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Creating an IS Department?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the leaving-your-mark dept.

IT 408

brainee28 asks: "I work in the IS department for a manufacturer in Arizona (a one-man-show). I do mostly everything; from systems, to networks, to procurement, to implementation. I can't mention who I work for since we deal with government contracts. My problem is this: The company didn't start out with an IS department. Up until 6 years ago, a few computers were scattered around, but processes and business was still being done the old-fashioned way (with paper). When the IS department was started, it was started by a hobbyist (he was named IS Manager before I showed up), who knew nothing about management or any of the major issues that befall a traditional IS dept. I joined 6 years ago (I have 5 years of IS Management experience, and 15 years of experience with IS in general) with the idea that I would be managing day-to-day operations. That has still not come to pass. The hobbyist left the company 4 years ago, and I've been on my own ever since." What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?"Management views IS as a facilities function; computers are a tool, and only a tool. I presented a proposal to them about 2 weeks ago which completely negates that and several other ideas they've had about IS. Management accepted the proposal; however I'm now faced with additional mountains to climb.

I have 3 things that management and I currently don't see eye to eye on:

1) The main job of IS is connectivity. Connectivity is the core of why we have IS. Anything else is extraneous, and I shouldn't be dealing with it.

2) IS involvement in other divisions isn't necessary. IS is involved with other divisions when physical products get connected to the network, but not before. Software should be evaluated by IS only when it becomes necessary for purchase and implementation, not before. Any developed piece of software (we have an in-house programmer in accounting who uses Access -- I know, I know...) should be evaluated by IS when the software is ready to install.

3)I'm too overloaded. With 93 permanent users and 110 workstations (some are floaters), I can't do both systems work and admin work (my title is Systems Administrator, but I carry no management authority) on my own. My proposal stated the need for the creation of staff (a tech and a clerk). Management thinks because things are running, I have no issues, but I'm falling apart from all I have to do to keep things running. I need to offset the load so I can do more of the 'bigger picture' things to help guide this company out of the IS dark ages. (We have no CTO or CIO; Management is made up of engineers from different disciplines)

How would Slashdot users attack this? I've done my Google searches; went back to traditional books from Barnes and Noble; and even contacted my alma mater, Northern Arizona University, to find some answers. How would you prove the need for change on these three points? Can I institute change here?"

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What is IS? (4, Insightful)

sita (71217) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290923)

Sorry to say, but if the acronym you use is not IBM, introduce it before you use it, or you risk leaving your intended audience by the road side.

Re:What is IS? (5, Funny)

jaygatsby27 (894445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290948)

That depends of what your definition of IS is. --Bill Clinton

Re:What is IS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14290949)

Duh, what is IBM? Sorry to say, but I'm stupid.

Chances are... (4, Informative)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291000)

Sorry to say, but if the acronym you use is not IBM, introduce it before you use it, or you risk leaving your intended audience by the road side.

I sort of agree with you, but realistically, if you don't know, either on your own or through context clues, that IS stands for Information Systems, you shouldn't be responding to this guy's question anyway.

Re:Chances are... (3, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291104)

Really? Because it could just as well stand for Information Security. Or Informix Systems. Or Instant Satisfaction. There's nothing in the text about what "IS" is suppose to stand for. I don't really see how Information Systems fits in with the context. Information Systems main job isn't really connectivity. That's really more the job of the networking people who connect the information systems together. Information Systems should only have to deal with setting up systems to provide information, and not really with connecting them to the rest of the company.

Re:Chances are... (4, Funny)

soulsteal (104635) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291182)

"Why hello there young lady, I'm the IS Manager. Instant Satifaction, oh yeah!"

That would play out well.

Re:Chances are... (0, Redundant)

sita (71217) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291134)

I sort of agree with you, but realistically, if you don't know, either on your own or through context clues, that IS stands for Information Systems, you shouldn't be responding to this guy's question anyway.

Maybe. But that is not an attitude to take if you really want people to spend time to answer your questions. I need to gauge fairly quickly if I know anything that I can contribute, or if I want to read on and learn something from the thread. If I have to read a pagefull or two to learn what it is about, it lessens the chances I will find it worth the bother.

So it is more of his problem, than mine.

And why couldn't IS by Information Security or Internet Services or... well you get it, many acronyms are potentially overloaded to the degree that it is not easy to dismiss all but one as unreasonable.

Speaking of reasonability, now that you have spelled out Information Systems for me -- what the h*ck is that? Really? What does an IS dept do that an IT dept doesn't? (Information Technology...whatever *that* is...)

Re:What is IS? (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291010)

It's a shortening of the old term for technology departments: MIS (Management Information Systems)

MIS was commonly used back in the days of mainframes, because the department encompassed a lot more than just administration. They were responsible for the development, deployment, and operation of all mainframe programs, as well as all hardware related to information flow. Key punchers were also often assigned to MIS. In the olden days, they formed the core of a company's ability to produce bills, compute sales, and just about every other function that required data processing.

Today, many companies have eschewed the idea of central processing for a technology department (IT) that merely installs the applicaitons that users run to do their own processing. Larger companies also have a software development department which is usually at odds with IT.

What is IBM? (1, Funny)

TangoCharlie (113383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291210)

Sorry to say, but if the acronym you use is not U.N.C.L.E, introduce it before you use it, or you risk leaving your intended audience by the road side.

FP!!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14290924)

FP d00000000000dz!

The best way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14290930)

The best way to make management know of the importance and need of the services you provide is to withdraw them 'accidently' for a period of time.

Re:The best way (1, Redundant)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291077)

Im going to chime in with complete agreement with this. A single person providing services to @100 users is insane. Take a week off work ill (I think something stress related would be appropriate) and if they arnt phoning you on the Friday begging for you to come back and sort out issue X on Monday, take another week off. When you return, if they STILL dont realise the requirement for a properly manned department, start sending CVs out and let it become someone elses problem.

Me Oh My (3, Insightful)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290934)

Time to update the ol' resume and make for the exits.

There is no intelligent life there.

I've been in a similar situation. Company went belly-up a few years later.

Re:Me Oh My (5, Insightful)

diersing (679767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291046)

Ditching ship is ONE path. The other is to use your "management" skills and convince them your way is better.

If you wanna run around with the big title you have to back it up with the soft skills of massaging management to see it your way. Give them cost/benefits analysis and identify the risks of non-action ~ require them to sign something that they are accepting the risk. Once business decision makers are on the spot and putting their name on something they'll usually read it and give it due consideration.

Re:Me Oh My (5, Insightful)

Geoff NoNick (7623) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291089)

What makes you think the company's management is acting illogically? The system works, the computers get the job done and there are no problems other than the fact that someone hired as a System Administrator now wants to be an I.S. Manager and feels he needs a few more people on staff to justify that title. This company isn't in the business of running a computer network, so why should it dedicate more staff than necessary to maintaining one perfectly when there's nothing impeding the daily running of what the comapny does do?

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Obviously this System Administrator thinks that proper I.S. management is the well-spring of all company productivity, but everything looks like a nail to someone with a hammer. I say he just accept the fact that he isn't going to advance his career very far at this company. He should quit for that reason, but don't blame the company for it.

Re:Me Oh My (2, Insightful)

Jim_Maryland (718224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291169)

My brother experienced a similar situation to what this guys is. He worked for a commercial water heater manufacturer who essentially looked at computers the same way the look at a tool on the assembly line. I doubt they would create a department around a machine press so they wouldn't create one around computers.

I agree with you though that this company isn't likely to be the lifelong career provider for this guy. I'd look for a more traditional company where information systems are looked at as a valuable service rather than an expensive tool.

