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Creating an IS Department? 408

Posted by Cliff
from the leaving-your-mark dept.
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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Creating an IS Department?

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  • What is IS? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sita (71217) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:29AM (#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.
    • by jaygatsby27 (894445) * on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:32AM (#14290948) Homepage
      That depends of what your definition of IS is. --Bill Clinton
    • Chances are... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle@hotma i l . com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:39AM (#14291000) Homepage
      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... (Score:4, Informative)

        by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:54AM (#14291104) Homepage
        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.
        • by soulsteal (104635) <soulsteal @ 3 l 337.org> on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:03PM (#14291182) Homepage
          "Why hello there young lady, I'm the IS Manager. Instant Satifaction, oh yeah!"

          That would play out well.
        • Re:Chances are... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by kimvette (919543) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:18PM (#14291842) Homepage Journal
          er, one can infer directly from the context what the author is referring to.

          And for what it's worth connectivity is not the primary function of IS. Providing and supporting the infrastructure for company data, processes, and infrastructure and making it as transparent (that is, problem free) for the users is what "IS" departments are for.

          I've gone into companies and improved security (brought them beyond HIPAA compliance - they're behind two firewalls), reliability, etc. and now we hear from most of them very little. One customer we hadn't heard for in four months contacted us a couple of weeks ago. I had been wondering if there was a problem (e.g., they thought IT services were too costly) but when they called they had a laundry list of items, mostly concerning computers we didn't provide (mainly problems with Dell systems, which on the low end have a HORRENDOUS failure rate). When he called he said "I know you haven't heard from us in a while but to tell you the truth things have been running GREAT." It was satisfying to know that a nontechnical manager at a client understands the value of IT and that it is when you don't even think about your network that things have been done right.

          Incidentally that was one of my clients where we deployed Open Office (saved $400 to $500 per seat on software there), Firefox, and other free/OSS solutions. Users (secretary/receptionist types) took to OOo immediately and discovered functioality that I didn't even know was in OOo, which underscores just how well OOo stacks up against M$ Office for typical office use. Sure, if they were working with 1200+ row formatted/hyperlinked spreadsheets they would not be able to use OOo due to severe performance issues, but they'll never encounter that there.

          They have gone from continual downtime between spyware and a lousy (and insecure) network setup and flaky hardware to never even thinking about the computers. Their only remaining problem is they're still on Verizon DSL so they experience bandwidth issues when lots of terminal service users are logged in, but that's unavoidable until they bite the bullet and go with a T1 line, since Verizon STILL doesn't offer sDSL here. They had one minor incident where one individual who had the admin password was canned and they didn't change the admin password or let me know, and that user was a little spiteful and changed the admin password. That was quickly addressed (thanks to UBCD) and now I've created a secondary admin account just in case another manager has the same idea. Aside from that they have had no real problems.

          My point?

          Express your goals:
          - minimized downtime
          - data integrity - redundancy, automated backups, etc.
          - solid disaster recovery plans (minimize downtime in event of a failure)
          - facilitate better communication and data exchange
          - Make your IT infrastructure transparent. By transparent, I mean so problem-free that the users don't even have to think about you.

          Remind them that a single day's worth of downtime for a business of that size costs more than it will cost to implement a proper network and process up front. I've seen a 130+ employee company (a software company) lose exchange due to HDD crashes (the acting IT director ignored the RAID warning when one drive failed, then a second failed) and the acting IT director was clueless. Management approached me to recover the data (knowing my background in Windows, Exchange, M$ mail, etc. prior to QA) but when I checked out the backups, I found that the acting IT director (the previous IT director left) had changed the backup several months prior, so that ONLY the directory structure was being backed up. No System State backup, no info store backup. No files backed up. They were toast. Also, ALL of the previous backup tapes had been recycled, including the ones at Iron Mountain, so they had NO backup. That situation lead to about a week's worth of no email, and likely hundreds of thousands worth of lost revenue. Fortunately
    • Re:What is IS? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:40AM (#14291010) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • 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.
    • by IainMH (176964) on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:21PM (#14291339)
      What is IS? It is IT.
  • Me Oh My (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stanistani (808333) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:31AM (#14290934) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by diersing (679767) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:44AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Geoff NoNick (7623) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:51AM (#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 (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jim_Maryland (718224)
        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 va
        • Re:Me Oh My (Score:3, Insightful)

          by qwijibo (101731)
          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 busines
          • Re:Me Oh My (Score:3, Insightful)

