IT Leader Start-Up Issues: What Have You Gotten Yourself Into?

by drjim on March 11, 2010

IT Leaders In New Positions Need To Take The Time To Do An Assessment

IT Leaders In New Positions Need To Take The Time To Do An Assessment

Every IT Shop Is Different

In the life of an IT Leader, there will come the day that you find yourself in a new position. You might be working for the same company and just be in a different role or you might be starting a new job – no matter, the challenge is the same. Where do you start? It turns out that doing nothing right off the bat might be the right idea…

Doing An Assessment Of Your Team

When you find yourself in a new IT Leader position, you might be tempted to do what many of us have done in the past – make some noise. We’ve all see others do this before: almost immediately upon assuming a new position, they do a reorganization or some such action just to show that they are going to “shake things up”. That’s all fine and good, but it really doesn’t accomplish anything.

Instead, your time would be better spent doing an assessment of the IT team that you’ve just inherited. To use the popular terminology of the day, this needs to be a 360-degree assessment of both those people who will be on your team as well as the people that you will now be working for.

What you’re going to be looking for is to develop a good understanding of how things are right now. You might be overflowing with things that you want to accomplish (or you might have been told what you will have to accomplish), but now is not the time to be making changes before you know what is going on.

You’re not going to find what you need written down anywhere, instead you’ve got a lot of talking to do. Your situational assessment needs to cover a lot of ground. Specifically you’re going to want to know about the following four areas:

  1. The IT ecosystem (hardware, network, communications, endpoints, etc.)
  2. Applications (business and support)
  3. Corporate organization and hierarchy
  4. Processes and procedures for common IT tasks

Results Of An IT Team Assessment

As you can probably guess by now, an IT assessment is not something that you can do overnight. It’s going to take some focused effort to uncover the information that you’re going to need.

What you should be looking to assemble out of all of this data collection are a set of key indicators that will tell you where you need to be spending your time. Each one of the areas that you’ve collected information on can probably by now be broken down into an additional level of detail: specific hardware systems (e.g. storage), specific applications, etc. Each of these IT components will have their own status.

This status in its simplest form can be thought of as being a traffic light: red, yellow, or green. The green status areas can safely be ignored for now – they are under control. Things get more interesting when you start to take a look at the yellow and red areas.

Clearly the red areas need immediate attention. However, it’s the yellow areas that will provide you with the greatest value for having done the whole assessment task. These are the areas that while they may be under control for now, have the potential to “go red” and quickly turn into a problem that could consume your hours, days, or even weeks.

What All Of This Means For You

When an IT leader is placed into a new position, his or her first actions can often set the stage for their long term success. Starting things off by taking actions just to look like you are doing something won’t help – it may do more harm than good.

Instead what you need to do is to take the time to do an assessment of your new IT environment. This will require you to look both up and down the company hierarchy. You’ll be trying to understand how all of the components of the IT department fit together (or don’t!)

A well done IT assessment will provide you with a clear roadmap on where you need to be spending your time. The areas that are either not doing well or just getting by are where you’ll need to be spending your time. Focus your time and talents here and you’ll be able to shine in your position.

Question For You: What do you think the most important thing that you can do is when you are just starting a new IT position?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In order to be successful as an IT Leader (no matter where you are at in the company’s management hierarchy), you’re going to have to do what you are told. Well, wait a minute, maybe I should phrase that differently. How about something like this: you are going to have to find out what they want you to do and then you are going to have to do it?

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