In my job I get to speak to a lot of technology managers – Information Technology and Information Management directors, managers, and CIOs. There is often a common thread in those discussions, and I am going to lump many organizations and discussions into a fictitious manager in a fictitious organization that I will describe in the following text… take it with a grain of salt, because after all, this is a blog!…
I am a manager – in fact, I am a pretty darn effective manager! I have been working with my organization for quite some time, so long in fact, that I know more about what it needs and how decisions are made than most of the staff. I have been empowered to deliver my group’s mandate in support of the organization’s goals. I have a budget, and I have hired a fairly competent team to execute a clearly defined plan. My team works hard at what they do and are proud of their accomplishments. If only I could have them accomplish ALL of the items in the plan that we need to accomplish… but there are only so many hours in a day!
You see, I am a manager, but I also have a dilemma. I know what the organization needs and I know what it wants (not always the same), but my resources are limited. I have a budget and a fixed number of resources working for me. But the organization changes the plan – priorities are changing all the time… new systems to deploy, old ones must be retained, changing requirements to take priority over old ones… but I am a manager, and I have a mandate to deliver! If only I had enough resources and the budget to continue with the plan while reacting to priority changes and operational crises!
I have built a team that can keep systems going… routine updates, the occasional system failure, servicing operations and customer requirements. I try to keep up to speed on what is happening in the industry, but it is tough to balance with my daily challenges. It seems that with the number of staff that I have, I need to plan for someone to almost always be off for a number of reasons… on vacation, sick, or has other personal obligations. And then – just when I think everything is going nicely, a key team member announces that they have found a new job… now I’m hiring again… I could, perhaps keep all of this in line… if only the executive management would allow me additional resources to focus strategically and not be required to react as abruptly to program changes. I am a manager, but I am mortal and so is my team. To do everything required of me, I would need to have Superman on my team.
Superman! Now there is a thought! How about if I could hire someone that I could call when needed, have them exercise super-human skills for the necessary task and then disappear until the next crisis or change in plans. Then, when they are needed again, they can swoop in, complete the mandate – even if it is totally different than before – and then zoom off when finished? A super hero… now, just where is Clark Kent when you need him?
Turns out, that he is just around almost any corner you look. You see, as a manager, I have found a Superman. In fact – I have found several. I’ve learned that I can engage nimble and experienced boutique consulting firms when needed. I’ve built their fees (reasonable ones) into my budget, and when I need something done that is not the main strength of my staff, I give them a call. I maintain a relationship with them, and ensure that they understand what their role is. In fact, they are part of my team, because they actually make my team stronger. My staff works closely with them and learns from them. And – because I work with them proactively – they know what I want and how I like things. We even have a budget set up for the work that they are going to complete over the course of the year. The neatest thing about it is that I can leverage specialized skills for tasks that I do not want my staff to waste a training budget on… allowing staff to focus on more pertinent training. I can have them do the on-call critical systems support that my small team is understaffed for, especially when required to perform their normal jobs the following day. Do I have a Superman on my team? I sure do – but sometimes I think it is more a SWAT team, or a precision marksman… whatever it is, I don’t think I could operate as effectively as I need to without their involvement.
Randy Peckham has been operating boutique consulting services for IT operations for nearly two decades. As President and Chief Technology Architect for IDS Systems, his team has received numerous accolades for his “Superhero” team of resources that are frequently leveraged to augment smaller Information Technology and Information Management client groups. What is the role of consulting firms in your organization? Is there a plan? Contact IDS Systems (www.idssystems.com)