            I think he (the article poster) needs to make it clear that computers are tools with continuous maintenance requirements, much like other large-scale capital goods. Most industrial equipment requires a fair amount of maintenance to keep it running, and not performing that maintenance leads to Big Problems and Massive Expenses down the road.

            The article poster is correct in his assessment; a company with over a hundred users, nearly all of which have a computer, needs about two full-time IT guys (desktops ta
        • Re:Me Oh My (Score:4, Insightful)

          by d'fim (132296) on Monday December 19, 2005 @01:12PM (#14291781)
          If that company had 100 machine presses - and everybody, even the CEO, needed to run a machine press six out of eight hours a day - then they would probably have more than one machine press mechanic.

          In my company it's executive email. Screw all of the other users and their workstations - if the President can't get his AOL on his laptop then his "network department" (i.e. me, myself, and I) does NOTHING else until he's back online.
      • Re:Me Oh My (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jschottm (317343)
        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?

        Computers have become vital to just about any office at this point. Having a single source of failure (getting hit by a bus, quitting, being on vacation) is a really poor idea for mission critical resources. I've seen hundreds of employees idled for an average of an hour a week due to p
    • Re:Me Oh My (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rovingeyes (575063) on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:03PM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by moorley (69393) on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:09PM (#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.
      • You assume way too much.

        Kudos to moorley for a balanced reply to your spiel.

        Nice use of bullet points, though.
      • Re:Me Oh My (Score:2, Insightful)

        by rubycodez (864176)
        How 1950's of you, to think that a person must stay and be unhappy in a shitty job in a shitty company because it's the noble thing to do and an opportunity to conquer a challenge and provide leadership. This is 2005, where loyalty and tenure mean nothing, and usually the people who rise to the top aren't the ones who innovate or have a long term vision or actually do the real work that makes the company go, but the schmoozer used-car-salesman MBA-duckspeak turds who rise to the top of the septic tank. In
        • Re:Me Oh My (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MindStalker (22827)
          Believe it or not, many people do not rate money to happyness. Quality of job and making a difference mean a lot to many people.
          • Re:Me Oh My (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BVis (267028)

            Believe it or not, many people do not rate money to happyness. Quality of job and making a difference mean a lot to many people.

            The bank doesn't take job satisfaction as payment on your mortgage. Nor can you eat job satisfaction.

            For most people, your employer has no interest in your quality of job or in your making a difference. You're there to shut up and take it. The least you can do is get paid well enough to take the sting out of it.

            Money may not buy happiness, but poverty sucks.

            • Re:Me Oh My (Score:3, Informative)

              by ozmanjusri (601766)
              Money may not buy happiness, but poverty sucks.

              Nice false dichotemy there. There's a threshold effect in place with income. For someone on minimum wage, a $20k pay increase would be a reason to switch jobs instantly. For someone who's already earning six figures, $20k isn't life-changing, and is probably not enough incentive to switch from a pleasant job to an awful one.
    • Yup. My take aswell.
      I've worked with fairly large environments for 15 years on two continents.
      Bearing in mind what resources/clout/management buyin you have, It sounds as though this goal is too far off for you to accomplish.

      Basically, you're currently responsible for something you dont have control over - and management seem to be happy with this this.

