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Ask Slashdot: How Do I Convince Management To Hire More IT Staff? 383

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-them-cover-the-help-desk dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I work at a manufacturing company. We have roughly 150 employees, 130 desktops, 8 physical servers, 20 virtual servers + a commercial SAN. We're a Windows shop with Exchange 2013. That's the first part. The second part is we have an ERP system that controls every aspect of our business processes. It has over 100 customizations (VB, but transitioning over to C#). We also have 20 or so custom-made support applications that integrate with the ERP to provide a more streamlined interface to the factory workers in some cases, and in other cases to provide a functionality that is not present in the ERP at all. Our IT department consists of: 1 Network Administrator (me), 4 Programmers (one of which is also the IT Manager). I finally convinced our immediate boss that we need another network support person to back me up (but he must now convince the CEO who thinks we have a large IT department already). I would like them to also hire dedicated help desk people. As it stands, we all share help desk duties, but that leads to projects being seriously delayed or put on hold while we work on more mundane problems. It also leads to a good amount of stress, as I can't really create the solid infrastructure I want us to have, and the developers are always getting pressure from other departments for projects they don't have the manpower to even start. I'm not really sure how to convince them we need more people. I need something rather concrete, but there are widely varying ratios of IT/user ratios in different companies, and I'm sure their research turned up with some generic rule of thumb that leads them to believe we have too many already. What can we do?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Do I Convince Management To Hire More IT Staff?

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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @06:26AM (#45593087)

    Standard way of doing it:

    - Outline what's wrong with the current undersized staff, where are the bottlenecks, what's being held up because there aren't enough people.

    - Explain how this hurts the company's bottom line.

    - Explain how hiring another person will solve the current problems, increase efficiency, and in the medium to long term, increase revenues more than the cost of hiring this new person.

    If your case is well built, it'll be self-explanatory. If your boss/manager is reasonable, they will see the benefit of hiring a new person. If they don't seem to see the benefit and refuse to see the logic of your case, either

    1/ you haven't built a good enough case (your fault)
    2/ your boss is a jerk and you should quit
    3/ something fishy is going on at your company (such as the company having run out of cash and being unable to hire, even if it'd make sense) and you probably should quit as well

  • by Dan Askme (2895283) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @06:35AM (#45593125)

    I used to work for a company with 150 machines, 10+ servers, few lazer cutters running windows (of all things).
    Programming was outsourced.

    That job required 1 IT engineer, and, 1 IT manager.
    We also operated CCTV systems, when requested by management.
    Onsite callouts to external users, etc etc.
    Yeah, it was a family run company. You know the kind, workload piles up whilst you prioritize the family members requests (no matter how silly they were).

    It sounds like you have the numbers, just in the wrong place.

    "We also have 20 or so custom-made support applications that integrate with the ERP to provide a more streamlined interface to the factory workers in some cases,"
    Theres another problem right there. Sounds like your programmers are simply throwing out quantity, instead of one quality application. It will bite them in the ass later down the line.

    I honestly think your company should only have 2 programmers, 2 IT engineers.
    I wouldnt be surprised if they sacked the extra programmer and made the IT manager focus on IT, instead of programing.

  • by Brownstar (139242) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @06:42AM (#45593155)

    That's a start.

    But from my experience the request will be taken more seriously if it is driven by the business teams, rather than the IT staff.

    > the developers are always getting pressure from other departments for projects they don't have the manpower to even start.

    Get the other departments to pressure the CEO to hire more IT staff, so that they can get the projects they need, and will be in a better position to explain what the ROI for the projects they want will be to the company than you will be.

    If they can't justify the ROI for the projects, then if they're rational, which I realize isn't always the case, they will back down from requesting additional development that they can't justify. Which will pull some of the pressure off of your team.

    Not sure how costs are split in your company, but if each department has their own budget, convince them that if they want more projects to be built, they need to allocate some of their budgets to the IT side of the organization so that you can hire the staff required to deliver those projects to them.

