IT in the Ad Biz

Apr 15 2008   10:16PM GMT

MidMarket CIOs (and IT Directors)

JohnWilder John Wilder Profile: JohnWilder

I ran across the following article at eWeek today, regarding MidMarket CIOs, and it struck me as especially relative to my own situation. I wrote about Growing the IT Department last week, and I guess this is just another aspect of that discussion. However, the eWeek article struck a chord today, because I can genuinely relate to my job becoming more strategic in nature, while at the same time I’m becoming less and less involved in some of the technical details.

While I talked at length last week about what this means to my staff, and the growing need for specialized skills, this part of the equation is more about me. I’m not sure exactly how MidMarket is defined, and especially in the advertising business, but I’m pretty sure that I’m squarely in it. I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact point in time where my own job started to change, but it’s not easy, especially given some of the ups and downs of the industry in general, and my company in particular.

One part of it has definitely been adding employees to the IT staff, but they haven’t always been here in our local office. While I’ve had people working for me for almost 10 years, the only time that I’ve really been able to focus on the strategic issues has been when I’ve had somebody else in the home office who takes some of the desktop support role off my plate. When I’ve had nobody in that role, it was never an issue of completely neglecting the strategic aspect of things, but rather a case of not being able to focus on those issues during the normal work day. Any time spent working on strategic issues was usually on evenings or weekends.

The other ingredient in moving toward a more strategic role has simply been time and experience. It’s only been in the past 2-3 years that management has fully grasped the difference between the strategic role of IT and that of day-to-day desktop support. For me that was the defining moment where I finally felt more like an IT Director, and less like a support person. Some of this was also about people gaining trust and respect for my administrators, because at first they keep coming back to you because you’re perceived as the “expert on everything”.

I find the numbers in the eWeek article interesting, but they also don’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. We usually don’t quite fit into any of the “niches”, but at the same time there’s some comfort in seeing the facts, and realizing that there are others in the same boat. However, sometimes it’s difficult to relate to folks who are in the same boat, because many times they are still in that desktop support role, or at the very least remain very close to the technical details. You can sense the surprise at times when they find out you’re not completely up to speed on the technical aspect of some issue. It wasn’t so long ago that I was wondering that same thing myself.

Personally, I’m glad I ended up in this business and in this company.

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