      It's your rep - but I would be getting out of there *very* quickly, hoping that nothing burns or breaks before you leave.
    • Re:Me Oh My (Score:2, Insightful)

      Remember that the company you work views IS -- and always will -- as a necessary burden in order to keep the company running. It will always be a burden, because it will never contribute to the bottom line.

      1) The main job of IS is connectivity.
      In a place such as you've described, the main job of IS is to be invisible while keeping systems running. That means being aware of all software and hardware (because part of the job also includes responding to vendor audits) currently in use across all depar
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:32AM (#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.
    • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:43AM (#14291031) Journal
      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? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AnonymousCactus (810364) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:33AM (#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.

    Well...ideally...

  • I.S.? (Score:4, Informative)

    by dbolger (161340) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:34AM (#14290960) Homepage
    Information Systems [wikipedia.org]?
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:36AM (#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.

  • Only Way (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nico60513 (735846) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:37AM (#14290981)
    What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

    Quit?

    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).
    • Re:Only Way (Score:3, Insightful)

      by magarity (164372)
      My experience is that management usually won't take any action until things get bad

      A lot of previous comments along the same line all indicate one thing: Too many universities don't put the MIS department in the college of business. The flip side of your complain about management is: Management won't lift a finger until they see a proper business plan indicating the benefits of *insert project here*.

      It isn't an IT problem. A factory manager might want to expand his loading dock area but
    • Re:Only Way (Score:3, Informative)

      by prisoner (133137)
      You are precisely correct. I was in this guy's shoes about 5 years ago. I don't blame management for not making changes; they had me working 70 hours a week for about $35k/year. That's too good to be true. I asked my boss for a raise and he gave me a $500 bonus. I left about 5 weeks later and they had to pay the next guy twice what I was making.
  • by Monkelectric (546685) <slashdot@@@monkelectric...com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:37AM (#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.

    • by luvirini (753157)
      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.

      • 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.
        • 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.
          • by qwijibo (101731)
            Doing things right is rarely the long term low cost option. What is long term to you? Next quarter, year, decade, century? If you knew the lifespan of a solution in advance, you would plan accordingly. However, that's rarely the case in the real world. Management looks at the short term because that's where the least exposure exists. Most projects are not critical, so quick fix solutions are good. Something that could put the company out of business if it failed is going to get more resources allocat
          • by Dasein (6110)
            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.
            So, basically, management discounts future costs heavily. The reason that they do so is because, like peons such as myself, there's basically no job security. Have a bad quarter, get stabbed in the back in the board room/executive suite.

            Is it any surprise that people act this way?
      • by tacokill (531275)
        If you are not in the IT business, then your goal as a manager/owner is to minimize your costs (real and "soft") to the absolute lowest point possible that is bearable. If, on the other hand, your business is IT (ie: consulting company or something), then you might put much more into it.

        This isn't rocket science. IT, for most companies, is a cost center. Treating it as otherwise is bad for business and will lead you to spend lots of dollars with little return. THIS IS HOW IT HAS BEEN AND HOW IT WIL
    • 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.

      Incredible stress is bloody expensive when you burn out your employees and suddenly nobody knows how the system works.

    • by darrell73 (69855)
      I wish I could mod this guy higher!

      I'll try and link what the other guys are saying.

      1) You are obviously an undervalued employee as you are keeping all the balls in the air while taking the stress upon yourself.
      2) Management are, if not happy, accepting of the way things are. So there is no impetus to make a change. You are considering ways of providing this impetus.
      3) The only sure way of making this change is to resign. This may not change the business, but it will be a change for you.

      I've been in this
  • by endrue (927487) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:38AM (#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.

    • Wow-- yours is the first post in this topic that approached the problem from a management standpoint rather than some passive-aggressive point of view!

      I might point out that he not forget specific examples over his tenure that could have been addressed more effectively with an organized IT department. He should put all of this into a well-organized report and schedule a presentation in front of both his boss(es) and those of affected departments.

  • show initiative (Score:4, Interesting)

    by boxlight (928484) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:39AM (#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.


