Let’s look at a common mistake on IT’s part. How many organizations have a requirement for “centralized” data, yet have full knowledge that users – the business community – are storing data on local (c:) computer drives? It matters not whether you have server virtualization, or if you harbor your own physical server(s).
In fact, it doesn’t even matter if you have virtualized desktops. If your users are storing data in the wrong virtual space, it’s in the wrong place!
Even some of the most sophisticated organizations, and the most tightly controlled enterprise environments, have this condition. This goes on even in organizations where it violates a document retention and content management policy – policies that are often imposed by outside regulatory agencies, or client bodies. Yet, if business members and leaders insist that it’s a necessary “work-around,” IT frequently goes along.
Conversely, business often assumes that policies are being adhered to, even as IT lets the environment go slack. This is a major mistake on IT’s part. Let’s leave the document retention/content management considerations aside for the moment, other than to state the obvious: If business leaders and various level users are running reports on what they believe to be a coherent data-store, in the absence of critical data that is harbored in unapproved and unrecognized repositories, then reports content can never be accurate and true. Business decisions can be weighted according to false criteria, and a true measure of any situation cannot be made. Today, let’s look at the situation from a simple backup and recovery standpoint – certainly an important enough area to highlight perils.
IT’s position in any organization should be that all data is secure: accessible according to authorization; safely and securely maintained in the technical environment; recoverable in the case of loss in the production environment through any reason (corruption, human error). Too often, especially in SMB environments, users are responsible for backing up their own local drives. This is wrong. If there is genuine business data that is not coming under the umbrella of IT’s backup domain, then that is a wrong situation and you cannot profess to have complete security. You are at risk.
You can hash out in a business-IT management team as to how to expose peripheral data, and how to manage it, secure it and back it up – at a minimum you must document exceptions to policy and put them on record. Ideally and in accordance with best practice, you’ll want to “centralize” data (whether actually or virtually) and put it squarely in the realm of IT’s secure and sure backup process. Many important caches and swaths of data have been lost by organizations because the central, qualified, authority for the safekeeping of data (IT) was unaware of it. There was no central authority guaranteeing its safekeeping under these circumstances.
Let’s look at one more area where IT is frequently remiss. Organizations overall are responsible for anything and everything that happens within: We see where large judgments have been made in favor of employee plaintiffs with complaints regarding offense and damages over electronic content containing porn, offensive jokes, inflammatory material based on race, etc., illegal advocacy, and other inappropriate content. Here, we’re speaking of content that has long been defined as this kind of liability by courts. Remember too that just because some content may be “legal” in the broader sense, it can still violate your organization’s best interest: Perhaps its internal policies, and those of clients and allied organizations.
Consider too: Should your organization’s data be subpoenaed, you wouldn’t want negative characterizations of business partners or critical evaluations of members made public, for example. Most organizations have policies to guard against inappropriate use of business resources and to explain the consequences of harboring improper content, but many don’t adequately reinforce, refresh, or train to the policy. Further, it’s apparent that a lot of IT departments haven’t picked up their responsibility, or perceived their own liability, in this area.
IT: Take care of business – and take care of business – if you know what I mean. ;^)
NP: Feeling Good, Gerry Mulligan, jazz24.org
Ok, it’s really only Part IV. I promise, this is the last part of this series. (We’ll follow on with a quick “IT Deficit” article – just to be fair – in the next days. Also, please see Parts I, II, and III, below, if you haven’t already).
But this is very important, especially for SMB: How many IT departments are producing reports from end-user applications that should be produced by someone in the business element? How many IT departments are orienting incoming hires for entrenched business software – the specific use of which is better explained by someone that is in the business department making the hire? (IT can concentrate on security orientations). How many IT departments are breaking out, coding and tracking mobile connectivity charges for business? Aren’t those an administrative duty better performed by someone in Finance or the actual departments? I’ve seen all of the above, and have set a number of organizations on a more efficient footing…
In other words, look for situations where “filing cabinets” have been delivered, but where the duty of “filing” is not being effectively picked up out in the business arena. Making effective use of technology is a profit-enhancing lever, and the user community needs to “file” effectively. Do what is necessary: deliver training, place the expectation, and let Business set up and run their “filing cabinets.” This frees IT to fulfill its obligations in other rapidly expanding arenas – Security, to name one. Content Management to name another. Planning and fulfillment on future, accelerating, business and technical requirements to name more. Let’s look at one additional example on the Business side of the equation before we look at some IT challenges.