Re:Me Oh My (2, Insightful)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291217)

I wouldn't be surprised to find this to be the norm for smaller companies. Computers ARE tools. It's only in companies whose business is tightly integrated with these tools that they need to maintain the in-house expertise needed to keep things running smoothly. It's no different than any other critical tool. IT people are not as likely to end up at these kinds of companies because they don't already recognize the need. Most companies use computers because they're normal, but wouldn't go out of business if they had a few go down occaisionally.

Re:Me Oh My (4, Insightful)

rovingeyes (575063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291187)

Time to update the ol' resume and make for the exits.

Seriously, I would never hire you. In fact mentality like yours is definitely a sure fire disaster recipe. Here is what I deduce from your comment:

  • You run away from challenges.
  • You lack proper communication skills (It is important for IT person to explain stuff to average Joe in his language).
  • You definitely are not a leader.
  • You apparently think very higly of yourself.
  • You are definitely not a self starter.
  • You are not reliable.

With qualities like that I am amazed, you still have a job. This guy has the zeal to learn and to introduce change. He is showing leadership skills, trying to improve how things work in the company. A guy like that is an asset. Instead of giving him useful advise, you tell him to bolt and you have been modded insightful. And still you wonder why your job is being outsourced. Come to think of it you are asking for it.

Re:Me Oh My (4, Interesting)

moorley (69393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291228)

Well said... But...

He's been there for years and they haven't listened to him.

By what miracles of miracles are they going to start listening to him now?

I've been outsourced. I was the last one there and turned off the lights as we left. It wasn't because we were incompetent it's because they had already made the decision many months ago to send it to another geographic region. We were already the contractors running 12 hour shifts. The moral of this story is to look at the big picture and make your best decision.

I resemble your remark. I'm not incompetent. But my 20/20 hindsight tells me that after 6 months to a year if I haven't gotten what I wanted even though I outperformed every expectation and made the case for improvement you leave. Yes there are things you can do better but the time has already passed. We don't live for miracles, that's why we need to make good decisions.

He needs to make decisions for himself, not the company he works for.

Step 1: Create an IT Department... (2, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290946)

...that way everyone will know what it is.

Step 2: Launch a harmless virus, fix it, and then show your superiors what could have happened if you didn't catch it in time.
This will ensure the need for your services.

Step 3: Buy lots of flexible toys that let you quickly release your pent-up agression in a harmless fashion. This will avoid having to replace 'defective' keyboards and other equipment.

Re:Step 1: Create an IT Department... (3, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291031)

Step 2: Launch a harmless virus, fix it, and then show your superiors what could have happened if you didn't catch it in time. This will ensure the need for your services.

In the words of Darth Vader, "it is unwise to lower your defenses." Drop the firewall; stop updating the anti-virus. Spend more time on /. until the network begins grinding to a halt. Shuffle from machine to machine, fixing each one slowly and deliberately. Don't answer the phone, pages, or emails. And get your résumé in shape, but forget about expecting a good reference.

You can't make them understand if they don't already. An IT infrastructure doesn't just spring up full-blown overnight and this cobbled together system you're trying to run is inherently unstable. Without any controls and with no support staff, you can't hope to cope.

Vacation? (5, Insightful)

AnonymousCactus (810364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290951)

This might not help with all of your complaints, but have you thought of taking the longest vacation that you can get away with? You get a nice break and when you get back everything will be so f$#%ed up you'll be the god the big bosses worship.


"What is the best way for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14290954)

"What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?" finding a new job.

Be absent. (0)

grub (11606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290955)

What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

Take holiday and don't answer your phone. When the fires are put out on your return request a meeting with the boss.

IS? (0)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290959)

am i the only one who has no idea what IS is? Was this article one massive typo?

Re:IS? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291085)

No, but Googling for IS department [] , then posting your findings would have been more productive and taken about the same amount of time...

Re:IS? (1)

GlassUser (190787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291163)

am i the only one who has no idea what IS is? Was this article one massive typo?

Well since the article has no mass, I'd say you're off on the latter. As to the former, while I know (probably only because I held a job where I was the "IS Administrator"), it's not all that common. A little expansion would have helped.

I.S.? (4, Informative)

dbolger (161340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290960)

Information Systems [] ?

Re:I.S.? (1)

AnalystX (633807) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291159)

I knew what IS was when I read the article, but there seems to be a job description malfunction. I'm not sure IS/MIS is what the original poster was really wanting. Evaluating software and administrating a network are largely IT jobs. IS more specifically handles the exchange and storage of information and MIS handles the reporting of said information. IS/MIS is all about information, not software evaluation or network connectivity.

The best way to handle this situation? (0)

ellem (147712) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290961)

Fix up your resume and BOLT.

Second best way. _Let_ something important break. Take a _long_ time to fix it. They'll let you hire some bodies. You need at least 2 but you could get by with 1.

"Anything else is extraneous, and I shouldn't be " (2, Insightful)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290970)

"Anything else is extraneous, and I shouldn't be dealing with it"

Sounds like you like to live in a more compartmentalized IT shop at a larger company (insurance?) where you can be isolated from reality. I'd start looking for a new job - there are thousands of other IT people who love the jack-of-all-trades hat.

Don't sweat the small stuff... (1)

jasondaemon (604158) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290975)

Do what YOU need to get done to make things work well, when the small stuff starts to slip by, they will see the need to fill the gaps with an IT team. The company I work for has a small IT team, running around on the small stuff all day lets the big picture fade. Working on the larger picture has made the small stuff in need of a 'help desk', of which I am currently taking resumes!

Only Way (5, Insightful)

nico60513 (735846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290981)

What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?


I hate to say it. My experience is that management usually won't take any action until things get bad. As long as you are keeping things running, management won't be willing to make any changes (read as: spend any money).

You Can't -- Resign (4, Insightful)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290982)

Find another job, and quit. Cite as your reasons for leaving the stupid stuff that goes on. They may surprise you and make a counter offer. They probably will not.

Managements *JOB* is not to "do things right". Its to discover the absolute minimum of funding at which a task can be accomplished.

It's the same situation at my work -- they put my department (RND) under incredible stress because incredible stress is *CHEAP*. Doing the right thing is expensive. This is why engineering and management are always at eachothers throats.

Re:You Can't -- Resign (2, Informative)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291059)

Managements *JOB* is not to "do things right". Its to discover the absolute minimum of funding at which a task can be accomplished.

That is not corrent, it is the job of management to look at shareholder/owner value. That is as simple as it is.

In some circumstances it means what you say, in other circumstances it means to do the opposite.

Re:You Can't -- Resign (1)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291135)

Doing things right is rarely the low cost option. Though, it's important to consider more than out of pocket monetary costs in the cost/benefit analysis. High turnover rates are expensive, so it's necessary to find a way to maximize value, including the value of employee satisfaction/productivity.

Re:You Can't -- Resign (2, Insightful)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291193)

Doing things right is ALWAYS the long term low cost option. Doing things right is seldom the short term low cost option. Management is short term. Guess what management is going to do.

Ignore all technical details (5, Interesting)

endrue (927487) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290992)

Remeber that upper management generally hates technical details. Explain how the widespread changes will benefit the company in relation to things that you know are important to them. Make sure that you underline the importance of the changes and the specifice benefits they entail; things like money saved, less training, less downtime, and less support calls.

translation (-1, Flamebait)

sczimme (603413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290997)

I can't mention who I work for since we deal with government contracts.

Translation: "I can't mention who I work for because the customer reads /. too, and I would certainly be out of a job if they knew how our company's IT department is managed."

I joined 6 years ago (I have 5 years of IS Management experience, and 15 years of experience with IS in general)

If you really do have the experience you claim, how did you manage to acquire it without learning how to communicate with CXOs?

Re:translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291024)

Took me about 2 minutes to figure out who he works for. (Hint: It's a large telecom provider based in Littleton, CO). If people are really concerned about concealing their identities, they should try a little harder.

show initiative (4, Interesting)

boxlight (928484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14290999)

What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

In a nutshell, just do it.

