this seems like it should be easy to quantify.

You don't need to (1)

syntap (242090) | about a year ago | (#43959865)

You already listed all the failures of the IT department, recognized from middle management to the CEO. The buck stops at leadership... whether he's the smartest guy on the planet or incompetent, a leadership change seems to be in order.

Put another way, what will some other gauge of his competence will add to what is known?

Speak the proper language (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959869)

Bosses don't care about details, competence and other technical stuff. They understand only two things:
The guy isn't making with his department the necessary target financial figures.
The guy isn't keeping his promised deliveries.

If those things are happening, he's on the way out anyway. If he manages to avoid those pitfalls, he's prime material for a promotion.

If you want to saw on his chair, the best way probably is to propose outsourcing of the IT department for less than he spends in his department. Managed IT-services and cloud computing sound very sexy at the moment to get the ball rolling.

You already answered (1)

Gorshkov (932507) | about a year ago | (#43959875)

You answered your question in your question. To wit:

.... and has been parroting what his subordinates have told him without question.

In other words, he's not managing.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959877)

This is why there are so many idiot managers out there. The metrics used to demonstrate their effectiveness/lack of effectiveness haven't been invented yet.

Of course, playing golf with other senior management helps offset something irrelevant like not possessing the skills for the job.

Is this PwC? (1)

nikkipolya (718326) | about a year ago | (#43959883)

By any chance, are you referring to PricewaterhouseCoopers? In that case, there is a correction. They are running at 4 times the budget necessary to run the operations.

I'm confused. (5, Insightful)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year ago | (#43959891)

If it's your job to determine what the problem is, you should already have the skills necessary to thoroughly evaluate the situation and communicate your conclusions. If you've already determined that this person is the problem, what is left to assess? If you don't know how to objectively determine that this person is the problem, how have you concluded that this person is the problem? If you don't know how to evaluate someone's competence and can't explain your conclusions to the people who hired you, how can you be qualified to tell this company what's wrong with the department?

Re:I'm confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960007)

Yes, the post is confusing. Is the poster:

- A consultant?

- An employee from within the IT organization?

- An employee from outside the IT organization (perhaps a bean counter) who has been asked to help assess why IT is always over budget?

Re:I'm confused. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960049)

If it's your job to determine what the problem is, you should already have the skills necessary to thoroughly evaluate the situation and communicate your conclusions.

No, it's not his/her job to determine what the problem is. In these sorts of cases it is comparatively rare that the root problem is unknown. The real problem is the office politics - maybe this useless manager happens to be golf partner with a key shareholder etc. By bringing in a 'consultant' to state the obvious, senior management is given a justification to do what they wanted to do anyway. All they really require is a professional looking document with 'IT capability gaps' included and for it to have been authored by an outsider - that way if the manager is fired he will struggle to file a claim that it was based on personal dislike / discrimination.

Re:I'm confused. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960117)

We had a similar story here yesterday, about someone allegedly stealing the submitters' work. In both cases it seems that the submitter is more interested in a discussion they can forward to someone else, than in insightful posts.

There is a slight possibility... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959895)

...that the incompetent one is the CFO who doesn't accept the reality ?

Are you really the one to be asked? (5, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#43959897)

I have been asked by a medium-sized business to help them come to grips with why their IT group is ineffective, loathed by all other departments, and runs at roughly twice the budget of what the CFO has deemed appropriate for the company's size and industry.
...
How can one objectively illustrate that a person doesn't have the knowledge sufficient to run a department?

If you have to come to Slashdot to ask this question, are you REALLY qualified to help the company come to grips?

While the 'head of IT' and/or some number of IT staff may indeed ill suited to perform their jobs correctly, if I was involved in the situation even if my job wasn't ultimately affected, I'd be really pissed that my department's direction was changed based on the advice of a 3rd party that had to post an Ask Slashdot.

Re:Are you really the one to be asked? (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | about a year ago | (#43960063)

This so sounds like a Dilbert episode. Here we have the useless consultant trying to fire the PHB... Makes me wonder what the IT guy did - upgrade everyone from Celerons running XP straight to surface tablets and Win 8? That would upset the CFO and everybody else in the company that can't find their minesweeper.

Return on investment (5, Interesting)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43959901)

Every IT project needs to save the company money in some way and these savings should be easily quantifiable.