A Business Deficit
Recently, a business director approached to introduce himself to me. After his name, his very first words were “I’m ‘computer-illiterate’.” He went on to explain that he would be IT’s “best customer” because he required frequent help. He joked of being proud on mornings when he could just remember how to turn his computer on. He had a smile on his face, and he most likely thought that his confessed ignorance would be seen as a friendly, non-threatening, sign. But, it was dismaying – as his ‘illiteracy’ turned out to be true.
He was also positioned critically; his department relied on external technical subscription services and critical agreements with solutions partners in forwarding the organization’s business. Working with this person, although he was nice enough, presented difficulties. So, how is it that, in this new millennium, a person of otherwise high standing still has a comfort level in divulging ignorance regarding Information Technology matters? For one thing, he possessed power: He was a C-level executive. But in this day and age, this ignorance is an extreme limitation for any organization, regarding any job or position.
Thought of another way: Suppose you approach your CFO – you’re new to the organization. You’re a department head, a business leader, someone who is expected to set an example – a manager, director, or even a VP. You smile and make a confession: “I sure hope I don’t have to prepare or balance any budgets around here – I’m ‘financially-illiterate!’” In fact, I can’t even balance my own checkbook! Numbers just aren’t my thing.”
Every organization’s managers are required to maintain budgets and to know how to manage them. Presumably they are hired with some basic skills: knowing how to add and subtract, and having some common understandings of basic budgets and the required accounting principles. Just because a staff member doesn’t work in Finance & Accounting doesn’t mean they’ll never have to perform some nuts-and-bolts finance and accounting. Likewise, it is not too much to expect that managers and users have some basic computer skills, and specifically, some close-fit skills regarding the organization’s specific applications and tools.
That expectation is quickly morphing into the outright need that these people understand and promote their own use of technology in its relation to the business. After all, most people who enter an organization that has a Business-Technology Weave are the sort of people who have computers at home, or have used them in school. No one is allowed to get away with “computer-illiteracy” any more, or even a stagnant appreciation of technology. Your organizational culture must evolve to one whereby users and managers are imaginative thinkers when it comes to using and growing the organization’s use of technology. They should employ the same imagination and judgment when partnering on the use and plan of technology that they use when partnering with Finance on the organization’s budget.
Most of you are there; but I imagine we’ve all dealt with laggards at various strata of the org. HR needs to sanction and enforce the appropriate expectations for training and all persons’ modern qualifications for occupancy in The Weave.
NP: Who’s Got Rhythm, Gerry Mulligan/Ben Webster, jazz24.org
Remember our discussion about finance codes, and IT’s maintenance of them? This example served to show IT’s “ownership” of the codes creation – as opposed to positing this responsibility in the business arena.
I once observed a broken process in this very arena; as an issue in the project management context. A project manager’s duty, of many, was to bump along an Expositions Director’s (the Expo department’s) creation of finance codes – an important task supporting a project: The implementation of a new association management system (AMS). The Expositions department was the task’s owner: The action of creating the codes was that department’s responsibility, with a shared component. That was creating them in compliance with the Finance department’s oversight of all finance codes.
However, there was a lag in the code creation: Due to the Expositions Director’s insistence that this was IT’s responsibility. However, IT is not the generator of the codes. Nor does IT maintain them – or use them. (IT has, and uses, their own department codes – but shouldn’t maintain – nor use! – other’s).
The syntax and format of the codes is defined largely by Finance. Further, the Expo Department is intimately familiar with their (Exposition’s) financial tracking needs. They know how many codes and definitions are needed in the conduct of their business. They also know the character and number of codes that exist in the old AMS – for various conference booths, hotel rooms, services, etc. Having IT survey a business situation that Expositions is responsible for is not a correct placement of effort or responsibility. Nor is it efficient.