Take the initiative and start implementing policies and enforcing them. My guess is your boss will be very impressed that you're showing such leadership. Team Captains don't become Team Captains by waiting to be asked.

Keep in mind, that you run the risk of pissing a lot of people off. Be flexible (you probably don't have *all* the answers) but stay determined. Perseverance pays.

Just do it. They'll tell you when you've gone too far.


Re:show initiative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291133)

That might work for item 2, but leaves item 1 and 3 out in the cold, so to speak.

If management thinks your job is X+Y, but you think it should only be X, well, you can hardly dictate the terms of your own employment. You can try to negotiate, but if you were hired to be a sysadmin, you can't simply decide to be a programmer one day, right?

Similarly, since this person has stated that he lacks management authority, he can't really hire someone on without getting some sort of approval. He could try, but really, it's not his job - it's the job of HR or the equivalent.

What is the best way? (1)

glengineer (697939) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291001)

Simple. Just break something and let the managers see how it affects the bottom line. Even in "today's advanced world" that old maxim is true: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Re:What is the best way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291050)

That old saw changed (or at least management thinks it changed) when the dot com bubble popped. Now the squeaky wheel gets greased.

Create a business plan (3, Interesting)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291003)

Outline what it is you intend to do, how much it will cost and what the projected benefits are of doing it. Don't forget to also outline risks and downsides. Omit the "soft costs" that cannot be easily measured, like "improved productivity and efficiency".

You have two choices.... (2, Informative)

8127972 (73495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291012)

1. As many others have mentioned, update your resume and head for the exits. If they don't see a need for an IS department, you're pretty much screwed.

2. Become Montgomery Scott and wait until a major "disaster" happens and then save the day. Make them understand that the business would have stopped and money would have been lost had you not pulled the situation out of the fire in time. Make it clear that with more resources (people, hardware software) that you could not only come to the rescue sooner, but you'll be able to prevent problems from happening. It's sad to say, but some companies only get their acts together when the s**t hits the fan.

It's all about the money (2, Interesting)

selil (774924) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291015)

I think you need to change the idea from information systems (IS), to information technology (IT). The only way that you will be able to make the case is to change the perception of an IS department from cost center to profit center. You have to show how you can make them, save them, or create money. Slashdot style it is money, money, money. You will have to educate them over a period of time, define some specific metrics to show success, change the evaluation methods, and adapt to the environment realizing that it isn't about "you". Good luck I've been there numerous times in the last 20 years.

it is about money (2, Interesting)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291022)

Management basically looks at only one thing: Money. As long as they see your proposals costing moneyand not earning it they will be refused. So the real point is to find and propose to them ways that efficiency could be raised or something similar.

According to what you wrote there would likely be a lot of things really in need of overhaul to actually do things efficiently, but as long as management only sees IT as a drain and not as thing helping profit they will not happen. Thus the first task is finding where small changes could reap big benefits and then propose those, likely in the form of hiring someone "for project duration" to do do/hel with that change. As that thing is then showing some gains, propose a next thing and so on.

Afterall the role of IT in a company is not something standalone, instead it is a tool to make other things more efficient.

ROI (4, Insightful)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291026)

I'd have to disagree with you, the core purpose of IS is improving ROI.
If connectivity does not help the bottom line, it is indeed pointless.

To make your point, I'd find out what it would cost the company if the
computers were down for one hour, two hours, etc. Compare those costs
versus the costs for your requested help. Present that information to management.

For any new prjoects, I'd compare the estimated time/cost savings.
If you can put it in dollar terms you have a chance of approval.

Re:ROI (1)

shr1n1 (263515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291198)

This is the most insightful response.

The author says that he has "IS Management" experience but obviously he hasn't done these things in the past (ROI justification, Costing etc). So right now his management sees him only as a Cost center (which they will try hard to minimize). Hey they might even consider getting rid of him and contract out for services.

He has to build his case. The first step is to educate in layman's terms what it means to bring about changes. What those changes will achieve in terms of efficiency and productivity gains (his or management's or workers in general).

He has to show what is broken. Obviously if in management's perception everything is running then what is the rationale for bringing about change.

Also he has to keep in mind any change has a big impact. Nothing is too small or trivial. He has to adopt change management practices.

Re:ROI (2, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291211)

Good points, but in manufacturing many companies don't consider investments and returns -- they look at input costs based solely on labor and material and output costs based on market demand and production efficiencies.

It is very difficult to convince a manufacturer that there can be a return on the investment of IS labor or hardware. We've worked a number of years solely on manufacturing and assembly clients and they're the absolute worst in believing that technology can make them more profitable.

I've toured manufacturing competitors in Asia and Mexico and I was utterly blown away by how efficient their IS groups were compared to the shops here in the U.S. I hold similar beliefs to yours (read your blog), so I think you'd agree that our labor organizations may hold a big hand against the unorganized IS workers.

What is the best way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291030)

What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

One word: Sabotage.

It worked great for the used-car dealer I used to work for. I started with them in 1995 - same problem, everything done on paper - their "computer guy" had started entering all new deals into an old 486 that was laying around using some antiquated software just 3 months before I was hired. By sabotaging that poor 486, I was able to get enough money out of the tight-wad owner to buy a few computers, setup a network, and get software that was actually useable and upgradeable.

What you want doesn't matter (1)

qwijibo (101731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291033)

Being a sysadmin/programmer type myself, I can relate to the type of situation you are in. Management is not likely to be swayed into your way of thinking. If you want to affect change, you need to understand what motivates them and offer solutions to those problems. I doubt those problems will match the list you have. I find no end of frustration in trying to convince management of things I think are important. They're really simple creatures - they are motivated by money. If you can phrase your proposals in terms of how much money it will make or save, you can get their attention.

Another problem is that management rarely looks inwards for innovative solutions. Even though they are the ones who prevent progress by not allocating the resources, they believe that if their own people could solve their problems, it would have already been done. Bring in a consultant to look at the current situation and make suggestions as to how to make improvements. I'm a consultant in Phoenix, where are you?

Irreplaceability. (2, Interesting)

UESMark (678941) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291035)

Just explain to your boss that if things continue the way they are now the company will be SOL if you get hit by a bus or catch the flu. Make it clear that you are not threatening them, but are just concerned that you are a critical piece of infrastructure. It makes them a) appreciate you and b) cognizant of the danger of the current system.

Re:Irreplaceability. (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291138)

Here is the reality of the situation. We are getting a biased opinion from someone explaining how "irreplaceable" he is.

This guy could be having trouble completing his job because he lacks the skills required. It could be taking him 2 days per workstation to get it on the network.

I strongly suggest this guy does not kick up a storm and claim he is critical and needs more assistance before he considers how good he really is at his job. Plugging network cables in does not make you critical.

Best Practise (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291036)

Doing bad things like not answering your phone, or setting fire to your servers is not a good idea.

Identifying and implementing best practise procedures and strategies, however, is. Establish (correct) procedures for doing things, take time to develop these procedures and ensure that they are followed every time.

e.g 'Procedure for adding new employee'...
Take your time writing it and write it well. And always follow it.

1. If someone asks you to do something, you are legitimately busy creating best practise procedure.
2. Management cannot deny your need to operate under best practise conditions - especially if you are working for the govt.
3. You will need more people to manage this - and if your procedures are good they will be easy to take on.

You can do this to whatever extent you like i.e last 2 hours of the day is spent creating procedure documents, or you spend all day doing it.

I've had the same problem (2, Insightful)

arcsine (541576) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291038)

At the place at which I work I have the same problem. The department has dwindled from about 6 to 3, and the third guy just put in his two weeks. Thankfully, I've been able to convince the owner that we need at least one more person. I compiled a list of all things we do on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis, plus all the projects that the rest of the company wanted done. Then I estimated the hours it would take to do all of this.