No ROI then no project should be funded
I have seen geeks fall on love with geeky projects that cost a lot of money, seem to have no end and dont do anything for the organization except to show how busy they are

You can't (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | about a year ago | (#43959909)

All you can really do is hope that sooner or later his boss puts two and two together. In fact, they may have done in order to bring you on board with the remit you say you have been given. In light of that I supposed you could go through a document each mistake that has caused a project to overrun and hope that he is the common thread that unites all the projects.

Alternatively you could try getting the department to run within it's budget and force the necessary cuts be made to staff provisioning. This will force the IT manager to actually go round firing people. Since this is a very tough part of the job to do he might balk at it or at the very least screw it up in a way he can't blame on anyone else.

To be honest though this doesn't sound like you are entirely being truthful. If you were really in the position you are in you probably would have been given the right to fire the IT manager and recruit a decent replacement as part of the deal. This gives you the option to force him to raise his game and also help in with any additional training he needs to become a better manager.

When it come to firing managers you generally just pay them off and then give them gardening leave for the duration of their contract along with a cast iron reference they can take to another employer. This gives them a reason to go quietly without you proving they were shit at all.

If you do not have that and are effectively working under him or alongside him then you are on road to nowhere and might as well just concentrate on helping the department underneath him run well as best you can. Even an incredibly shit IT manager can look amazing if the department all know there stuff and do what they need to.

If projects are all necessarily complex that is not just the fault of the IT manager, that is also the fault of the person or people delivering them. Try working on them directly to get them to deliver better work, one possible way to do this is to subtly make them realise who is for the chop if the costs don't come down. Obviously you have to be very careful how you do this, it might help to pick one person who is on side already but also has a good working relationship with his colleagues and then drop a few hints.

If you are doing all this already and the IT manager is blocking you then you might end up in a situation where all you can do is take your consultancy fee and make a few suggestions around the edges.

Why are you being asked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959911)

...if you're qualified to judge, in which case why are you asking /.?

Management consulting... (4, Informative)

pehrs (690959) | about a year ago | (#43959917)

Management consultant does this all the time. It really is a task for somebody focusing on management and organization, not on technology consultant. So call some nice people at a company like Arthur D. Little, McKinsey or similar. Of course, they will charge a lot to sort out this kind of situation.

If you really want to get into management consulting the easy path is typically to toss out all the value words and feelings you may have about the people involved. Don't even think words like "loathed", "ineffective", "parroting" etc. Instead you go to the hard facts. What is the properties of the department? How does it compare to other similar departments? Do they have procedures and routines? What are they? Do they have qualifications in relevant fields? etc. Don't fall in the trap of trying to pin everything on a single person, as this kind of situation is typically part of the culture of the department. The head of the department is a symptom, not the single cause of it all.

Also remember, that those that hired you are probably also responsible for hiring that head of department. Calling him incompetent is roughly the same thing as calling the people who hired him incompetent. Not a good way to build professional relationships or helping people.

Is this the IT Crowd? (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#43959919)

Is the manager's name Jen? Does she say that Googling Google can break the Internet? Does she think that the Internet is housed in a little black box with a red LED on the top?

Re:Is this the IT Crowd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959977)

Its not? http://xkcd.com/908/

Behold, the internet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959923)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTBsm0LzSP0

Adopt Scrum (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43959961)

That way everyone share the incompetence :)

Requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43959965)

There are a lot of holes in the OP. How large is the medium sized company? How big is the IT department? What is the role of the IT manager in the company? Is he and administrator? Does he require technical knowledge? Does he require more knowledge of the specific business?

Without making massive assumptions, this is not a question that can be answered in any meaningful way.

What does the company require of the IT manager?

Start there. Then find out how the target is being missed.

Project Management (1)

second_coming (2014346) | about a year ago | (#43959975)

Don't you have project managers to manage projects? Head of IT in corporate would not normally project manage (unless the IT department isn't very big).

Coding (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | about a year ago | (#43959983)

"The head of IT doesn't necessarily need to know how to write code, so a coding test serves no purpose, but should be able to run a project. Are there objective methods for assessing this ability?"

I would expect him to able to solve the Fizzbuzz test and explain what's the difference between a switch and a router or what is a DNS server and understand nested SQL queries. Yes, I know this is a very low bar.

on its face (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#43959989)

How Do You Prove an IT Manager Is Incompetent?

By his job description.

Are you sure it's him? (4, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#43959991)

Have you checked out if his team are giving him good info? Do you know he's actually over a reasonable budget, or is this just the CFO's opinion? What are his credentials for saying so? Is he hated because he doesn't know what the hell is going on, or because he constantly says no to unreasonable demands from other departments?

