1. Green IT is everywhere lately: Recycled rainwater! Virtualize everything! Where to start?
A. You decide to do it all: solar heating panels, energy-efficient equipment, water-based cooling — the works.
B. “Green” IT? Sounds like hippie mumbo-jumbo to you.
C. You decide to better track your energy usage and map out a plan to integrate some greener technologies into your data centre and workplace, such as recycling obsolete hardware or consolidating some servers.
A. 3 points. Change can be expensive, and such a wide-scale sea-change in your business can be difficult to handle (according to a recent survey on green data centres conducted by Symantec Corp., many administrators are unfamiliar with green technologies 070196) and, while they yield major long-term savings, they could be too expensive up-front.
B. 1 point. You should keep in mind that, according to the U.S. Department of Energy ( 079998), energy usage is going to skyrocket over the next few years, with 10–15 more power plants needed by 2011 to keep up with data centre power consumption alone. Getting in early with green tech can really help your company’s bottom line, and gets you some karma to boot.
C. 2 points. A well-thought-out plan is especially important when it comes to green technology. Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Research’s research vice-president Rakesh Kumar recommends that you either dig up historical energy usage records, or start keeping track, so that you can gauge where you need to make improvements ( 070196).
2. An IT manager is departing from the company later in the year, leaving you to deal with the IT skills shortage, the result of declining computer science enrollment in universities, high expectations from employers, and retiring baby boomers. How do you cope?
A. You begin the search as soon as you know the person is leaving, sending out word among colleagues, and then, a month out, putting up a job ad in several places. You ask around for wage ranges for a competitive salary, and throw in a perk or two.
B. You immediately lay out a long list of must-have skills, experience, and personality types that would be the best fit for the job (and it doesn’t include fresh university grads or foreign workers).
C. You throw up the same job description as last time on an online job board a couple of weeks before you plan to start interviews.
A. 2 points. To successfully survive the skills shortage, compensation needs to be competitive — a recent survey of IT workers conducted by David Aplin Recruiting cited low pay as one of the top reasons for leaving a job ( 070742).
B. 3 points. When skilled IT workers are scarce (a 2006 survey from CNC Global found that demand for permanent IT staff was up 30 per cent from 2005), managers need to be open to new university grads and foreign workers: the former can be molded to your liking and be encouraged to move up the ranks within your company, while the latter often have coveted skills (plus, a Xerox Canada study earlier this year found that 80 per cent of the 1,000 respondents said that diversity in the workplace aided Canadian innovation 075273). One of the problems fuelling the skills shortage is employers’ high expectations of their workers, so you need to either be more flexible, willing to train, or build into the budget a chunk of change to win over an in-demand candidate.
C. 1 point. Employers really need to get an early start, and separate themselves from the competition. For example, they can offer some work/life-balance-based perks. When it comes to your incoming Generation Y workers, three out of four respondents to a recent Robert Half International/Yahoo! Hot Jobs survey said work-life balance is very important to them.
3. Your boss returned from a conference and all they can talk about is “key performance indicators.” They want business intelligence (BI) and they want it now! But how?
A. You decide to go with the business intelligence (BI) vendor that outfits a good portion of the rest of your shop, whether it be SAP, Microsoft, Oracle…
B. You do some preliminary research and ask industry associates about their preferred BI in terms of usability, interface, reporting capability, and price. Each vendor has a certain strength — for instance, the vendors have varying degrees of Excel interoperability, while new player Hewlett-Packard claims to concentrate more on operational BI — so you end up with the one that fits your needs.
C. After auditioning all the vendors, you decide to shell out the cash for a custom-built application that is perfect for you but requires extensive training (although it’s only going to be used by business analysts and IT staff, anyway).
A. 1 point. Just because a vendor provides your ERP, database, or server software doesn’t mean that its business intelligence solution is the best fit for your specific needs. Besides, most of the BI companies these days place a heavy emphasis on integration with your current set-up and interoperability with a wide range of shops, making vendor loyalty often a non-issue (as an example, last year, Information Builders trumpeted the fact that its products now have improved SAP compatibility 077691).
B. 2 points. According to Toronto-based IDC Canada analyst Joel Martin, being aware of your entire enterprise as a whole when choosing a software package is important ( 079100), so keep an eye out for ease of use and crowd-pleasers like Excel integration ( 070093, 074983, 077288).
C. 3 points. There’s not really much need for the massive expense of a custom-built BI solution anymore — vendors are constantly releasing a variety of new products and updates that are generally interoperability-friendly. The “pervasive BI” trend has also resulted in the growing popularity of the whole enterprise using — and reaping the benefits of — business intelligence, from the on-the-ground sales or administrative staff up to C-level execs, Martin said, so usability and features that reduce the learning curve for new users (such as that Excel interoperability) are key.