    Boxlight

  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:39AM (#14291003) Homepage Journal
    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".
    • I agree with the parent; if you can take some time to put together a business plan, you are more than halfway there. Some suggestions to help you along the way:

      * Identify a "champion" in upper management and work together to get approval for the plan. If you don't have a higher-up who thinks what you are doing is worthwhile, you will continue to be a voice in the wilderness.

      * Tie your project to a pain point. You and your champion need to identify something that's bothering the CEO and CFO, and figure out h
  • by 8127972 (73495) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:41AM (#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.
  • by selil (774924)
    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 realizin
  • it is about money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by luvirini (753157) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:42AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isotope23 (210590) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:42AM (#14291026) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dada21 (163177) *
      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 tou
      • One thing I forgot to add to the parent post is talk to the managers of each department independently BEFORE you present it to the whole team. Show each department what it costs them for an outage. Essentially divide and conquer.

        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.

        Well, if they are not sold by the costs of downtime, the next st
    • I'm sure there is an answer to this question, but how do you estimate costs like, e.g. the cost of not having email service for X number hours/days/weeks if your email server goes down? For a government contractor, I suspect that nowadays, a lot of communication with government agencies for which you are contracting is done via email, so email would probably be very important to your business. Yet, how do you set a value on that?

      I mean, I could think of a few worst-case scenarios for impact of email being d
      • Quick minor correction to the last sentence of my post above - should be "MBA/MIS or Doctoral Thesis".
    • by mwvdlee (775178)
      I'm sorry to inform the poster that, if the employees can't consider computers to be tools, you're not doing your job.

      Computers are tools, unless they're the product of your work.

      Just like cables are tools to connect computers, unless it's your job to make the cables. In which case you'd probably use computers as a tool to make the cables ;)
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      That is the best place to start. Talk money and management listens. But from what I get of the question the guy is going to have an uphill battle.

      First off he needsto lose the condencending attitude. "Hobbyist" and "no management skills" are two things that will get him shot down or ignored. The old guy did things that helped management in their time of need. He stepped up to do something when he saw the need and obviousally did it well enough to run that way for a period of time.

      Coming in and calling th
  • 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 prop
  • Irreplaceability. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by UESMark (678941)
    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.
  • 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 st
  • 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
  • by cavemanf16 (303184) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:44AM (#14291045) Homepage Journal
    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 [amazon.com].

    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.

    • 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
  • the core.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by joeldg (518249) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:45AM (#14291054) Homepage
    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"..

    -or-

    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..
  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc.yahoo@com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:45AM (#14291055) Homepage
    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.

  • 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.
  • 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 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oliderid (710055)

    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 underst
  • Leave... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moorley (69393) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:53AM (#14291101)
    What... Are you still there?

    LEAVE!

    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.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sammy baby (14909) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:54AM (#14291107) Journal
    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.
  • by thebdj (768618) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:58AM (#14291132) Journal
    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.
  • 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 ;-)
  • by J. T. MacLeod (111094) on Monday December 19, 2005 @11:59AM (#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.
  • 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 cam
  • 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.
  • by SysKoll (48967) on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:02PM (#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.

    • 240:1 servers:admins. Admin = me. I did have a backup, but only in the sense of "help help everthing's on fire and he's out can anyone help?". Elsewhere, I've done 20:1 users:admins w/ mixed NT + Unix workstations, 100:1 users:support staff (30 staff = 8 server admins, 14 helpdesk staff, 8 managers; and yes, that's too many managers), and 10:1 servers:admins in an overstaffed gov't Unix shop. Right now it's something like 50:1 servers:admins for the boxes I'm dealing with.

      Automation is your friend. If
  • Toughest transition (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:02PM (#14291180) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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 thin
  • 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
  • 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 foug
  • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:11PM (#14291240) Homepage
    "Management views IS as a facilities function; computers are a tool, and only a tool."
    And they are correct. If it doesn't provably add to the bottom line, they don't care. How do you view motors, electrical outlets, and HVAC systems? How do you view pens and paper? Computers are analogous. Your management's view is at least the most popular view. If you don't like it, you will be unhappy working as an IS manager in most environments.