We have almost no information here for a fully justified and well reasoned response. For all we know he may well have screwed the CxO's daughter at an Xmas party and he's looking for an excuse to fire the guy.

He either delivers, or he doesn't. If he delivers then he's "Working as intended" and you need to adjust his performance management criteria to better reflect what you need out of him. Hell, he may be working just to fulfil those metrics because they're so out of whack with what he actually is supposed to be doing. My Line Manager almost got me fired because she kept making idiotic decisions without asking for my input, and having to pick up the pieces made me look incompetent. We had a stern chat about "treading on my toes" and she backed off, now we're both less stressful and things work better. Costs less, too.

I started rambling; Apologies for that. I'm trying to say that you don't sound like you have enough information to make this decision. If you don't know how to get that information, you probably should hand this project on to someone who does. It's what HR department exist for.

It's your coursework assignment... (2)

Peter (Professor) Fo (956906) | about a year ago | (#43959997)

...My consulting rates are very reasonable.

Ping too technical? (1)

Predathar (658076) | about a year ago | (#43960009)

I had one tell me that ping was too technical and to talk to one of his workers instead.... I was left speechless. Project didn't fare too well.

Metrics Financials and Feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960011)

Several recommendations:
1) You are working with C-Suite executives. They want something objective to measure against over time and they want to know how it impacts the bottom line.
2) Emphasize you are looking for operational improvements out of all of this, not headcount reduction (read: outsourcing will only trade off one set of problems for another).
3) Institute 360 reviews among the IT group on the condition of anonymity. Find common trends/recommendations from those in the trenches.
4) Same deal with the IT manager. Get 360 anonymous reviews from different departments at the same management level as the IT manager, and, get anonymous feedback from every employee in the IT group.

If one individual is the problem, the C-Suite will either reform or fire them. However, I suspect you will find its not just "one person" as the root cause, but a collection of things which need improvement.

Good luck.

So that makes you a consultant. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960021)

Or in common parlance, a seagull.
You come in, make a lot of noise, shit on everything, and then leave.

Bad IT departments are like the Mafia . . . (1)

Idou (572394) | about a year ago | (#43960023)

You will probably have to use some kind of technicality to get rid of the IT manager. For my company, it was a combination of things, including the HR manager noticing that the IT manager was only coming into work like 4 hours a day on average (which was used with other circumstantial evidence). However, even after we got rid of that manager, we are still in the process of "hitting rock bottom" as we try to fix years of managing the department like a nation of fiefdoms . . . it is amazing how much damage one incompetent high level manager can do . . .

This is really why IT needs to establish some kind of professional certification like doctors, lawyers, and accountants. It is not so much that you will prevent the incompetent from getting certified (though, certainly, hard testing does help prevent that). However, the main thing is that it creates an incentive for any certificate holder to try to keep their certification (our fired IT manager actually brags about how little work he was doing) and provides employers some leverage ("please help us with a smooth transition or we will report you to your professional organization . . ."). Until then, things will continue to be the wild west, so good luck trying to replace the old sheriff in town . . .

if.. (2)

houbou (1097327) | about a year ago | (#43960027)

you have the ability to assess and IT Manager, it means you must be able to be one yourself, thus, look at projects and see how they are handled, create your own baseline for each with time/efforts/etc. See, how long it takes and the reasons why and what a manager should do to avoid the pitfalls. That's pretty much your report in a nutshell.

You already know the answer (2)

joebagodonuts (561066) | about a year ago | (#43960033)

Sorry if this is a dup,

Are there objective methods for assessing this ability?

Why yes, there are objective methods. Here's what you should look for:

their IT group is ineffective, loathed by all other departments, and runs at of what the CFO has deemed appropriate

BOFH Says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960037)

Connect the server room door handle to the mains. Page him to let him know about the free bagels next to the backup server. If he doesn't die, that doesn't really mean he's competent, just that he passed the first test.

management source (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960053)

I'm not sure this applies to all types of management, but in 30 plus years of IT experience, the ones who get promoted to IT management are the persons who are good at getting others to do their work and then manage to take credit for it. This perception is often amplified when the "manager " creates a convoluted solution which is then used to solve the problem that was created by the “manager” himself; he then gets recognized as a problem solver. On the other hand,problem free solutions are often under-recognized and under appreciated.