4. There’s a good chance your boardrooms, and cubicles have a mobile device lurking within, but they aren’t really a part of the enterprise. What do you do?
A. A survey is commissioned internally to gauge whether those who don’t have a mobile device would want one, and market research is done on the number of corporations who have also gone mobile. If the numbers add up, you trigger a roll-out to everyone.
B. You carefully research the (surprisingly small) number of enterprise mobile devices out there, and settle on one and an operating system — whether it be Windows, Linux, Palm, or Symbian — that best suits the user outlined in your business case. Stringent security measures are enforced, and periodic training keeps employees well aware of the security risks and productivity goals.
C. You issue a mobile device to whoever asks for one, then send out an e-mail telling everyone to not lose them and avoid opening viruses, and wait for the productivity benefits to roll in.
A. 3 points. Mobile deployments in the enterprise can still be very costly, so they should be ideally undertaken over a long-term basis and amply provided for within the budget, according to Michelle Warren, senior research analyst with the London, Ontario-based Info-Tech Research Group ( 071003). When choosing an operating system, it’s easy to forget that, like PC and server operating systems, each of them offers unique features and foibles. Windows Mobile is good for integration with in-house Microsoft technologies, while Palm might be a good choice for useful third-party applications. And don’t forget Linux ( 072417): it’s being used on more and more phones, and also benefits from developers crafting cool apps, according to Carmi Levy, former senior research analyst with the Info-Tech Research Group.
B. 2 points. As the mobile enterprise grows in popularity, the device’s business capabilities increase. Case in point: many companies are developing mobile versions of enterprise applications, from the Office capabilities of the newest Windows Mobile software ( 071972) to various field worker apps and CRM functions from big names like Oracle.
C. 1 point. Instead of doling out devices on a case-by-case basis, a business case for the deployment must be iron-clad and an integral part of the long-term business plan and corporate ethos, ensuring cost savings and a better implementation of polices and best practices, said Warren.
5. Sometimes it feels like you and upper management just aren’t speaking the same language. They complain that you don’t “get” where the company is headed or what they want to achieve (and about the awkward IT staffers), and you gripe about the puny budget and management’s inability to “get” how tech works within, and improves, the enterprise. What next?
A. You set up a regularly scheduled meeting with the brass to discuss each side’s goals. During hiring, effort is made to choose those with good “soft” skills and a decent head for business.
B. You insist that your entire IT staff take mandatory business training, and schedule weekly multi-hour meetings with management to discuss strategic planning at length.
C. You figure it’s just a case of IT and management not getting along. It’s better keeping the two streams separate and just slip the budget over the transom (fingers crossed) as usual.
A. 2 points. The Info-Tech Research Group commissioned a survey from Alpharetta, Georgia’s KnowledgeStorm last year that documented the “disconnect” between IT and business ( 070082). KnowledgeStorm director of marketing Matt Lohman suggested hiring IT staff with “cross-functioning” experience so they are comfortable with keeping tabs on the business side of IT, and facilitating more group projects (including joint projects with those from the business side) to foster improved communication and an integrated task force.
B. 3 points. Getting too far into the business side of the company or constantly trying to improve the staff’s soft skills means valuable time away from the more in-depth planning and strategizing, and on-the-ground support, required of an IT team. Stick to taking just take a few key IT staff to strategic business-oriented meetings, suggests Lohman.
C. 1 point. This could be a dangerous path — according to Michael O’Neil, research fellow with the Info-Tech Research Group, because IT will come to be seen as less of a discrete advisory body and more of a “utility” that is grouped as part of business processes and strategy. Gartner Research analyst Betsy Burton said that IT needs to evolve into the role of a trusted advisor role, rather than remain in a support role ( 071690). Start slow by sitting in on key meetings, then by bringing in some of your team to join you and give input. Later, work on sharing these goals with the whole team, and only hire those who jibe with the business/IT blend model.
If you got between 5 and 8 points, you’re a
Keeping up with the fast-paced world of IT can be tough. However, if you want to be a top-notch IT manager, it’s important to stay on top of new developments, applications, trends and processes. Joining industry associations, attending conferences, and reading tech publications for tips like the ones above (see, you’re getting better already!) should start you on the way to becoming a valuable part of the management team and a resource for both IT staff and company employees.
If you got between 9 and 12, you’re a
Congratulations! You’re doing pretty damn well at juggling the many balls required in an IT manager position. You try to keep on top of trends, and add new programs and best practices to your enterprise at a responsible rate that helps keep your employer ahead of the competition. Keep up the good work.
If you got between 13 and 15 points, you’re a
You may think your super-gung-ho attitude is winning you brownie points at work, but an IT manager that floods the company with new technological additions, processes, and apps will just deplete the budget, cause resentment and confuse the employees. Use some of the strategies outlined above to help your company get ahead, but choose carefully and be sure to gauge user reaction for a smooth roll-out.