    1a. Pragmatically, the main job of IS is to do whatever company management thinks IS should do. You are part of a relatively small enterprise; it is your job to help out that enterprise any way you can with whatever resources you have. If that means you draft, proofread, and type a memo about employee parking, you do it. And you don't complain. The 'leet crowd will disagree, I'm sure, but unless you are abslutely irreplaceable (and no one is), you don't make yourself appear to be a prima donna whose willingness to work is limited.

    1b. The main job of IS is to make sure that everyone can use their computers. Connectivity is included in that, but so is installing software, reconnecting keyboards, writing login scripts, patching servers, and (insert your least favorite computer-related task here). IS is the department with the people that make working with computers seem as easy as breathing. It is their job to make it easier for everyone else to deal with computers.

    Corollary to 1b: This includes the secretary who is incapable of rebooting her own computer, can't use the Start Menu, and tries to scan documents by running the optical mouse over them. ("At my last job, we had a business card scanner had a light on the bottom, so I thought...") And you do it with a smile and reassure her that everyone has this trouble.

    2a. IS involvement in other divisions is the purpose of IS. What, you're only providing connectivity and computer services to your own division? Or perhaps you're pushing cookie cutter solutions onto a company that doesn't need them? ("Hey, 'IS Manager' magazine says ALL the cool manufacturing IS managers are doing it!") If you're not talking to other division managers and finding ways that you can help them, you will find yourself replaced by someone who will.

    2b. IS involvement in everything that affects IS is essential. Otherwise, some bright, eager, manager is going to put lots of time and effort project that will consequently be impossible for you to kill, and will ruin your whole year. Standardizing the product design department on Macs, perhaps? Or converting all the legal department's documents to WordPerfect format? This is a political struggle. You want to be present at the meetings where bad ideas are born so that you can strangle them. If you limit your involvement to saying "No, that's not a good idea" just when someone else is ready to hand their project over to IT, you will be disliked and frequently over-ruled.

    3. What you've proposed is tripling the payroll costs of IT for no appreciable benefit to the company. In the eyes of company management, things are running fine. If you are really falling apart, you need to find yourself another offer of employment. With that in hand, find out if your company is amenable to improving your situation. If not, walk. I doubt that you are going to succeed in setting yourself up as a CIO, which is what your situation really needs. You have no management authority, and getting some is the only way to really fix the situation.

    I've been in your position and held your mindset before, and it's not easy. I cannot emphasize enough that you must both understand management's mindset AND be prepared to leave. Otherwise, you will be unable to negotiate a satisfactory resolution to your issues. At the very least, I would agree that you need a tech to work with you; a ratio of 1:100 is ridiculous.

    Good luck; you'll need it.
  • First (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Holi (250190) on Monday December 19, 2005 @12:11PM (#14291244)
    Get it through your head you are not an IT manager. As your title states you are a sys admin, From what you've said your job is to keep things running not to make sweeping changes.
  • Thanks for the link to Google, I couldn't for the life of me find the url again! /me puts on his tin foil hat
    Slashdot looks more and more like a pagerank bait these days...
  • ...by making a business case based on their bottom line.

    That is the only language that will be understood.

    From the sound of it, you're being severely overloaded; you need to force the issue some more (I've been in the same position myself and this is how I got through it). You will have to decide what your core job functions are (that you absolutely must do), then concentrate on them even if it means letting other stuff pile up undone. This would be even more justifiable if you have a job description y

  • I know this is going to be hard to stomach, because you're overworked, but I'll charge on anyway.

    The easiest way to deal with this is to make changes without them knowing about it, and just do your job. This sounds like an environment where it's better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. But, what you have to do is spend your time actually fixing problems first.