  • by ruir (2709173) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @06:50AM (#45593191)
    And dont forget also metrics standard in industry. From the top of my head, normally is an administrator for every 50 windows machines. I can be wrong, research about it, put there known names, like Gartner. I personally think they spew bullshit, but management loves numbers and metrics.
  • Unbalanced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sugar and acid (88555) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @06:54AM (#45593207)

    I'll be honest, you seem to have a large IT department. You have 4 programmers, and that seems out of whack. Now you are a manufacturer are these programmers actually working on internal business systems (so truly IT), or are they actually involved in developing end user software firmware etc (product development).

    If it product development they need to be moved into the development department with the engineers, though the IT manager would then come underneath the product development manager which maybe politically problematic but needs to be done.

    If it is just for internal systems development and support, frankly your doing too much customization of your internal system. I think you'll find that the payback with a company the size your described , for automating and streamlining every process, by heavy modifications to the ERP are actually not there. Get the IT manager to fight against further scope creep of the ERP, sack a programmer or 2 and get in more true IT support staff.

  • Hire a Temp (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:07AM (#45593273)

    Hire a temp, it's usually easier to get a temp approved to knock down ticket times. Make them your Helpdesk person and have them handle basic low profile stuff. Temps are less threatening to management but do this every time you get backlogged eventually it will be cheaper to hire someone than to keep paying a staffing company. At the very least you'll get help to lighten the load even if only temporarily.

  • by thatkid_2002 (1529917) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:17AM (#45593311)

    The way I see it - the "IT Department" is really just you because the programmers are more akin to an "Engineering" or Tooling department IMO. Are the programmers providing IT support? If so, this is a double edged sword for obvious reasons.

    I have worked in offices only slightly smaller than that company and we needed at least two people most days - and we had the benefit of having outside help for a lot of things (having a high staff turn-over didn't help).

    I think it's worth making a business case focused argument rather than a "we need help" based one. Perhaps you should get the help of a manager who is not in the "IT Department" to help build, mentor and deliver the case. This isn't necessarily because your existing IT Manager is incompetent, but mostly because he is too close to the issue at hand and is unlikely to be taken seriously because of it. He also sounds like a typical tech guy - and thus probably isn't quite as tuned into non-IT culture.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:25AM (#45593343) Homepage Journal

    no.

    just label 4 of the guys as part of the factory production team. that's what they are.

  • by HnT (306652) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:36AM (#45593381)

    Your main issue is: in every single sentence you told us you said "I want", "I need" something to essentially make the situation better for you and your co-workers and you want the company to spend money for that. This is completely useless since all they hear is you asking for a favor to make your life and your job easier for YOU, and you presented mildly or barely business-relevant arguments as a justification for that but your main points were presented about YOU and your team. It is not an issue for management if you and your coworkers are overworked as long as things are still running; they will brush that off as "the geeks are just whining" or "times are tough but it will get better". It obviously has not been an issue so far that certain projects got delayed. And "we could do better" is something managers don't care about because it is universally always true even if you are the leader in that area.

    You mean well but you are selling it completely wrong. If you really want to work on bettering the situation then you got to learn to play politics and understand business and partially go against what feels natural for a tech. That means you need to establish an actual issue in the managers' minds first. This could mean weeks, months if not years of pointing to an issue when it pops up and showing how it affected the business in a negative way. But be warned, nobody likes bad news and to be constantly nagged, so you will need tact. It could be done opportunistically, piggy-backing a crisis. Bob in accounting not being able to start his Excel fast enough is not such an issue. Losing a client because your infrastructure could not provide the necessary information is a very real cause to do something. The whole network being down and nobody being able to access their emails for two days because your only network admin was sick or on vacation is a very serious business risk to consider. If you have shady ethics then such an incident can work wonders if management really does not understand how serious the situation is of not having a backup admin for vital infrastructure. Managers love their emails, that is a point they will instantly understand.