When I showed him with 2 guys that I could just keep things running at the status quo - no projects, no improvements - he saw the need for another guy. We're still not going to get the skill I would like - but at least it'll be another useful body.

I suggest you do the same. Along with documenting when things do go wrong - for yourself - and to present to management. You have to show them that it is because you are doing your job that they do not notice problems or downtime.

In addition - make sure to establish policy and procedure for interacting with the IS/IT department as soon as possible - otherwise you'll be bothered constantly and will never get anything done.

I hold a weekly "user" meeting where I let people know what I'm working on, what issues are still open, etc. The key is communication.

Dude, Haven't You Watched Any Disaster Movie? (1)

Doug Dante (22218) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291042)

Make a major presentation to the board predicting a disaster, and outline the steps needed to avert that disaster.

Then the penny-pinching, overweight, business-friendly, man in a suit scowls at you can calls you a fool.

Then the disaster hits, you make a few recommendations to get them going, and then you run off to save your kid or girlfriend.

Seriously, predict a specific disaster, request resources, get denied, then watch that disaster unfold. You will be free of blame, and you will get your resources.

But make sure that you get specific commitments from management in the middle of the disaster, and not after you've fixed it. Gratitude fades very quickly.

Ignore the ignorant posters, please... (3, Insightful)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291045)

Process change is a tough thing to do in any company, because people like the status quo - it's comfortable and "known" to them. But you can accomplish change if your superiors see the bottom line needs for it.

My suggestion is get a simple book on change, perferably something on Six Sigma practices. Something like this book from Amazon (or elsewhere, it's not a referrer link) would be appropriate for you I think: Lean Six Sigma for Service : How to Use Lean Speed and Six Sigma Quality to Improve Services and Transactions [] .

The key things to focus on to get management to see your plight is to determine a way to measure your current state (how long does it take to perform workstation maintenance per day, per week, per month? How much time is spent doing any kind of security auditing? How many security incidents have you had this year? etc.), and then present suggestions for improvement on your current state as your expected future state that will SAVE THEM MONEY. This is always what business cares about: making or saving money! So if by being able to hire a clerk or tech to offload some of your current responsibilities it will save you company twice as much as the tech's salary per year, you've just proven the obvious and glaring need to do just that.

Also, provide them with a documented measurement startegy for the future to ensure that their investment in another employee is benefitting the bottom line.

If management still says no, and you've clearly made the case that another body is necessary to help you out in your current position, keep yourself open to the possibility that another company can use your help more than your current employer. Healthy companies are open to change when its needed. Unhealthy companies bury their head in the sand and cannot look past maintaining the status quo.

Re:Ignore the ignorant posters, please... (2, Insightful)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291181)

You're on the right track here. Try to quanitfy how much more efficient you will be if you can offload the common tasks on an administrative support person. If you are not already capturing detailed time data, do so. Take that in, letting management know you are spending x hours per period/month/year on task a, task b, task c, etc. on tasks that normally can be handled by other personnel. Then pull out typical job descriptions for such junior roles (many State employment sites list common job titles and associated duties) and show them how much money they can save by hiring the jr-level staffer. Of course, make sure you clearly define what you will be doing with all of your "extra" time, but that should get you on the right path.

the core.. (3, Interesting)

joeldg (518249) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291054)

First thing, does this company really need an IS dept? or do they just need someone who runs around fixing things?

If they indeed do 'need' an IS dept, update your resume and then:

you need to come up with a "dire" consequences sceanario, then write up quotes and at least double to triple them (that way you might get your needed funds).. If needed, make something break, multiple times, just to show how crippled they are, blame the guy who left and explain you have been forced to use 'this junk'.. Have a handy quote in your desk drawer that you had got "a while back" and have a few spare good resumes around that have recently come in.. Use lots of acronyms (yes, technobabbling someone is low but when their eyes glaze over you can insert a lot of 'ideas' in there..) but most of all, make them think it is their idea.

show them what the competition is doing, explain that they are being outmoded. using fear to compel them to 'upgrade' is a great. of course, it is their idea..

don't get too chicken little about it, but show them what a bofh is and force your ideas through, of course though, it is their idea you can just be the "go-to guy"..


if the above fails, use that updated resume and go to a company with an IS dept, otherwise they are determined to use an 'abacus' and are doomed to live in the past..

Single point of failure (4, Informative)

CodeShark (17400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291055)

Sounds to me like you are doing your job well, and are the 'single point of failure' critical resource. Which translates to a) job security in that you are the only point where things can be fixed, and b)job overload, because a one man IT department has to keep up with every change on every workstation and entry point into the network (including software, printers, modems, net connections, etc.) and the points of attack or network/application corruption problems are multiplying faster than a single person can possibly track, unless the company is hopelessly mired in '80s technology.

My suggestion? Management won't pay for insurance against threats that they don't understand. Do a 'Net search and find white papers which show how other similar sized businesses became vulnerable to major IT downtime induced loss of revenue, and/or were sued for major amounts of money because they didn't face the threat sources in time and data was stolen, etc.

If a good presentation using those papers doesn't work, suggest that for Sarbonnes/Oxley regulatory compliance, they need an IT audit, and discuss the single point of failure problem with the auditor.

Finally, if none of the above work, update the resume and get a couple of good job offers in hand, then request a large $$ increase in wage to stay, or leave. There are no other choices.

Been there, feel for you... (1)

ursabear (818651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291061)

I've been there before - almost exactly the same situation at a small-town weekly newspaper.

I must say that there is no one size works for everything solution to your issue. However, even in the most draconian and Luddite-ian (:D) business structure, money talks.

Modernizing IT will save the company money in the long run. Try to find a way to distill some proposed figures that can be expressed in a short, less-than-one-page summary. I don't recommend the gloom-and-doom approach. I do recommend the "you employ me to make sure this company is profitable, so I need you to take advantage of my knowlege and experience" approach.

What worked for me at the newspaper? I brought in a fully configured pair of networked computers containing up-to-date software and put on a demo, then handed them a cost-of-business summary.

How to fix things... (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291064)

Having worked for a government contractor myself, here are a few tips:

1. Don't expect change overnight. If there is one too true stereotype of govt. contractors, it's that maintaining the status quo is the most important thing to do. These people have to be coaxed and coddled to change.

2. With that in mind, money talks pretty loud with them also. Put together a white paper detailing what NEEDS to be done. Outline how much it's oging to cost, but then outline the net present value and/or internal rate of return of projected savings. Managers like numbers and percentages to justify change. For example, I too was frustrated by what my employer was doing in their IT department. They also were doing a lot of things by paper, and by implementing a web application to automate a lot of what they were doing, I was able to save them not only hundreds of dollars in paper EACH MONTH, I was also saving thousands of dollars in employee work hours. Instead of having the employees wasting so much time shuffling paper, they could put their skills to better use in benefitting the company.

Hope that helps!

No offense but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291066)

First thing you have to learn is how to speak/write in a way that doesn't annoy people. Repeating yourself is a quick way to cause people to stop listening. It tends to cause them to shut the listening side of the brain down. They just look at you in a daze to acknowledge you but they aren't listening.

I'm not trying to be insulting, but the above paragraph was written to make a point. Got kinda annoyed by the last sentence, eh? Delivery is the key to ANY proposal. I'm not the greatest speaker and I've done the same thing several times. I can almost literally see the eyes of the person I'm speaking to glaze over when that happens and I know I've lost them.

They key is to say what needs to be said, add and example, and move on. If they don't understand something let them ask questions about it. If you have to, even stop and ask them if they have any questions. Just make absolutely sure you don't hammer on the same point repeatedly. It can even be taken as an insult to their intelligence by them and that will even make it harder to get the point across.