The problem with this sort of manager is that he lacks any sort of qualitative skill at analyzing his IT spending and resources.

Some thoughts on how to do this (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43960073)

I'm someone who's been involved in firing a couple of my immediate supervisors for being morons, and here's some steps that work. For purposes of illustration, the incompetent person will be named "Mr Dunce".
1. Get to know Mr Dunce's boss. You don't have to be best buddies, but make sure that the people 2 steps above you on the ladder know who you are and respect you. (This is always a good move whether or not you have an incompetent boss, actually.)
2. Assuming Mr. Dunce isn't getting caught obviously failing, you'll need to create it. A potentially good method: (1) Have a subordinate (or yourself if you are his subordinate) give Dunce slightly vague or incomplete answers to his questions. (2) Prime his boss before a meeting to discuss whatever it is with something like "I'd really like to know what you think - we want to make sure this is well thought-out." (3) In the meeting, Mr Dunce will promptly get peppered with questions that he can't answer with anything other than "err, I'll have to get back to you". (4) After a few rounds of that, information will start going around Dunce rather than through Dunce, because they realize that Dunce is slowing them down. (5) After a while of that, eventually people will start questioning what value Mr Dunce provides to the company.
3. Be patient about it. Depending on how popular Mr Dunce is, or how much the upper management had invested in Mr Dunce, it could take months to go from step 3 to Dunce being fired or shunted off to a powerless position.

YOU are the wrong person. (0)

AdmV0rl0n (98366) | about a year ago | (#43960081)

A medium sized company asked you, and you asked slashdot. My alarm bells are ringing here. If you don't have decent background in this area, and you're query ends up on slashdot, I suspect that as a whole management of the company is screwed. Otherwise they would not have called you in, but rather someone with the right background. To be honest, this seems wrong from the very beginning.

And I note the thread is suggesting 'management consultant'. No, although an IT focused one would be fine. If you are going to establish if an IT team and its function are busted, its not a spreadsheet numbers game. Its an in the trench and looking at the wider picture. In most cases sadly, the truth is a broken IT depeartment is in fact a reflection of a broken management/board structure.

IT isn't easy. And some businesses assume it costs buttons, and that IT projects are simplistic things that just click click and are done. The reality is they can be hugely complex and require seriously good solid workmanship in development and production.

yeah... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960087)

If you do not know, then you are in no position to pick your boss, even if that silly concept would be a reality. Then even then, you turn to slashdot, to a bunch of mostly unwashed gpl fanatics, it just doesn't look good. Maybe you should have taken your silly imagination to a professional consultation firm or something.

Bad Idea (TM) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960091)

Is it really your task to assess his competence? As you are asking /. - probably not. Proving that someone(who is not your subordinate) is not competent enough is always a problem. Generally its better to work around the problem than slam your head into it. You can point out failures and hope that someone finally notices, but that's about all you can do. There are no good outcomes for you in you jumping the command chain and flat out calling the guy incompetent.

Ask Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960097)

You could search through the recent 'Ask Slashdot' articles and see if they have submitted any. That would be plenty of evidence to show they don't have sufficient knowledge to do their job.

What are the measurable criteria for his role? (2)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about a year ago | (#43960099)

SMART goals (Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Relevant/Time-bound) are typically used when discussing bonuses, but fundamentally they can also form the basis of a review process for somebody's base level ability to do their job, if the company does not have any other metric, which in this case it sounds as though they do not.
I suspect that the manager has high subordinate satisfaction ratings for the most part, as it seems he acts as nothing more than a mouthpiece for them, meaning they get what they want, while members of other teams do not see the performance issue as that of the IT Manager, but of the team as a whole, because IT is a "black box".
Depending on the employee rights and the politics of the company, it may be as simple as delivering a fact- and statistics-based report to the boss/board of directors. A complete breakdown of costs for every project and analysis of cost-overruns is probably overkill unless you are a consultant paid by the hour (but if this is the way you go, prepare a 1-2 page summary for presentation to the board, with the full 300 page report available for anyone who wants to read a more in-depth analysis).
At that point, your job is done. You were hired to produce a report, you have done that. Let them know that you can produce similar reports for other divisions if they want you to, and maybe ask them if their situation can be anonymised and used as a case study for your Management Forensics consultancy if they have the opportunity to review it before you publish the case study. Exit stage left, hopefully not pursued by a bear.
If you are angling to take over the guy's job, bear in mind that if you have a large part to play in firing a popular boss and then you replace him, you will have an uphill battle getting people on your side. The departure of the boss, and the introduction of business-oriented goals may change the atmosphere of the office... that together with you stepping in after sharpening the knife that killed your predecessor might result in a wave of departures from the team. As the new manager, the drop in productivity will be on you, not your predecessor. so you would need to turn it round quickly. All-in-all, I would say it is easier to let some other person take the management position and then step in when they almost inevitably fail - you are one step removed from the boss the guys liked, the tanking team performance is a god excuse to bring in some goal-based metrics, and by that time, people might have forgotten that you were around writing a report on the team in the weeks leading up to the popular boss getting the chop.