IT-effort in this regard would mean: IT must perform the administrative drill of surveying business methodologies to a granular degree, and subsequent creation of the codes for approval by Expositions. This would engender a review, any necessary adjustments, and resubmittals with another Expo review. This would be followed by IT’s arrangement for review with Finance.
This is inefficient: Expo can drive and complete this process, in its entirety, in less time. Otherwise, it takes IT people away from doing the things that only IT can do. It engages them on a largely administrative task that should be assigned within the Expo department. Expo should not require IT to maintain their finance codes any more than IT can expect Expo to maintain IT’s finance codes.
Once Expositions creates their codes as tasked, they must let a project manager know they’re ready. The PM can schedule a sit down with Finance for review of the codes. Once Finance approves them, the PM (or a delegate) can train Expo on how to enter the codes into the AMS. The Expo department should have the authority to maintain their codes in the AMS so as to match their authority in maintaining the codes in the business sense.
Ask yourself here: who is responsible for knowing Exposition’s codes in order to exercise Exposition’s business? It is within that party, or group, where action must transpire. Today’s employment of “systems” or technology is not an excuse to defer ability, authority, activity, and responsibility. In any circumstance, an oversight authority from Business or Technology can simply ask: who is the relevant party that knows, or should know, the “business” of what is under consideration? That party must be empowered in every possible sense so as to match activity to the root of knowledge.
In short: IT delivers and maintains the mechanics of the system – Business must utilize the system and maintain their authorized information and content within it. IT most certainly maintains the backend, and can help, when authorized, on the front end – but make certain that “business content” is generated, maintained, and utilized primarily by business.
On this day (August 15, 1969): The Woodstock Music & Arts Fair opens in New York state on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm.
The Filing Cabinet Analogy
Your office is cluttered – you have documents all over the place. The paperless office of the future has not yet arrived, will never arrive, and your hardcopy papers are necessary, important, and accumulating. You must get them filed for safekeeping, but you also need a system of storage and access: You require ready reference of the content.
You call up your supply department and order a filing cabinet. A few days later, a supply clerk rolls your cabinet in, asking where you would like it.
In exiting, the clerk wheels his empty dolly toward your door… you say, “Wait! You’re not finished…” Bewildered, the clerk asks you what you mean. You politely gesture to all the stacks of paper on your desk, your table, your office floor. You tell him that he needs to label the drawers. He needs to create folders with tabs for various subjects, projects and tasks. He needs to alphabetize and categorize your paper documentation and file it in the appropriate place in the new cabinet.
Hmmm… what is wrong here? Simply this: You, the recipient of the filing cabinet, expect the supply clerk to do your filing – which is not the supply clerk’s job. The supply clerk has delivered a system for filing – the recipient must file, or delegate that to relevant department staff. But realize too: the cabinet’s recipient must not only use and administer the “system,” – the cabinet, drawers, folders, and setup of information storage – the recipient must do some initial configuring and setup of that system. After all, it is the recipient who best understands the business requirement of that system (the labeling, categorization, etc. that is necessary).
Now, we know that no one would ask the supply clerk above to do that filing – or configuring – yet IT finds itself in that very position as it delivers its “filing cabinets.” Often times business systems are delivered, and IT is expected to set up such things as finance codes – and to maintain them. Why? Business uses those codes, and should have an intimate knowledge for best codes: syntax, how many, subcodes, inter-relations… and on and on.
We’ll examine this example in the next days, but it is business’ “filing cabinet” of codes to maintain – not IT’s. IT can assist with suggestions for entering and structuring the codes as necessary, but IT should not determine the business-mechanics of the codes and their fit and inter-relationship to business. Further, this is just a sliver of an example: IT is frequently bled across lines of diminishing returns; maintaining all sorts of business structures, rules and updates – that are squarely within any reasonable person’s definition of business responsibility.