Easy! (1)

scovetta (632629) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291068)

1. Ask management to hire a tech and a clerk to help you
2. ????
3. Profit!

I'm pretty sure that 2 might consist of you threatening to leave unless you get some help. If they are really dependent upon you, it might jar their attention. Also, if you have so much experience, you could probably find another job without too much of a problem.

Alternatively, you could try optimizing your processes -- spend an extra 5% of your time each week on reducing or eliminating the biggest time hogs.

Back in the day (1)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291076)

What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

Back in the day I invented things like the Y2K bug. Like who doesn't know that time is stored as a 32 bit integer?

Oh well, time to release the Y2038 integer overflow bug, because in 33 years we'll all be stuck in 32 bit processing. Well, at least management doesn't know that.

Use "simple" words (2, Insightful)

oliderid (710055) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291082)

Avoid tech slang at any cost.

Propose your plan. A well documented document. Describe all the potential failures the current network may face and the potential dammages. Don't go too much in the details. Use simple sentences, with the potential dammage clearly indentified.

Define the rules you would like to apply.

For each rule, set the goal. Tell them simply and clearly why the rule should be applied and what do you want to avoid.

They arenn't technicians. But they are smart. Simply use words they will understand.

If you tell them that without any backup for the mail server, the company may face up to 4 days without emails, they will understand.
If you tell them that the pop server is using outdated hardware and there is probabily that the hardisk may break. Most won't understand.

Don't send the report without any "face to face" introduction, try to organize meetings. If you are unable to put them all in the same room at the same time, try to meet them one by one in their office, and finish your "lobbying" by emails.

Once the executives boards is convinced by the neccessity, define a step by step plan. Don't try to change everything in the same week. Propose it and negociate it.

Once you've got their agreement. Try to make a mailing list and explain clearly to the employees why you will perfom the change and when. Invite them to ask any question they want.


If it ain't broke, don't fix it (1)

JamminBen (939801) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291084)

That's the mindset of your boss. The only way you'll get any relief is if things start breaking. Unfortunately, it will be seen as a deficiency on your part. I would start looking for the exit.

Disaster (1)

RobFrontier (550029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291091)

First, it seems to me the point 1 and point 2 conflict with each other. Are you saying that management see's connectivity as your only function or you do? For the most part, company's only see IT as necessary until a disaster strikes, or you have made yourself valuable. I would start by showing the benefits of a centralized database. If everything is in Access, move it to SQL server, or DB2, and write some helpful reports. Of course this might be problematic if they want authorize the funding for purchasing a real database platform. I suppose you could use a trial version. I wouldn't use the other suggestions of creating your own downtime or disaster though. That is counter productive, and unethical (not to mention creates more work for yourself). You definetely have your work cut out for you. I'm really curious as to the company, as I'm an IT worker in Flagstaff email me if you don't mind releasing that info off the board.

Management only responds to a catastrophe (1)

SilverJets (131916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291093)

I find most management types have no clue about computers, networks, software or anything IT related. All they know is money, so they only ever respond if there is a catastrophe that affects the flow of money.

I am not saying that you should cause something to happpen, but maybe you will luck out and something will happen that will cause the network to crash and prevent work from getting done. Then they will listen to your requests for staffing.

Or, take a vacation out of the country with no cell phone or pager on you. Make it for as long as you can but definitely no shorter thatn 3 weeks. They'll be ready to listen to you when you get back.

Be smart about this (1)

clawhound (811481) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291097)

You just wrote this up. That's a good first step. Next, go to your boss, and say, "I've been thinking about our IT needs and I want to chat about them." Don't talk about you. Lay out the challenges that you see before you. Lay out your limitations of your time. Demonstrate that hiring more employees will add value to the IT infrastructure. Work at it. Take his input. Get his support. Make him an ally. Prioritize. Focus on the changes that you can make and can do, and get payoff for your work. Learn the other people you need support from.

Your job, as the information person, is to demonstrate, in business terms, the worth of your proposals.

If you can't take this to your boss straight off, try taking this to another business savy person who can help you to translate your tech speak into busness speak, and help you learn the human processes necessary to make these changes.

remarks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291099)

"1) The main job of IS is connectivity. Connectivity is the core of why we have IS. Anything else is extraneous, and I shouldn't be dealing with it." The main job of IS is enhancing and supporting business objectives. The job of IS/IT is derives from management's business objectives. "2) IS involvement in other divisions isn't necessary. IS is involved with other divisions when physical products get connected to the network, but not before. Software should be evaluated by IS only when it becomes necessary for purchase and implementation, not before. Any developed piece of software (we have an in-house programmer in accounting who uses Access -- I know, I know...) should be evaluated by IS when the software is ready to install." Any developers should either report directly to IS/IT or be part of an IS/IT committee. IS/IT involvement in development must take place from the beginning. When developers only work for specific departments their management gives them tunnel vision. They only meet the demands of the department and in companies with multiple developers they may lack "the big picture" that IS/IT often looks at. Regular discussion amongst IS/IT and all developers helps give everyone a sense of the big picture. "3)I'm too overloaded. With 93 permanent users and 110 workstations (some are floaters), I can't do both systems work and admin work (my title is Systems Administrator, but I carry no management authority) on my own. My proposal stated the need for the creation of staff (a tech and a clerk). Management thinks because things are running, I have no issues, but I'm falling apart from all I have to do to keep things running. I need to offset the load so I can do more of the 'bigger picture' things to help guide this company out of the IS dark ages. (We have no CTO or CIO; Management is made up of engineers from different disciplines)." If you act like a manager, you'll often get treated like one. This gets more difficult the longer you've worked somewhere. First impressions are the most important. Talk to management like a manager. Talk to them on their level, demonstrate confidence and a mastery of your field. Find out what management's objective is and then show them how you can apply IS/IT to contribute to and even exceed their expectations. Once you can contribute to the business like a manager they'll treat you like one. Along typically comes the extra clout you need to perform the job. Management needs to trust your insight.

redundant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291100)

take vacation()

if [ all hell has broken loose ]
then profit()
else quit()

Leave... (2, Interesting)

moorley (69393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291101)

What... Are you still there?


Problem solved.

That was the short answer. The long answer:

I read an article a few months back that linked emotions to an evolutionary form of fast judgement making. The point? Trust your gut. If they haven't given you what they promised they would give you within the first few months in the last few years, leave. It may be your hairstyle, your sense of humor or they just don't like you. Get over it. Play the odds and find a new position with a new company that says they will give you what you feel you deserve, and trust you gut. If you think you are being lied to in the interview then continue to play the odds and find the job you want. Or don't.

Decision is yours. Enjoy.

Where to start.... (2, Insightful)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291107)

Can you institute change? Maybe. But you're going to have to start with you.

(I'm assuming that the acronym IS stands for Information Services. I would've said IT, but that's a quibble. If you meant something different, please disregard everything I'm about to say.)

1) The main job of IS is connectivity. Connectivity is the core of why we have IS. Anything else is extraneous, and I shouldn't be dealing with it.

The main job of IS is keeping the system running. Any technical issue that prevents someone from doing their job is yours. This alone should be enough to convince your management that a lone guy in an office isn't going to be sufficient support for your organization.

You're correct in that it's a mistake to view computing as just another facilities issue. However, that doesn't mean that it doesn't reach the same level of importance, and simply put, there's nobody else whose job it is to fix it. That means it's yours. (Or at least, that's what I'd be saying if I were your boss.)

2) IS involvement in other divisions isn't necessary. IS is involved with other divisions when physical products get connected to the network, but not before. Software should be evaluated by IS only when it becomes necessary for purchase and implementation, not before. Any developed piece of software (we have an in-house programmer in accounting who uses Access -- I know, I know...) should be evaluated by IS when the software is ready to install.

See, you think this is what you want. Trust me, it's not. Otherwise, you can find yourself in the situation I was in, with a rack full of Linux servers and a department chair demanding to know why the $10K+ Windows-only web app he just bought isn't gonna run.