The nature of failure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960105)

If he is incompetent, his boss is incompetent. The problem would have long since been solved otherwise. The problem is recursive, and responsibility ultimately rests with whomever owns the company. As has been pointed out, everyone there already knows exactly what the problem is and they don't care. Sometimes the real purpose of a company is to hand out money, not to make it more efficiently.

Sounds like a company I once worked for. (1)

Streetlight (1102081) | about a year ago | (#43960109)

This situation is likely rampant in many companies. Isn't the Peter Principle something like some people rise to their level of incompetence. Many IT managers rise to that level but the dummies even higher up (CEOs, CFOs, COOs, Boards of Directors) can't see it in the folks they promoted to their level of incompetence. If they did, they would have to admit they're also just as incompetent.

Be wary here (2)

jayhawk88 (160512) | about a year ago | (#43960147)

If you're a consultant/outside entity being asked to do this, then no worries. Just tell them like it is. You don't need any kind of technical test here: Just show them the trail of failed projects and unhappy employees/customers and how they all lead back to one source.

But if you are part of the company...or worse part of IT yourself....watch the fuck out.

Something stinks about this. Managers are usually the first target when it comes to determining blame for failed projects/bad internal PR. That's part of their job after all. The stuffed shirts know this, and if it was just about the IT Manager being terrible they'd fire him and bring in someone new. They don't need a third opinion to tell them the head of IT is incompetent. There's something else going on here, probably related to internal company politics, and you need to be sure you're not being thrown under the bus or are risking getting caught in the crossfire.

I'll bite (1)

GeekWithAKnife (2717871) | about a year ago | (#43960149)


You have some general (factual?) figures about budget and some strong opinions...and you discovered that an IT manager is not a tech (common occurrence) you say he repeats what his subordinates say without question...So really, where is the actual justification for your conclusions?

All this reads to me is some sort of "In my opinion..." and "I'm not happy about it."

There are objective methods of assessment but people are biased. the bad news is that you are already biased and cannot judge objectively anymore.

It boils down to this; if you know how to do something that is better for the business than person X you should propose it and see what the feedback is. You would be more valuable to the company and appreciated by your peers if you suggest how to fix problems over pointing fingers, right or wrong.

Here's a thought, perhaps this person is under constraints or pressures that you are not aware of and is actually making the best of a terrible situation? -why is that not as feasible as your above opinion?

Business sense (2)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#43960161)

My personal experience with terrible IT heads was that they had no business sense. The worst IT people I have seen had certifications a mile long (All in Novell and they wouldn't leave Novell to save their or the company's life). I have seen terrible IT people with no certifications (One who used a faxed around list of IP Addresses with names beside them to assign IP addresses to around 200 employees. The IP addresses were then manually entered into the desktop systems. And this was at a large telco). I have seen a terrible IT person who could alter the Linux Kernel at whim to solve fairly minor problems that the rest of us might use a cron job for.

But the best IT people had a real business sense. They would look at a million dollar UPS and examine it as a complete business case. (How much downtime cost vs the whole cost of buying and maintaining the UPS) They would also look at new IT policies from a whole business perspective. They understood that stupid policies like making everyone change their password every 30 days had a much larger cost than "a few seconds of their time". So the best IT people that I have seen did have a fairly good technical prowess but generally not awesome. It was their business skills that set them apart. The key threshold was that they recognized that IT supported the business and that in an ideal world the business could do away with IT as it wasn't their core business. So when someone asked something of them they didn't just yell "NO" and then back up their ridiculousness with technobabble; but looked at the business case and came back with a price.

How do you get the idiot consultant off my back? (4, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#43960171)

Hi I am the head of IT of a midsize company and the management has called in this consultant. He is convinced my pointy haired bosses that my budget is twice the size and I an too naive and gullible and merely parrot my staff's opinions to the management. This consultant is so incompetent he is asking for advice in slashdot. How do I get him off my back, and demonstrate his incompetence to the PHBs?