Yet IT is often tasked precisely the wrong way, taking time away from the rush of security challenges, best progressions, and vision to the horizon of accelerating challenges…
On this day (August 13th): In 1907, the first taxicab begins operation in New York City.
It’s been said that understanding what things are like…
is a large step toward understanding what things are.
I kinda like these multi-part posts. I think we’ll embark on a ride comprising more than a Pt. I and Pt. II… perhaps even beyond a Pt. III! I know what you’re thinking… is he crazy? Can we hang? Yes, yes… I’m crazy. :^)
But to get down to it: In many business-technology endeavors there blooms a confusion as to who should do what. This is especially true when going down a new and unfamiliar path. Business frequently thinks that anything involving a technical support structure means that most of the responsibility and activity belongs in the IT department.
In fact, I’m aware of some folks who just procured and implemented a new Association Management System (AMS). It can work “out of the box,” and is also fully customizable – and the aforementioned folks have made a sizable investment in crafting a hand-in-glove fit to business.
It’s meant to run the whole show: Customer Records Management (CRM), membership, registration, meetings, products, purchases, enrollments, training, publications (an online bookstore, too), financials, eCommerce – it’s their whole business, their whole world…
And yet… many of the staff treat the AMS as if it’s “IT’s database.” That’s incredibly limited thinking. Worse, business staff consider data security and integrity an IT problem. That is wrong: Everyone is responsible for security and integrity of data. End user security responsibilities are fairly obvious: Don’t lose laptops, portable drives, flash drives, etc. As to integrity, business has this issue at their very fingertips: Don’t make unauthorized exposures online; data solicitation and entry must be responsible and accurate; reports parameters and outputs must be true, and so on.
In the aforementioned case, some staff are maintaining their own records in MS-Access apps and databases. So-called “parallel” systems are always an obvious, and old, violation of best practices. It’s rather incredible, given the capital investment in the business-sanctioned AMS.
Conversely, IT frequently thinks that Business should be responsible for some things which in fact are better reserved for IT’s exercise and judgment. We know there is a mutual dependency, but when are lines appropriate and where do we draw them? What answers does The Business-Technology Weave yield?
In the coming days, we’ll look at a couple examples that will highlight some areas – starting with what I call The Filing Cabinet Analogy, in Part II. (Ah… that’s where that quote at the top comes in…). Subsequently, we’ll discuss a simple way to illuminate any area for solution. You will then be able to employ this model to answer your own questions in cases where you’re proceeding onto unfamiliar ground, and unsure as to where to place specific activity and responsibility:
Is a specific thing all IT’s burden? All Business’? A blend?
It’s easy to tip into zones of diminishing returns; worse, you can enter very dangerous territory if you do not place appropriate management and activities within the appropriate disciplines, and with the proper people, for best (and safest) returns.
Hopefully, you’ll look at your existing placements of effort, and in some cases make better assignments for cases where certain efforts have been poorly positioned.
NP: T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do, Fats Waller, jazz24.org
As we stated in Pt. I, formal education should never be discounted. As but one reflection, consider these statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Unemployment Rate by Educational Attainment
Bachelor’s Degree (and higher) 4.4%
High School Graduates (no college) 10 %
Less Than a High School Diploma 14.3%
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
In addition to this, educated people tend to have higher salaries. Beyond formal long-term schooling involving the award of degrees, there is conditional training and courses, such as network engineering certificates, programming diplomas, writing courses, management seminars, and even customized training by various educational associations. Many organizations have their own internal, proprietary, education and advancement systems of training, completely tailored to their specific needs.
Add to all of this a general all-around benefit – knowledge is power – as imparted by skilled and knowledgeable colleagues, teachers and professors in formal and informal settings.
It should go without saying: Education, and related credentials, never hurts a candidate or jobholder. When I was making hires in Fortune100 environments, I was very keen on people who were educated. That’s not to say there were never specific “self-educated,” seat-of-the-pants, types who outshone other specific, formally educated, folks – by virtue of specific accomplishments, knowledge, and experience. You must evaluate everyone as an individual. Ferret out their specific skills, bona-fides, experiences, and ability to contribute to the specifics of your environment and planned progressions.