3)I'm too overloaded. With 93 permanent users and 110 workstations (some are floaters), I can't do both systems work and admin work (my title is Systems Administrator, but I carry no management authority) on my own.

You're absolutely right about being overloaded, but you appear to be laboring under the misconception that a "Systems Administrator" is usually a management position. In my experience, it almost never is, unless by chance you tack the word "Senior" to the front, and even then the only people you'll manage are other Systems Administrators.

My proposal stated the need for the creation of staff (a tech and a clerk). Management thinks because things are running, I have no issues, but I'm falling apart from all I have to do to keep things running. I need to offset the load so I can do more of the 'bigger picture' things to help guide this company out of the IS dark ages. (We have no CTO or CIO; Management is made up of engineers from different disciplines)

Your management will likely be unsympathetic, but you're not without hope. What I'd do is to brief them on the three biggest issues you're facing. Each brief should be about a minute in length, and all three should be delivered back-to-back. Each one should follow the structure: "this is the problem; here are the consequences of not addressing it; here is what i will need to address it." The trick: the third should be, "My time is fully committed just keeping what we have now together; if left unaddressed, neither the previous two issues, nor the multiple issues haven't mentioned, can be accomplished, resulting in the failure of X, Y, and Z; hire me another tech and an administrative assistant and give me some time to get them up to speed."

Best of luck.

Re:Where to start.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291221)

I'd almost given up hope for /. entirely, but your post is the only one in the bunch that shows any insight.

The biggest missive in the question being asked is the rants about only being involved in specific instances. The worst thing you can do is isolate IT from the rest of the business. Rather, you should try to get *more* involved in every project. In addition to being able to head off disasters, it gives you the opportunity to shape the business into areas that benefit you.

On the other hand, maybe I should encouriage the slew of slashdrivel that immediately cries out "dust off your resume and get out!" It certainly provides more opportunities for the rest of us...

I here you loud and clear! (1)

Static-MT (727400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291117)

I work in the private club industry and find myself in many of the situations you describe. Recently, our facilities manager and general manager sought out an analog security camera solution. Conviently, it was supposed to plug into our (my) network. The analog signal was supposed to go "through" our switches and to a central computer that was going to require a VPN connection (through an already crowded internet connection) so that our management could spy on people at home. Again, this was to be my responsibility. It was obvious to me that things weren't going to work out in that capacity.

I could have told them this before they spent the $10,000 to put in the cameras, but... They ended up running thousands of feet of new lines, adding additional cost and blowing their budget.

Same thing happened when we put in the network at a newly rennovated facility. We added a $30,000 strike against the bottom line after being completely forgotten. OOPS!!!

I guess that's what I get for being just "support". I'm rather tired of it.

I'll cease the rants now... Thanks for listening.

IS? (-1, Troll)

wikkiewikkie (596205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291128)

Is is Is? ... Is, is Is Is? Is, is Is Is?!? Is? IS??? IS!!!

Run the numbers (1)

dmurawsky (255433) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291129)

The best way to convince a boss of anything is to show them the numbers. If you can put something in a cost benefit analysis (CBA) and show how much work you do (A list), they'll be hard pressed to argue. Also, you can talk to them about what happens when you take a vacation, which you want to do because you're overloaded. However, actually running out and doing it, as was previously suggested, might just get you fired. It depends on the place you work, but with government contracts on the line...
Finally, I'd like to suggest that you re-evaluate IT's (Information Technology) place in your organization. An information system (IS) is, essentially, an integrated set of services and software that makes things easier for the company (IE a transaction processing system, or decision support system). The IT department is usually in charge of maintaining the IS's in a corporate environment and ensuring that they interoperate well with the actual hardware within the company. Having the ability to review software during the selection process to ensure that it integrates well into your environment is something that should be mandatory. Also, and IT department is not *just* about connectivity. It's about integration and support of all information systems from that database programmer in accounting all the way to the boss's hotsync software.
Good luck,

Read my full post... (5, Insightful)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291132)

I am a firm believer that almost all IT work can be broken down into 3 major groups: Hardware, Software and Network. With that in mind let us proceed with further discussion.

The easiest to deal with is probably the hardware. The key of course is to keep items under warranty with proper replacement cycles. By doing this the job is pretty simple. If a part of computer X breaks then you can simply call (or use web-based customer service) to receive a replacement part or have someone come out to do the work for you. In my previous place of employ we used Dell hardware on a rotating 3-year cycle. If a warranteed item broke we simply called and had them send out the replacement which we promptly shipped back. The only exception to this was laptops and for those we made them send a service person out, because replacing a motherboard in one of those is not my idea of fun.

Next up is the software. All software presently in use should be tested on a machine of the desired hardware mentioned above. You will of course have uniformity in machines, because this means you have a lot less problems to worry about. It is the Apple approach, sort of. You will want to be using a single operating system (well maybe two). In this case either Windows 2000 or XP. Build a machine with the specs of all the others and install and test all the software on the machine, once it is running properly, using Symantec Ghost to create images and since you will have the same hardware, you can quickly roll out new machines or re-image bad ones.

Finally the network. Please tell me they have a properly created network using nice switches and a good hardware firewall. We once found a network closet at a previous place of employ that was connected to the rest of the network with a HUB. Several of us almost died at how horribly setup this was. You are dealing with a small number of computers so I do not expect you to have several grand worth of networking equipment. So long as this is maintained properly, it should never really be a problem.

Now, how do you sell them on changes being necessary? First off, if you have sporadic and out of warranty hardware, be sure they are perfectly aware that if the machine(s) die that it could take several days or weeks to replace. I know this might be a huge overestimate, but it will give them an idea of the sort of down time that a user could face.
Next, do a similar survey of the software. Also if you can verify the licenses on everything. If you find any missing licenses tell them of the ramifications and be sure to give them the worst case scenario. We had an instance like this at my last job and several people were upset when they were cut off from software, but at several thousand dollars per license, the company was willing to make a huge deal out of it with us. Any software that is out of warranty also must go or be removed from the network. So those NT4 and 9x machines you might have running around (I hope you don't), need to be taken care of. Once again a proper explanation might do the trick.

Remember, no matter what all management always wants productivity. So if you show how their system can result in losses of productivity, not only for you but for users, they are more willing to consider change. The key of a good IT department is always going to be to maximize uptime and minimize downtime.

One final suggestion, request the power to hire and fire. Then remind them of reasonable salary expectations. I am not sure what they are paying you, but a true IT manager should be making 70k or more and good staff at least 40-50k. If you convince them of this, well give me a call because I know a thing or two about straightening out IT departments, I helped fix two of them before I finally started getting engineering jobs.

Steps (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291139)

  1. Prepare resume
  2. Make everyone who needs your time take a number.
  3. Start clocking in at 9am and leaving at 5pm
  4. After a few weeks, take the queue to upper management to demonstrate the need for more people

Of course, management may hire a manager to manage you.

Remember - The floggings will continue until moral improves

Terrorists!!! (1)

CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291147)

Look around at what other "managers" are doing to get thier way and follow that lead.

It seems the US "manager" has found a solid plan for conviencing others what "needs" to be done. Learn that lesson and upon your next meeting explain that if they don't allow you to implement the needed changes then the terrorists win!

bye-bye karma ;-)

Consider Hiring an Intern (2, Informative)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291149)

That's what helped us get out from some load.

My boss scouted at a local high school for a bright, trainable student with some PC experience. We threw him at some simple jobs that were eating up our time.

We were able to make some large changes with him doing the footwork. He had a relatively easy job with good direction and excellent education, and left with a resume and references that any of his peers would have killed for.

