” I have crushing responsibility but inadequate resources and no authority to implement change.” – Trevor Pott

I’ve been dwelling on quite a number of things I’ve read of late.  As many of you may have read, I’m like the Stig of the IT Management world, the tame IT Manager.  It may be that MBA I did, or the fact that in my younger years, I spent more time in the pub than the programming lab at Uni.

However despite the business head, I’m probably more of a techy than not, and find it hard not to empathise when speaking to our customers.  You see there’s a bit of a common theme going on in the world of business at the moment and a lot of it involves Directors crushing their IT Manager’s spirit…

We all know there’s a recession going on, but Trevor Pott’s article over at The Register was suggested to me by Google (how did it know I’d like it?!) and it really left me thinking.  Whilst resources are scarce and businesses are oddly, prioritising keeping people as a resource rather than anything else, IT is sadly stuck in the middle.

The common things we get told by our customers are not being able to get hold of their Finance Director, or not even being on speaking terms.  Huge amount of time spent waiting for board approval on critical update projects.  Or even at the very simple end, no notice of employees starting or leaving and very poor communication from the business to integrate IT strategy with the rest of the business.  In many cases a Technology or IT Strategy isn’t even considered by most boards of some reasonably sized organisations.

I recently had one IT Manager commenting that life as a teacher may be better as they’d have already started their seven week holiday by now.  On some days, I could concur.  Life in IT these days is not as it should be.  The quote from Trevor Pott at the start of this article is how a lot of IT professionals are beginning to feel, regardless where they sit in the supply chain.  The futility of having the brains, the skills and the desire to solve problems but inadequate resources and no authority to do something about the problems you see is physically painful to many.

Organisations seem completely oblivious that not sharing strategies, budget worries, general pleasantries and professional courtesies with their IT department that they’re about to lose the most important asset to their organisation: The IT Manager-Miracle Worker.

The guy or girl who thrives on the challenge of making something out of nothing, can improvise fixing a ten year old server with a paperclip and a patch cable, who takes being told “you’ll get some budget next year for renewals” in their stride; is now getting to the point where the stresses and the strains are getting to them.

Managing and Finance Director’s however are having a great time saving money, looking good and generally oblivious to the problems about to come.  Under investment, has caused a lot of workarounds that your IT Manager-Miracle Worker has developed and not even someone as great as myself (!) could figure out what they’ve done if they walked out of the door.  Believe me, I’ve created some brilliant solutions to problems like this in my time that sadly, I can only boast about them to my IT Management pals.

If you let them walk out of the door, that body of knowledge – which they’ve not had time to write down due to over work, isn’t going to found again.  Your organisation, your strategies for future growth are all going to go up in smoke.  You may attract a replacement, but any IT guy worth the money, will probably say they’re not going to start the role without a proper budget and if you string them along, they will probably go and become a teacher.

I know the Directors reading this are thinking I’m unrealistic.  I know how bad the economy is at the moment.  However, there is a middle-ground here.  Your IT department has undoubtedly done something with nothing for a very long time, now is the time to give them something.  Probably not what they want, but they will find a solution to the problems they have and begin to reduce the business risk and make some tangible improvements to your systems.

What we do as a company is work with both IT Manager’s and Directors, at the board level we can untangle the techno-speak and look at prioritising projects and our up-to-date technical knowledge means we know the newer innovative tech that can solve particular issues. We can also work to align organisational and technology strategies so that the IT supports the business.  For IT Managers, we work to ensure that the problems they have can be solved with the budgets they can get.

We need to get better integration between the IT Department and the board in general to ensure that if the business really needs extra human resources that the IT isn’t the thing that holds them up.

There’s two businessy things that I know are always at the top of my mind about IT.  The first is, the price of technology for solving a particular problem is always coming down.  So if you didn’t think you could afford a project last year, speak to the right people who know the best ways of doing things for the money then you may find the project may fly.  The second is, which was drummed into me early in my career, any IT project should have a payback, if it doesn’t then it’s superfluous to the business and you don’t need to do it.  It should be easy to document and communicate any particular benefit of a project.  We can help with both of these points.

If you like what we have to say, and think you’ve  got a problem that sounds similar then reach out to us!  We don’t bite!

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