Who To Hire

I have an evolving list of “first hires” when someone finally comes to their senses and gives me a senior IT manager job.

Some entries are mostly due to some extremely intelligent and trustworthy colleagues whom I am sure could be encouraged to accompany me if the price is right. I am nothing if not a team player. See how generous I am in sharing credit?

Hire 1: Marketer

IT departments are completely woeful about marketing themselves to the rest of the business. Marketing people are viewed with the same level of contempt as a used-car salesman, or a politician in a marginal seat. This is largely because IT people have no idea what marketing is, and, like the rest of society, assume they’re advertising people in the mould of Russell Howcroft from The Gruen Transfer.

What IT fails to understand is that the rest of the business views them as far worse. Marketing people are often good-looking and gregarious, and are frequently a source of free schwag and invitations to boozy launch parties. In contrast, IT is full of awkward man-children with poor hygiene and worse social skills, who frequently tell you that you can’t have any more disk space.

So step one is to hire someone to act as the face of IT, preferably one that has been washed recently. Their job is to work closely with hire number two to figure out what the business wants from IT, and what they don’t want. They’ll then work with me to make sure we do more of what the business wants, and less of what they don’t, and that we get paid for it appropriately.

Hire 2: Anthropologist

An anthropologist spends all their time watching people and learning about what they do. This is a lot more useful than asking them, because people lie. Go ahead, ask ten of your friends how often they masturbate.

Rather than relying on some badly designed “how are we doing” survey with poor response rates, my anthropologist will go and watch people using technology in their actual job. This will also help us with a really important point: seeing what people don’t do. People don’t use the specially-developed-at-great-expense knowledge base because it’s usually wrong and it’s quicker to just ring their mate Alan in support. They don’t bother using the complaints form because nothing ever gets done about it, so they gave up trying. Etc.

My anthropologist can also look inwards at the IT department itself and figure out what’s going on, or not going on, as the case may be. IT staff don’t update the knowledge base because it’s boring and it’s not factored into whether or not they get a raise. Besides, no one uses it, so why bother? They have only the vaguest notion of how the business makes money, and have no idea how their job relates to the rest of the company.

Hire 3: Librarian

Information Technology. Guess which of these two words gets the most attention paid to it? I reckon that IT is actually about 5-15% dealing with technology and 85-95% managing information. And a stupidly large amount of that information is in Word documents and spreadsheets (and *shudder* PowerPoint) that no one other than the author can find.

This one really bakes my noodle. How on earth can any decent sized organisation spend so much time and money creating documents that no one can find? They get stored, oh my lord how they get stored, but you’d be better off throwing them away for all the use they are.

Look at it like this: contractors run about $800-$1,000 a day. Let’s say you’re screamingly efficient and can get a design document written in 3 days (Hahaha!). That’s $3,000. Going with a more realistic example, a solution design for a major national company takes 3 weeks, at least, and involves peer reviews, signoffs, etc. A conservative estimate is $15,000 to $20,000. For one document. That you can’t find.

So basically, your IT department buys a new car every month (per project) and then loses it in the parking lot. Then they charge you for parking.

The actual situation is frequently much worse than this. But hey, let’s make sure we track all physical equipment worth more than $1,000 so we can depreciate it.

More to come

Imagine you’re new to the GM of IT/CIO role. Who would you hire first?

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