Adapt or Leave (1)

mslinux (570958) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291154)

I faced a similar situation about 3 years ago. I moved from a formal IT shop that had a lot of control within its company to a one man IT shop that had little or no control in the company. The pay was a lot better and the atmosphere was more relaxed so I stayed.

At first, it was difficult. I wanted the new company to adjust to me and my IT background. But that was stressful for me and the new company. They wanted me to relax and blend in with their way of doing things. I did that. Things are great now. I came from an environement that was proactive.... we tested, planned, installed, tested more, benchmarked, tweaked, etc. The new company is _reactionary_... we handle stuff as it comes up because IT is not our focus it's something that's along for the ride.

My old friends from the controlling IT department can't stand the thought of the way the new company handles IT. They tell me that they'd quit immediately if they did not have complete and total control over every portion of IT within the company. I've learned to like it. It works well for us and others.

Get rid of your controlling IT/IS attitude and blend in with your company. If you want to do things differerntly, get another job that has a controlling IT department with clout or start your own company.

Oh, the memories... (1)

ah.clem (147626) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291156)

I spent a year of my life creating technology plans that never got implemented for a company in the Pacific - it was one of the most frustrating years of my working life. After about 9 months it became obvious that no one on the board that ran the operation was willing to commit to any of the ideas they asked for - if something didn't work as planned they would lose major face. They still refused to implement after a consultant from the US mainland came in and evaluated the much revised plan and suggested that it was too conservative but should still be started immediately.

Life is too short to let people that can't give up control or don't really trust you to do a job they hired you to do wear you down. Cut your losses and find a place to work that is looking for someone with your skill set - you can lose time and skills trying to teach a pig to sing.


History tends to repeat itself (2, Insightful)

PDP1134 (870593) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291158)

It sounds like you are having the same problems that we had back in the 70s and 80s when companies who's product wasn't IT related (we called it MIS back then) couldn't accept the concept of why a good IT infrastructure was important.

I went through several companies back then where I was either the first or one of the first people on staff when the IT department was created. The problem really isn't that you need an IT staff but that since you came up through the ranks you aren't really being respected. This is a problem that is not unique to our industry.

Unfortunately, I found several times that the only way to deal with the problem of respect for your skills was to leave. At your next job, your background is that you formed the IT department at your previous company (even though it was only you), and you built their network from nothing to roughly 100 users. True, jobs aren't as plentiful as they have been at other times, but the industry is not as bad as it has been and you might need to consider this option.

If it is safe to make the assumption that you are also not being paid a salary equal to the work you are doing start with that. Tell them that you are doing three jobs and that you want to be paid for at least two of them. They will either a) give you a raise, b) laugh off your comments or c) fire you. If they fire you then you've got a valid case against them for wrongful termination -- especially since they work with government contracts and have to adhere to higher employment standards than other companies.

If they laugh off your comments then they obviously don't have the ability to ever learn to respect you. That when you take the resume that you updated TODAY and start sending out copies.

But if they do offer to give you a raise, ask the followup question: and when does my assistant start so that someone is doing the third job now that you are paying me for the first two?

Believe it or not, that actually worked for me once. Unfortunately, five years later when there were ten people in the department they decided to replace me with two kids fresh out of college that they could get for half of what they were paying me. I was closing in on 30, which even in the 1980s was starting to be considered over the hill as a programmer. ARGH!!!!!!

And don't rip up the resume if they give you a raise and an assistant. I learned that lesson the hard way back in 1981 when I got the raise and then was squeezed out a few months later after they thought that my newly appointed assistant knew enough to do the job. He didn't, but he did do something that I didn't do when I left. When he was fired three months later he wiped out all the source code from the production system libraries and erased the backup system disks (this was on a Data General M600 with the old 20lb zebra drives). They had to call me and pay a ton of money for me to come in and restore everything.

Propose internal charge rate for IT usages (1)

shinghei (594639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291165)

I'm not sure what your company's internal accounting system looks like, but from what you've describe, it seems to be treating your department as a cost center and all the IT expenses as general overhead. Have you thought about using an accounting system such that you the other departments get charged a certain rate per managed node / number of call / qualified software package? There are two advantages: 1) Department heads will now be more conscious of the cost and will think twice before asking you to setup 20 computers. This creates disincentives for managers to abuse your department's resources; 2) You manage the profit and loss of the IS department and therefore should have more freedom to hire more people as long as your department is showing black, not red.

Schedule sheets and VMWare (4, Informative)

SysKoll (48967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291172)

You should point out that compliance with government regulation (especially for contractors) requires a good IS system. Otherwise, sooner or later, you'll have to supply records that you don't have. Talk with your accountants, see what they need.

I'm too overloaded. With 93 permanent users and 110 workstations (some are floaters), I can't do both systems work and admin work (my title is Systems Administrator, but I carry no management authority) on my own.

Your best friend is the schedule sheet. Such a sheet has the week's calendar detailed down to the half hour. If someone asks you to deworm a PC or deTrojan a Windows laptop, get your schedule sheet and book the next available 2 hours. Block time in advance for other sysadmin duties. Full schedule? Just tell the user his PC will be dewormed next month. When you have a few dissatisfied users, bring your ultra-full, scribbled schedule sheet to management and use it to prove you need help. DON'T DO UNCOMPENSATED OVERTIME. Take vacations, preferably on short notice. You don't have a backup? Well, ain't that too bad. Think you could hire one, boss?

As a rule of thumb, you need one full time person per 30 Windows PCs, plus one guy to cover for vacation and such. I don't know how you can keep up with a hundred Windows machines to maintain by yourself.

If your boss wants to save on sysadmin salaries, he can move his users to Linux PCs, with critical programs (e.g., macro-ridden Excel spreadsheets) running on Windows images under VMWare. Inside the image, have apps save to network drives (Samba is your friend), not to C:. Archive the images, they are just large files in Linux. When the Windows image catches a virus, just restore a fresh version from your storage server instead of spending hours fixing the Windows crap. You'd be amazed at how much time this little trick saves. Users have their Windows apps and you have manageable systems, everyone is happy.

Toughest transition (2, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291180)

I own an IT/IS company that's sole purpose is to try to make a customer rely on themselves, not us. It is the best business model available in IT as we receive more referrals than we "lose" customers who become self-sufficient.

The key, for us, in selling a customer on hiring a full time team rather than contracting out the work (to us and others) is showing them a return on investment. There is no other way for a company to acquire any assets or employees without a residual increase in profitability.

How can you tell your bosses that they need an IS group? Show them how they'll save money or make more money, or how their competitors are doing something better. Business owners hate three things: bleeding losses, missed profit opportunities, and competition that does something better.

I can't imagine how hard your job will be, though, in the near future. U.S. manufacturing is attempted to cut back on costs, not increase them. Being in the business for 16 years, I know how hiring the right team IS a money saver, but many of our customers take years to convince. We've seen 6 digit yearly contracts that would have cost less than US$60,000 a year with a good individual and minor contract jobs.

Work up a nice (not colorful, but factual) brochure to sell your bosses on a team. Find who your competitors' IS managers are and talk to them -- you'd be surprised how many employees of competiting companies are beer buddies on the weekends. Pick up a decent manufacturing periodical that talks about these issues, and maybe even get membership to manufacturing webzines that offer the advice.

In engineering, general contracting, graphic design and other service industries, an IS group is a must-have. Manufacturing used to be technology-superior until the work became too inefficient to perform in the U.S. Since the costs are so high here, the management teams don't want to hear about expanded employees except in production. Place yourself in that role: producing an efficient "engine" to run the company. Use manufacturing terms. Point at studies and point at success stories.

Good luck.

Convince management (1)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291191)

Basically you're not seeing eye to eye with management. It doesn't matter if you're responsible for IS, or the coffee fund, if you can't convince management that your involvement will save money, they probably won't listen. Keep in mind, you're also dealing with turf battles. I deal with this all the time.