But on balance, education is a tremendous plus, if for this reason alone:
Education not only provides an indication of what a person knows and can do – it shows ability to adhere to a schedule, to stay the course in achieving a major goal, and to harbor the allied patience in arriving at the successful destination of a project’s completion.
Staying the course (no pun intended… well… maybe…) and achieving a goal is an important indicator: It’s a window into a person’s character. In the mutually dependent weave of business and technology, it’s very, very important to employ people who persevere through every problem; who overcome challenges; who deliver the goods, no matter the odds – no matter the difficulties.
Last thoughts regarding education: It’s ultimately rewarding and – fun. You meet great people. There’s nothing better than that.
NP: Bessie’s Blues, John Coltrane, jazz24.org
I was having a discussion these past few days with a colleague regarding education, training, and learning – and it got me to thinking. Yours truly has a confession to make. Back in the days of my misspent youth, I fidgeted and fiddled while in class. I loved working, and being “where the rubber meets the road,” but studying and sitting in class, while inarguably important, made me quite impatient.
I careened between “A”s in courses I liked, and “C”s and even “D”s in courses I didn’t care for. These grades had nothing to do with course difficulty: Some of the most difficult courses boosted my grade point average. And let me say that, today, given the grace of maturity (hmmm… that may be arguable), I do much better in the occasioned classroom experience.
But back in the day, I fared much better in IT/Business training: Courses and certificates. Education in the Information Technology field is an interesting consideration. Regardless of degree completion, be it an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s degree or beyond – experience ultimately holds sway – but that’s precisely what education delivers to you, in the form of an open door: The initial experience, qualification and opportunity to go out into the world in order to gain ever more experience… and to then keep learning. Recognize that a proper grounding for springing further, and safely, in real-world domains and related endeavors is only granted through a proper education. Education provides the laboratories, the real-world case studies, the disciplines, and associated hands-on practice at those that helps any individual choose a path forward.
Consider: Until you actually drive a car, in traffic, within rules of the road, you really haven’t much grounding for what driving is really all about. (That’s the experiential realm). But – I wouldn’t want to head straight to the road absent Driver’s Education and some closed-course practice, and a license to show some education regarding rules, road signs, etc. I darn sure hope the drivers streaming toward me on a daily basis aren’t absent that education and training either. (Only through education can we contextualize things, and subsequently enable safe entrée; it then grants the ability to digest, evaluate and build upon experience).
In the realm of business and IT, rapid changes and progressions happen, and oftentimes people with little education are capable of outperforming “educated” people by virtue of their talent, intuition, capacity to self-educate, and ability/willingness to learn very quickly. Inside that consideration, recognize that individual capacity and character are never without importance. Further, learning never stops in the ever-evolving business-technology environment. Informal learning is a necessary, self-motivated, endeavor over the course of the long term and any individual’s entire career.
But, formal education can never be discounted –
Next: Education’s monetary reward, and others…
On this day (Aug. 8th): Thomas Edison patents the mimeograph machine in 1876.
The state of Florida is making money by selling information: Personal information.
How personal? Oh, it’s just folks’ names, addresses, dates of birth, and their associated vehicles. Why would a state do this? Well, for money. For $63 million last year.
Florida is selling it to companies such as Lexus Nexus and Shadow Soft. Further, according to Ann Howard of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: “Per federal mandate, there are companies that are entitled to this information. Insurance companies, for example, are entitled to this information. Employers are entitled to this information.”
It would seem to me that insurance companies are entitled to this info contingent upon my engagement of them for purpose of possibly procuring insurance from them. Otherwise, why do they get carte blanche access?
It is good to know that the companies must sign contracts with the state to affirm that they won’t harass people. That’s good – right? Of course, information privacy does the same thing (protecting against harassment), except that it does so perfectly (assuming privacy is maintained), without the injection of human frailties and foibles.
Back to Ann Howard: “This information cannot be sold to a company that plans to solicit business, such as companies that want you to come to their ice cream store or companies that want you to buy their vehicles.” Well, now that we’ve injected some standards into the story, I’m much relieved. Not.
