Surviving the Budget Season

Generally when fall comes, so does the infamous budget season. As an IT Manager, you would think this is like Christmas time for accountants. Really I think they like to be more like scrooge, then Santa. As with everything there are a few key items you need to be aware of so you can protect and fight for what is right.
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You can’t do it all – thoughts about prioritization

Eventually in your career you come to the great realization, you can’t do it all, especially all at once. Hopefully you make this realization before you take on too much stuff, or are forced to take on too much.

So what is prioritization, and why do I need it? Emergency personnel do it all the time, its called triage. Where can I get the best bang for my buck? What is the project or item I need to accomplish most?

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Laziness as a key to success

What??? Can that headline be right, how can my laziness be a key to my success?

It all comes from the definition of the word laziness, I am not talking about the I want to be at home sitting on the coach eating potato chips laziness, I am referring to the Larry Wall, spend 3 days of effort to save 5 minutes.

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Revisiting Processes and past Decisions

Most companies have a great way, and follow a schedule to revisit their knowledge base articles, but how often do they review their processes, for both hardware and software?

I try every year, long in advance of budget season to look at everything my team does and determine, do we still need to do this? Is there a better way?
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Excel is holding your company back

Excel is what is keeping your company from getting better. How do I know this? Simple, every company has huge aspects of their business that run on excel. Items that are more effectively put in a different tool.

The other day I got a ticket that was escalated through our help desk to my team, saying a site was trying to open a 128MB excel file over the network and well it was taking a really long time to open.
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Finding the right place for everything

As an IT manager, you are always asked to make due, to think outside the box and to enhance tools to work beyond their limits. When you must make these tough decisions of how am I going to make what do that??? You need to think about one key thing, is this system or process the right place to do that work.
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Stand up to be more productive

So I sit all day. I sit in my car on the way into work, I sit at my desk or in a meeting most all of the day, I sit in my car on the way home, I sit on the couch when I get home.

Sure I go for walks when it’s nice, I walk to meetings, I stand up to talk to co-workers in the hall, but mostly I sit. I didn’t think much of this until I saw, and got to play with a product from ergotron called the WorkFit Sit-Stand Workstation. Basically it’s a monitor arm with keyboard attachment, which lets you stand up to use your computer.
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Keeping up with everything

It took me a long time to think about how to be more productive at work. I tried all sorts of systems, like Franklin covey, a crazy envelope system, a write every task down each day system , variations on all of the mentioned and finally Getting Things Done (GTD).
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Traveling for work

Many times as an it manager you need to travel for work. It is something I have had to do a few times throughout my career, although I would not call myself a road warrior. Below are a few tips that will make life easier, and ensure you have a job when you get back.

Frequent purchaser clubs
Enroll in them, use them, get the points, keep the points, use the points on your vacation. These clubs don’t cost your company anything, and you get a little bonus. In many cases they will save your company money. Free upgrades on rental cars, nicer accommodations, faster hotel and rental car check-ins, no cost ticket changes, all of these small things add up to saving you time and energy so you can funnel that into your job.

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Information Technology Manager – avoid saying No

I couldn’t tell you the number of times I have been asked something and the answer is no. It ‘s not that the I don’t want to expand on it, but well sometimes writing an email with the word no is easier, especially when I am typing on m phone during a meeting I need to pay attention to but am not.
This is hard, hard on my staff, hard on my peers and hard on the PMs I work with. So not I try to go with No. I try to get them to come up with that answer.

The decision you are most likely to believe in and fight for is the one you made.
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The IT Manager working with remote staff

Dealing with a remote staff is one of the trickiest parts of being a manager. There are plenty of questions you have: How often should I talk to them? How much should I leave them alone?

Looking at a remote worker and building a team so they feel a part of something bigger is a trick. Web cams skype, telepresence, google chats all help. Having them feel that they are able to easily go to someone else and not hanging on every missing comma in a sentence takes time patience and the right attitude from you and the employee.
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IT Manager – How can I ensure that my staff is doing their job?

Well the truth is you can’t tell if they are “doing their job”.  You can only tell the quality of the work that they output. For me and my style, it isn’t about what are they doing, but what are they accomplishing. If you spend 8 hours a day watching soap operas at home, I don’t care. If you can’t get your specific task done on the agreed upon timeline, then I really care. This is the overused cliché, you get what you measure.
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The IT Manager as a trusted advisor

This happens all the time, where the business comes up with something, and your faces on making it work, and work right or generally get blamed for the end result, no matter if the foundation wasn’t solid. How can I fix this endless cycle? As with most things, the answer is simple, but the practice is hard.

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Why an IT Manager needs a consistent environment

Sometimes people ask me why we in IT are always pushing back against them and trying to “prevent them from doing business”. The fact of the matter is, we are not.

Our role, as an IT Manager is twofold; we are here to protect the business, and to ensure consistency. Often when talking about a business, like Caribou Coffee, you talk about what it looks like, smells like, and feels like, no matter which one you go to. If they offer the same coffee, the same pastries, and the same coffee cups, they even have the same carpet and same tile at all of their facilities.
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Dealing with the pressures of the Consumerization of IT

As more and more people bring in the devices and software they run at home, the harder it is to ensure the business can run as efficiently and effectively as possible.

While the end user wants to have anything running anyway they want, after all, it is their job and they are more effective using the tools they like. Of course, this doesn’t work for ensuring items are highly available, supportable, repeatable and secure. All technical people know just because you lock the door, doesn’t mean your house is secure.
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