    So, take your Christmas break, and on the first day, get good and drunk. Socialize, whatever. On the second day, when you're recovering from the
  • Your membership card will be arriving shortly, welcome to the club.
  • Ya, Right (Score:2, Informative)

    by LifesABeach (234436)
    Can't tell who you work for because you handle RFP's for the DOD? Go apply for credit with that line; I hope you don't disappoint easy.

    Managers manage people, not machines. Technicians manage machines.

    It looks like your part of a staff of 5 to 10 people; That's not wide spread. You can only negotiate from a power position.

    You're asking the wrong question. You need to respond to an RFP from the CBD that requires wide spread coverage. /. has reported earlier that NASA has some DARPA funds; If you can mak
  • What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

    If things have been working fine (from their view) there is no reason to change. Change caries risk, and status quo has been working a-ok. After that many years static, there is little chance they are able to learn new tricks. A new person coming in might have a shot, but you don't. Work on your resume and start interviewing now. When you get a new gig, give your old place 2-4 weeks notice (depending

  • by hachete (473378)
    in most brit companies, bloody IS is on a level with the cleaners
  • Sorry to say, but #1, like it or not, is fairly universally true. However, this should not be interpreted as being looked down upon or devalued. It is a barrier put in place so that users do not turn you into their slaves. If their computer works and has network access, your job is done. This is a GOOD thing.

    #2, also, is a good thing. Your job is not to sit through the endless meetings for product evaluations and internal software development. Your job is to make sure that whatever products are selected are
  • ...is to write a business case for it.
    Detail what's going on now, what you want to change, why the change will be better, and what could go wrong and what you intend to do if it does.

    It will include costs, savings, milestones, and timelines.
    It will have evaluation and disconnect points, where the project can be scrapped if it isn't working out.

    Like this:
    Currently our business utilizes six servers, located at points X, Y, and Z.
    It is proposed to move these servers to point A. It is anticipated that the chang
  • Sadly these days, with all the compliance laws on the books, it may be fastest to invoke the prospect of liability problems to break the logjam. I don't know how small a company these things reach down to, but given the US gummint, I suspect it's pretty far down.

  • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:08PM (#14292353) Journal
    What is the best way for new IS managers to convince their superiors of the need for widespread change?

    The most common method in the business world is for you to create some Powerpoint slides, call a meeting, and make a presenatation. Have coffee and doughnuts available in the conference room. Have a patsy in the rooms to speak up and say "That's a great idea." For usually, if this is as most business meetings are, no one will disagree with the first person to forcefully articulate a position.

  • by QuestorTapes (663783) on Monday December 19, 2005 @02:47PM (#14292747)
    -----------

                    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.

                    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.

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

    -------------

    Managers coming from a "PC-free" environment will have enormous difficulty in understanding the objective requirements of managing the number of systems you're referring to.

    But they aren't idiots, normally. They can understand growth and change; they can follow basic math and unserstand staffing.

    Generate some report aids: [single-digit number of PCs in 1999] versus 110 PCs in 2005. Compare the normal staffing of other firms. For that number of users, a staff of 3 is quite reasonable; in many firms, the staff would be more like 6-8.

    Get an actual breakdown of the time spent on various tasks; show additional tasks that -aren't- getting done, as well as estimates for the time necessary to do them. Include the planning tasks you want to work on.

    --------------

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

    --------------

    Bluntly, management is in charge. If they view the functions of IS differently than you do, guess what? You're wrong. If you have reasons for feeling that duties management has assigned to IS staff should be elsewhere, then you need to change their minds by providing the (non-techie business-oriented) evidence.

    Bluntly, I don't agree with you on 2 of three things you mentioned either. While connectivity is a core IS concern, I'd laugh in your face if you tried to get me to believe it's the only concern. And, bluntly, I'd adamantly insist that a primary function of IS is to work with other divisions, assisting and advising on planning and procurement.