The willy-nilly spread of your personal information, without your self-directed interest and returns, merely increases the number of domains available for breach and theft of it.
It’s important to note that the state is not selling what’s been characterized as “sensitive” information such as social security numbers and drivers license numbers. However, I’m of the belief that my name, where I live, what I drive, and my date of birth (often used as an authenticator) is extremely personal – and sensitive.
A Florida judge has said that what the state is doing is legal. Thoughts?
NP: Wild Man Blues, Nicholas Payton, jazz24.org
It’s possible that Google+ is slowing in its entrée to the market after its initial explosive growth. Folks who exploit social networking for both personal and business reasons may wonder: Should I jump in? What should be my investment (in terms of time, primarily)? More on that toward the end of this article…
Experian Hitwise examines internet measurement data, claiming to measure the largest sample of internet users: 25 million worldwide; 10 million in the U.S. According to them, Google+’s traffic fell 3 percent for the week that ended July 23rd. Also, the average time spent on Google+ dropped by 10 percent over the same period.
However, a slight caveat is in order: Surprisingly, Experian’s measures and estimates don’t take into account mobile applications’ access, nor do they factor in visits through APIs. As example, anyone utilizing Google+ via an Android or iPhone is not being counted!
That said, part of any drop may be explained by my own experience with Google+. I signed up due to the buzz, but frankly have not had time to revisit and actualize a true experience. Perhaps when colleagues and friends are there, available for my social circle, I’ll revisit and “plug back in.”
One thing is fairly certain: FaceBook is running a bit scared. I’m sure they’re well aware of the compact history of social networking: AOL was pre-eminent and predominant. Suddenly MySpace took command. Subsequently FaceBook… from FaceBook’s perspective, there must be an “oh, oh…” moment, and you can bet they have Google+ accounts for evaluation (Mark Zuckerberg does). But there’s actual, empirical, evidence of their concern.
FaceBook had already blocked many third-party exporters of contacts to other social media sites and apps, such as Open-Xchange. Now it’s being reported that FaceBook is aggressively blocking export of contacts to Google+. It will be interesting to see where all of this leads.
A leading indicator for me will be when training companies begin to weave Google+ into their course offerings. A bellwether for all will be New Horizons, the world’s largest computer training company. They have more than 300 training centers in over 60 countries. Their course, Social Media Marketing, is a robust treatment of social media strategy, incorporating blogs, videos, photos, search-optimization and… naturally… social media.
Some of the course’s current treatments include Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others. At present, Google+ is practically still a beta-app, with active solicitation of user suggestions for improvements. Once things settle in, Google+ will yet have to show itself worthy of inclusion to training such as New Horizons’. Again – watch this bellwether.
Lastly, I’d like to say that my mention of New Horizons is without remuneration – I needed some solid info regarding the market. In these regards, my sincere thanks to Kevin of that organization, who graciously donated his time in discussing training and the market with me today. My blog relies on a steady readership, engagement, and my own ongoing education.
Again, my thanks to Kevin, and – to all who participate.
NP: Sinkin’ Soon, Norah Jones, jazz24.org
Let’s discuss some specifics in determining whether your IT structure is optimal, and if not, how to get it on the right footing. Essentially, you should be able to perform a review according to the simple model below. You can extend and apply this view to your own organization’s IT structure. Look for any misplaced work, gaps, uneven distribution of load, and general inefficiencies.
¨ Assess current positions by relevancy and number.
¨ Match your positions to standard “field definitions.”
¨ Eliminate, add, combine, or separate positions as necessary.
¨ Adjust individual positions as necessary.
¨ Redistribute work as necessary.
¨ Ensure a balanced load.
Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these:
Assessing current positions by relevancy and number: Positions should be surveyed against organizational needs, and against the positions’ standings against standard field definitions.