    Don't tell them what they should do, show them the real business-relevant issues and be prepared for them to completely ignore it despite all the sense you are making - running a business means constantly balancing more or less serious issues with very serious issues and crises and often getting it wrong and if there is no money then your issues could be severe but they still might be unable to do anything because there simply is no money. If they do listen, be ready to make suggestions and keep things simple and clear. There is a very descriptive saying, "pictures for kids and executives", that is how simple and clear you should keep it. Never argue with "too much work".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:37AM (#45593383)

    Wrong. That the standard way of getting it rejected. Don't ever try to outsmart a manager when it comes to "managering". They don't care. IT only costs money, and adds no value (execpt when IT is not working, then it has to, pun intended). There have to be VISIBLE problems, service affecting, a-150-employees-including-the-ceo-cannot-work-because-the-windows-domain-controller-is-on-fire-level-problems. Then, MAYBE, when this has happened a few times in fields wher there is documentation that you told managment again and again, "this-windows-domain-controller-will-catch-fire", you get more staff. Not when you just yell "fire", and staff works at 120% level.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:38AM (#45593385) Homepage

    A lot of people just overwork themselves trying to get everything done... If they succeed, then management think everything is just fine and ignore the fact you've been working twice your contracted hours to get everything done. As far as they're concerned, the existing staff are achieving everything required in the contracted hours and they have no need for extra staff. If you keep working like this it creates precedence and upper management will expect things to continue the same.

    They will only take notice if there is an obvious problem, ie projects getting delayed and other areas of the business complaining about the delays.

    The problem is if you suddenly stop overworking yourself and doing so causes these delays, management won't accept that you were overworking before, they will assume that you were doing your contracted hours before and are therefore slacking now.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flyneye (84093) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @07:39AM (#45593387) Homepage

    Two things; Never go to management with a problem, go with a solution and show them the money they'll make/save by implementing your solution.
    Then, if it doesn't work, it's safe to forget it. Management doesn't want to think, but, they do want to make money, if it doesn't increase profits,don't hold your breath.
    That IS what business is about; profit.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @08:01AM (#45593471) Homepage

    One way to indicate to upper management - change the priority to the other projects and let things like printers and network problems go unresolved and state that it won't be fixed until we have achieved milestone Y for project X.

    When the CEO comes in and rambles about printers not working - then let him choose between printer and a penalty for not meeting deadline for project X.

  • Re:One word (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ctrl-alt-canc (977108) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @08:40AM (#45593615)
    1) Quit and get the outsource contract.
    2) Bill them twice what you earn now.
    3) ???
    4) Profit!
  • Re:Ratios (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @08:50AM (#45593663)

    Most people cannot perform at that level.

    You were underpaid, and I hope your next position was better compensated.

  • by Pollux (102520) <speter@tedatMOSCOWa.net.eg minus city> on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @08:51AM (#45593669) Journal

    ROI: Return on Investment

    I had the displeasure of working inside Walmart stores for four years. (Thankfully, not for them, just in them.) They printed on every one of their distribution packaging boxes at the time, "Collapsing this box and sending it back saves the company $0.11.) Now there's ROI as simple and as plain-as-day.

    How much time is lost due to computer or program downtime? How much time is lost due to broken code? How inefficient is having programmers share in tech support duties? How much money is this costing the company? Tell the company what they save by hiring another employee, and they'll make it happen.

  • by rhsanborn (773855) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @08:54AM (#45593691)
    130 Desktops and max of 28 logical servers and you need 3 windows systems administrators!? Cross train the IT manager or programmers, or contract with a local outsourcing team to provide backup. I've found small local IT services shops can do basic systems management at a reasonable cost, and work well when paired with a knowledgeable person on the client side. You be the smart guy, and leverage a local services team who probably have a CCNA, Windows Server admin, SAN admin, etc. on staff.

    The average IT spend as a percent of revenues is around 2-2.5%. That varies depending on industry (tech industry is much higher upwards of 4%), but it's a good starting point. I'd look at where you are at now as a benchmark. As others have mentioned, you need to make a business case. What projects are being delayed, by how much time, and what is the effect. If the effect is that the company misses $200k in revenue or increases production costs, you can probably make a case for additional help. If the effect is the floor manager gets grumpy because he really would like this thing, you probably aren't going to get additional help, nor should you.
  • Try one man, 1200+ users, 500+ machines, and 8 servers. Public school. Less salary than you can shake a stick at. But I'm passionate about K-12 public education, and I love helping kids. Don't like it? Tell your superintendent why, then walk away.