Why you? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a year ago | (#43960175)

I have been asked ....

Since you have to ask on an internet forum how to do this task, it's apparent you haven't done it before - or have any particular skills in management consultancy. If you had, two things would happen: (1) you'd know how to do the assessment and (2) you'd know not to ask a bunch of geeks how to solve a non-technical, management problem.

So we can assume that the CFO who gave you this task is him/her-self not very good at choosing the right person to do a job. (Alternatively, you've wandered in to a minefield of office politics and are being set up as someone's fall guy by powers you are unaware of). That probably answers the question about the IT manager - they aren't good, because the person who selected them for the job makes poor personnel decisions.
In fact, the CFO doesn't even appear to be very good at keeping the finances under control, if he/she is allowing the IT department to overspend to such a degree.

To answer your specific question, I'd go back to the processes that are in place. Check over the IT manager's past few annual reviews. What were the targets? Were they met? If not, what remedial action was taken? What weaknesses did he/she have identified and what was done to fix these?
If the answer is that there IS no review / personnel development programme in place, that explains your IT guy. If the reviews are failing to identify problems, then it sounds like the reviewer needs fixing, too. You can also get consultancies like Gartner to do assessments of the IT operation and it's efficiency. It could simply be that the CFO has unrealistic expectations of what it costs to run a modern IT department.

Whatever you do, tread very, very carefully.

OP works at TxDOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960245)

OP works at TxDOT

Testing centers have all dried up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960251)

there used to be testing centers all around America for this, but they've since dried up. The testing procedure was fairly simple, you place a few quarters (or in the chintzy places, you'd buy tokens at like 3 for a dollar) into a slot, grab a soft cushioned mallet, and then attempt to whack some animatronic moles as they randomly popped their heads out of the holes in the top surface of the testing machine.

Wear a wiretap. (1)

funky_vibes (664942) | about a year ago | (#43960257)

Like in the movies, you should approach the manager, ask him a few well placed questions wearing a microphone and broadcasting it to the authorities...

Seriously though.. the bigwig managers are too retarded to notice his incompetence... so you naturally assume that the biggest problem that this company has is a single bad IT manager?

Such optimism!

Not get fired, get hired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43960265)

Get their resume and send it to headhunters. It's a lot easier to get them hired somewhere else than to get them fired.

Structure (1)

mjone13 (2947429) | about a year ago | (#43960295)

My experience in situations like this is that the problem usually lies with the leadership of the organization. - Many projects fail or cost multiple times the original estimate because the business fails to put in the proper time identifying the requirements. They tell IT they want to do something and then send the IT group to make all the decisions. Then as the project get closer to completion they get more involved and the subsequent changes costs more money and takes longer. - The manager seems to be relying on the people who work for them for their advice. That's usually a good sign unless the entire IT group is useless. Have you reviewed the information the manager has provided? What is wrong with the advice or the information the group is providing? - Have you talked with the IT manager. Many time they know what the problem is or can give you a counter view that will help give the real picture of the problem.

stick to facts, avoid judgement (1)

Zecheus (1072058) | about a year ago | (#43960317)

You say: "countless projects that are overly complex, don't function as needed, and are incredibly expensive" Prove it. Then let management judge the manager.

Check your ethics (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#43960343)

I have been asked by a medium-sized business to help them come to grips with *why* their IT group is ineffective ... After *just a little scratching*, it has become quite clear that the 'head of IT'

(emphasis added) So, management asked you to find out why IT isn't working, and you do a "little scratching," and decide to blame the department's dysfunction on its leader. And then, what, call it a day?

Presumably you have lots of expertise in running an IT department yourself, or else management would not be paying you the large consulting fee they're giving you for this job. They are paying you a large consulting fee, right? They are giving you access to all their monthly reports, their ticket database, interviews with the employees, and weeks to do the analysis, right?

My quick read of this situation is that either management doesn't really care about root causes and just brought you in to give them some political cover to fire the guy they want to fire, or you accepted a difficult consulting job you're not qualified to do. My advice is to tell the company you made a mistake taking this assignment and run, don't walk, out the door. Or, go ahead and recommend firing someone after "just a little scratching" while collecting a paycheck for a job *you're* incompetent to do, if that's the kind of person you want to be.

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