    If you need additional staff to handle those duties, it wouldn't surprise me. Particularly if they want to add application development and procurement. That's one reason many firms with similar numbers of users have 6-8 people rather than 3.

    Be prepared to lose on moving these tasks outside of IS. I am a techie, and if I was your boss, I'd insist they -are- your responsibility, and replace you if you failed to comply. But I'd also give you more staff, so you could handle it.

    If I were you, I'd also be prepared to lose. I've seen similar situations where people got ground up. The engineers in charge were absolutely adamant that there was no need for additional staff until -after- they burned through 5 complete changes of IT staff and management in one year.

    A lot of engineers don't like to admit that computers require the same level of skill as [insert engineer's field here]. Because of this, they often insist on keeping staff far too low and hiring underqualified people long after someone more unbiased would admit there might be a problem.
  • by digital photo (635872) on Monday December 19, 2005 @03:59PM (#14293452) Homepage Journal
    You seem to have an idea of what it is that you believe IS should be at the company. Your current problem is that you are one person fighting a war of ideas with the rest of the upper management. The heart of the problem is that your definition of IS(Information Services?) and their's differ.

    1) Hammer out what IS/IT means to them and yourself and come to some concensus.

    You can't just tell them you are right and they are wrong. You can't even justify such a thing. It's human nature. It's like trying to convince people the world wasn't flat when everyone believed it was... even if you ARE right, you'll still be hung out to dry.

    You and management need to come to a compromise. Some middle ground of what your role and that of the IS department is. You have to decide on what you are willing to live with and what you absolutely must have a say in.

    2) You need buy-in.

    You pointed out you've get a few years of management experience. One of the most important things in management is to get buy-in for a project or an idea. If you have no supporters, you are essentially fighting a one man war. You'll live a hard and stressful life like that. Find allies who will watch your back and put in the good word/support for you when you walk out of the room.

    3) SWOTT / cost-benefit analysis.

    Once again, put that management experience to good use. Give them the SWOTT analysis and show them the cost benefit analysis of your ideas. Show them the same for their competitors. Show them what it is costing them to not take your ideas seriously. Show them the potential gains/benefits if some of your ideas are taken seriously and implemented.

    4) Keep in the loop.

    An IS department that gets the work order for an implementation when it hasn't been included in the planning stages is just a disaster waiting to happen. See above about getting buy-in. Use support to stay in the loop so that even if you aren't included in the actual planning meetings, you can at least serve as an advisor to one of the people who are. You get to have some say, via proxy, and you get buy-in from the person who proposes your ideas and it produces a smoother implementation.

    In this way, you build a visible positive reputation for yourself at the company. Otherwise, you are merely the complainer at the company who has all of these pie in the sky ideas about how the company should be managed when all you work with are the computers.

    5) You are taking on the errors and mistakes of your predecessor.

    Look, no matter your experience/skill/etc, the truth is that management sees you in the same like as the person you replaced. They've had to deal with that person's mess for years and have come to regard the IS department in a negative light.

    You may or may not realise this, but your job is to work on changing their minds about that and proving to them, through building up trust, that IS is an asset and partner to the company and that you are a reliable and insightful person they can rely on.

    Submitting a report/proposal/meeting showing them that their ideas are wrong and that your ideas are right carries little to no weight because you may or may not have built up any credibility at the company.

    You've been with the company for a few years, if that time has been spent invisibly fixing things and when you are visible to the management, you are making demands for processes to be changed, think about what the IS department looks like through upper management's eyes.

    6) Work somewhere else.

    Look, let's say you have tried everything and have worked hard to build trust, open dialog, and still... they won't listen. Then maybe it's time to leave. Seriously. You're just going to lose hair or get an ulcer trying to convince people who won't listen to you, but who still pile crap project after crap project on you.

    If leaving isn't an option, then you need to reduce your expectations of the company and place your hearfelt interests elsewhere and see the job for what it is: a job.

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