You, or someone prior, may have apportioned specific duties and loads based on something other than an optimal structure for your particular organization. Often times the original reasons for distributions of effort no longer apply – if they ever really did. It’s important to fix any imbalances and inequities. Compounding problems can sneak up on an organization over time. Not only do the internal requirements change: the outside field of IT itself evolves around you. Coming will be new scales of computer hardware and architecture, supporting ever more powerful software applications; new leveraging of the Cloud; entirely new focuses and disciplines. Evolving supports and disciplines are not only enabling, they establish dependency and vulnerability, and therefore burdens of support. Too, other equipment or products may reduce or otherwise shift burdens.
As the climate of business changes, your organization’s burden in meeting outside expectations can change radically. Your environment will need new scales of skill, talent, and imagination in maintaining your environment. There will be an immediacy that makes new demands of Business – and thus Business’ demands of Technology. We’ve mentioned the Five-Year Plan in these regards – it should have a template item regarding your evolving burden and type of work, and its influence on your positions and support posture. You’ll then have a proactive collection of salient facts, coming into sharper relief as the years click forward, and you’ll be less reactive and far better situated to make necessary job and position changes.
Match your positions to standard IT definitions: Try to keep your position descriptions within the bounds of accepted IT standard job definitions. This creates efficiencies in managing and supporting your IT environment and business environment. It also lends to efficiencies in managing the structures of jobs themselves, and the people in them. You have ready reference on the Internet to a variety of job descriptions for known job categories, and these can serve as your templates as you fine-tune your own internal job descriptions. You’ll also have ready access to the standards to which these jobs should be performed – and, you’ll have matching professional training resources for when you need to send people to training. Too, it becomes easier to replace people as they exit the organization, or move up. Interviewing candidates for positions is far easier when your positions adhere to known, “industry”, standards. Staffing is a smooth, efficient, process. In the modern organization, this must be a tenet: That which can be routine, must be made routine. Anything less is inefficient, and therefore, expensive.
The positions should fit together like puzzle pieces to create a seamless structure of support to the Business environment. Over time, you may start to experience gaps between the pieces (the positions); that’s when you determine the correct course of action to close the gaps (to cover the new area[s] of support): either through assignment of the work to an existing position, creation of a new position, or the determination that the work belongs in the Business sphere.
Add, eliminate, combine, or separate positions/duties as necessary. Take a careful look at each position in IT. Compare the described duties within each position with standard job definitions. Many of us have seen network managers who were performing programming on behalf of programmers, seen HelpDesk technicians tuning databases, seen programmers performing HelpDesk calls – not as an overlapping backup between positions, but as a matter of routine.
A lot of times this happens because individuals within the user body start to develop “favorites” – people whom they prefer for support. This favoring is independent of what a support person is supposed to be doing in the larger sense, and may mean that the support person has to dig for details or knowledge that are already known by the appropriate support person. It’s tempting to go to your favorite IT person with every request, whether that person is the primary responder for the type of assistance you’re seeking or not. This can exert a slow gravitational pull, whereby everyone in IT begins to assume a “jack of all trades, master of none” kind of posture. SMB are particularly vulnerable here.
Business leaders should help to ensure that calls for help by staff are made through the appropriate avenue. They should call a HelpDesk number, as opposed to specific individuals, and the HelpDesk can dispatch appropriate help, or escalate the issue as necessary. The IT leader has to fully explain the process to Business, and the IT leader has to enforce the discipline necessary to ensure an efficient use of support resources.
At the same time, work may be flowing against the grain of your position definitions for very valid reasons. Work may actually be settling into a correct alignment, but across the lines of positions (even departments on occasion). You may very well determine that the manner and flow of work needs to be codified as it is, with new position descriptions that reflect the correct order of things as they already informally stand. As necessary, get the primary responsibilities where they belong, and defined correctly, so as to manage, document, acknowledge and reward people properly. This will become increasingly important as each job position takes on new responsibilities within its specific scope. I aids in planning the future of the position, in seeking better cost efficiency, in contributing to security, and so on.
There does need to be an effective overlap of some knowledge between jobs, obviously – but not to the point of diminished returns and inefficient redundancies.
We’ll wrap up in the next article.
NP: I Remember You, Coleman Hawkins, jazz24.org.