You need to show that you're adding value. Did anyone recently buy any IT type stuff that turned out not to work and was a waste of money. Did it work but there were cheaper alternatives?

Look at things not just from a engineer level, but from a management level. How can you use IT to improve the business? Can you remove punch timecards and get an automated system? If you do that, how many hours a week will you save HR in compiling timecards and making out paychecks.

I think you get the idea, but basically if management doesn't want to listen to you as another manager and treats you like another lackey, then you either need to get a manager onboard to champion your causes, or you might as well give up.


clawhound (811481) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291194)

Don't sabotage anything for any reason. If you are working for a government contractor, any malicious act that you do could be considered a felony or an act of terrorism as it impacts the governments data/information/processes. Think twice. Act once.

I'm in a similar situation (1)

div_2n (525075) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291206)

I am the IT Manager for a manufacturer with government contracts as well. First, you need to gain a bigger picture of things. The "I" in "IS" stands for "information" and as such, you deal not only with the connectivity/hardware, but the information being stored, how it is used and the protection of it therein. Therefore, you MUST have an understanding of the company, how things operate and such to be most effective. Otherwise, you will not be very effective at capacity planning. Most importantly is that in order to cost-justify your infrastructure, you must understand how it will effect business processes--the expensive firewall will help the sales people on the road via VPN, super duper server will be able to host the ERP software they desperately need to track cost variance on manufacturing so you can track real time costs and profit.

You cannot possibly pitch those as such without understanding the business. Remember, if you are head of the IS department, you are effectively the CIO. As CIO, you need to understand how your division interacts with the others. As much as you want to be, you are not an island by yourself that has limited dealings with your surrounding neighbors. Your department is the fundamental technological enabler to allow the profit generating divisions to be most effective. Your department generates costs, not profit. You have to show how your costs can increase profit.

First and foremost, you need to become very close to the CFO so you can work together to understand where the heavy costs are, what needs to happen to address them and how you can make his/her job easier in terms of understanding the bottom line. Second, you need to become good friends with the Plant Manager. Find out what his/her biggest issues are. Are any of those issues caused by inadequate technology? Is lacking technology causing manufacturing bottlenecks? Third, you need to learn who your largest customers are and how technology is being utilized in doing business with them. Are you doing EDI? Should you be?

Once you understand the business, have made these relationships and know how your IT infrastructure fits in the big picture with the largest customers, then you can begin to make magic happen. Anytime you want to improve infrasctructure or make a technology purpose you must follow this simple guideline:

1) Does it improve or cut costs of current business processes?

2) If not, is it creating a new business process or addressing a serious security issue? (If both 1 and 2 are no, you are probably buying a toy)

3) Can you explain in unambiguous language how the answer to 1 or 2 is yes? (if not, you will hit a wall with the decision makers)

Good luck.

Best Way??? (0, Troll)

ryanisflyboy (202507) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291209)

"What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?"

Let it break.

I will leave it to you to decide if I'm funny, or informative.

Think like them (1)

notnAP (846325) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291215)

One problem IT/IS/geeks have, myself being the prime example, is that we expect concepts like logic to have weight with the PHB's.

Consider: in many companies, there are shipping managers, production managers, acquisition managers, etc. All of these positions need management, and these managers are recognized for the needs they have and the accomplishments they make getting their tasks done. Rightly so.

But in how many places is the IT department looked on with no more forethought than the secretary who buys pens, staplers and paper for the office?

Every company is different, but I'd wager that in most, the IT infrastructure (be it phone or data or both) is so crucial to the day to day operations as well as the long term growth that IT people should in a perfect world be in the board room (or whatever lesser equivalent you have) contributing to the decision making process.

That just isn't the case, however. I also experience the problem. I used to manage our web services ($3million/year printer). But I was needed in production, so without discussion, the responsibilities were handed over to a consultant. I've spent the last year helping them put out the fires they caused by (1) using Windows 2k3 server, and (2) having a poor understanding of web services. How can people like you and I convice the PHB that reverse dns lookups are importnat when the consultants they hire tell them (to cover the fact they don't understand and can't get classless delegation working) that it isn't?

The cause, and unfortunately the answer too, is politics. It's not that they reject the logical arguments. It's that they don't speak that language. I took Russian in high school, and could converse by the time my 4 years were up. But conversing was a matter of thinking in English and translating pre-vocalization to Russian. So it is with IT and business.

We're like the stone masons of old, living in our own temples while constructing the fortresses financed and managed by others.

I worked in a very similar situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14291219)

The IT department was started by a single person, and run as a one person show for 15 years. By the time management had thought about the fact that it might be time for a change, mission critical systems were woefully out of date. What eventually convinced them that a new methodology needed to be put into place (and more to the point, what gave them the direction to do so) was an external audit. Maybe it's not a bad idea to write a proposal for such an audit and present it to your superiors. For a fairly minimal investment, you can get hard documentation from independent observers on exactly what needs to be done to implement the best IT environment possible for your business' particular needs. They can decide what to do with it from there.

It's hard to get cheap folks to spend money (1)

WVDominick (860381) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291223)

I've found it nearly impossible for the company I work for to upgrade their infrastructure. Nothing has worked for me. Not even the threat of impending disaster.

Changing corporate culture (1)

lintocs (723324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291225)

The only way thigns are going to change for you is if you impress upon management that while you're doing mundane things like installing software, rebooting PCs, and reloading printer paper, you aren't doing valuable things like R&D, security (firewall, backups) monitoring, spam filter tuning, network performance tuning, etc ...

Start out looking for an assistant, someone junior who can handle desktop support. If you can't get that kind of assistance, then you're really under-rated at your current employ and you should be working on an exit strategy.

Go on Vacation (1)

Rhoon (785258) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291231)

What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

1. It's the Holiday Season, go on Vacation, visit family.
2. With you out of the office, it should start to blow up.
3. Update Resume.
4. If they don't approve ALL your requests, leave.
5. Profit!@#

You don't have the concept in your head to lead (1)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14291234)

Sorry, but the idea that your "only job is connectivity" is totally antiquated, and likely comes from spending too much of your career in a large, well sub-divided corporate IS department. There is nothing wrong with working in large departments or companies, but you have to remember that the things that make those big companies possible are the controls and standards they have in place to decide how-to decide if they should hire or not. You're trying to fight a battle to hire helpers when nobody has fought the battle of a standardized methodology for deciding if you have enough workers to cover your department's responsibilities.

You're in a tough spot, and unfortunately, it will get worse before it gets better.

Two hints from a guy who is in a similar organization but slightly ahead of the spot on the curve you're at:

1) You have to sell your changes in terms that the managers understand. Don't explain why the package you picked for the marketing department is superior to the one they selected, explain why your METHODOLOGY--of IS selecting and testing appropriate tools with input from others--is superior to the end-users being sucked in by "ooh, shiny!" and decide to "let IS worry about implementing it." It is that flip assumption that IS can make anything happen that leads to selection of incorrect products and ultimately to failed projects. Regardless of how good the IS team is, they can't make wrong tools do the right job, and this should be the focus of your argument, not any one particular tool or purchase experience. Make it clear you're not trying to second-guess past decisions (even if you REALLY want to) but rather, to help make future decisions better and spend future dollars more efficiently than in the past.

2) Don't expect a landslide of change right away. Smaller companies, especially those owned by one or two people who founded the company and built it, tend to play things very conservative--especially when those founders are good at something besides computers. With this in mind, design your ultimate IS department that would provide your company with all the services it needs--even the stuff your superiors don't know they need, and then break it into stages. Do small, non-threatening things first to build your stock in their minds. When they see your small changes succeed, you can then suggest something a little more substantial, and so on and so forth until you have the perfect team, you're fired, or you quit for a better job paying twice as much money because you have demonstrated excellent leadership and critical thinking skills...

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