    I think both you and I know that a school environment is not a business environment. A business generally has income dependent on productivity. A school has generally a fixed income dependent on student enrollment. If the submitter can increase productivity by hiring another employee, it's worth money to the company. If a school can increase productivity by hiring another employee, it doesn't mean jack squat.

    In terms of your ratios, I have little sympathy. And take your rants out someplace else. It's not productive to the conversation.

  • Re:One word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:27AM (#45593923) Homepage Journal

    The best way to get management to finance something is to have them think it's their idea.
    Never tell them exactly what you want unless they ask specifically, but let them know what the bottlenecks are and how they affect S&M's ability to maximize potential and leverage accountable assets through synergy.
    Throw enough leads around that they'll find the solution you want to the perceived bottlenecks. If you have to, contact vendors who'll engage the PHBs without ever mentioning that the idea came from you.

    Even if you come up with a plan that increases the black for the company, it is far from certain that management will go for it unless they feel that they came up with it, not you.

    And the corollary to this is that if there's something you really do not want to see, and which management hasn't already thought of, suggest it. Because someone else came up with the idea, it won't happen, and they'll go out of their way to ensure that it does not happen.

    --
    Long time BOFH

  • by jafiwam (310805) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @09:50AM (#45594137) Homepage Journal

    no.

    just label 4 of the guys as part of the factory production team. that's what they are.

    Yeah, this is the problem.

    Programmers, while from a layman's point of view are "IT", they are not helping to complete to the IT work load. They may help build the business processes, but they aren't pulling cables or tracking down DNS issues. So as far as what they do in IT, it's "zero".

    Submitter's description outlines ONE "IT person" in the organization. (him / her)

    I would approach this with a two step process; first, get a ticketing system and get all desktop support on it. That will let you show the programmers don't do shit for it, and what the work load is.

    THAT sets you up to add other tasks the programmers, the manager, and the subby do on the ticketing, and when the workload is high, just say "sorry, can't do that doing this" and it's all documented.

    Then you just do what is important, mark off your hours of the day, and go home. When the shit stays broken and people get pissed about it, they go "why?" and they will see the answer is "not enough people for this." If it's YOUR idea, they won't do it. If it's THEIR idea, they will.

    I assume the subby doesn't want to be the person to do the desktop support. So from there, you hire a local goon for a day / evening per week, or a local firm, or some place in India, or whatever. THEY work on the ticket backlog of desktop issues.

    Also, you may find that when people have to articulate what is wrong, their problems suddenly go away. People who get help with computers are VERY VERY LAZY and will not learn something. Suddenly rebooting the computer will seem worthwhile compared to (ugh!) writing clear English. Lastly, you can find out which few people are causing the most problems and have evidence to get them to change their ways (or at least stop screwing up their computers). You know, that one guy that always gets the virus of the day (always the same guy, always "i don't know what happened!"), and that one person who's keyboard, monitor, mouse, or whatever needs replacing just because (as a status symbol).

  • Re:One word (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Seta (934439) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @10:15AM (#45594449)
    Four other programmers, yes. If you seriously think that being a programmer means that you're automatically qualified to be a network/systems administrator then you might have forgotten to take your pills this morning.
  • In a company where (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bravecanadian (638315) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @12:39PM (#45596393)

    IT is not a part of the business model -- you most likely don't.

    You're considered a necessary but unwanted expense like keeping the lights on and are usually treated like the janitor.

    No one cares who you are or what you are doing until there is a mess somewhere. Then it is your fault for not having cleaned it up already.

    Welcome to IT.

    If I had known years ago what I was getting myself into I would never have gotten into this industry or at least I would have had the sense to work in a business where IT *is* the business. Hopefully I will be able to make that transition in the future.

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