Posts Tagged ‘ IT Management ’


IT inferno: The nine circles of IT hell

Written by admin
February 8th, 2014

IT inferno: The nine circles of IT hell
The tech inferno is not buried deep within the earth — it’s just down the hall. Let’s take a tour

Spend enough time in the tech industry, and you’ll eventually find yourself in IT hell — one not unlike the underworld described by Dante in his “Divine Comedy.”

But here, in the data centers, conference rooms, and cubicles, the IT version of this inferno is no allegory. It is a very real test of every IT pro’s sanity and soul.

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How many of us have been abandoned by our vendors to IT limbo, only to find ourselves falling victim to app dev anger when in-house developers are asked to pick up the slack? How often has stakeholder gluttony or lust for the latest and greatest left us burned on a key initiative? How many times must we be kneecapped by corporate greed, accused of heresy for arguing for (or against) things like open source? Certainly too many of us have been victimized by the denizens of fraud, vendor violence, and tech-pro treachery.
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Thankfully, as in Dante’s poetic universe, there are ways to escape the nine circles of IT hell. But IT pro beware: You may have to face your own devils to do it.

Shall we descend?
1st circle of IT hell: Limbo
Description: A pitiful morass where nothing ever gets done and change is impossible
People you meet there:Users stranded by vendors, departments shackled by software lock-in, organizations held hostage by wayward developers

There are many ways to fall into IT Limbo: When problems arise and the vendors start pointing fingers at each other; when you’re locked into crappy software with no relief in sight; when your programmers leave you stranded with nothing to do but start over from scratch.

You know you’re in Limbo when “the software guys are saying the problem is in hardware and the hardware guys are saying the problem is in software,” says Dermot Williams, managing director of Threatscape, an IT security firm based in Dublin, Ireland. “Spend eternity in this circle and you will find that, yes, it is possible for nobody to be at fault and everyone to be at fault at the same time.”

A similar thing happens when apps vendors blame the OS, and OS vendors blame the apps guys, says Bill Roth, executive vice president at data management firm LogLogic. “Oracle says it’s Red Hat’s fault, while Red Hat blames Oracle,” he says. “It’s just bad IT support on both sides.”

Michael Kaiser-Nyman, CEO of Impact Dialing, maker of autodialing software, says he used to work for a nonprofit that was locked into a donor management platform from hell.

“The software took forever to run, it only worked on Internet Explorer, it crashed several times a day, and was horribly difficult to use,” he says. “The only thing worse than using it was knowing that, just before I joined the organization, they had signed a five-year licensing agreement for the software. I wanted to kill whoever had signed it.”

Organizations also find themselves in Limbo when their developers fail to adopt standard methodologies or document their procedures, says Steven A. Lowe, CEO of Innovator LLC, a consulting and custom software development firm.

“Every project is an ordeal because they’ve made it nearly impossible to learn from experience and grow more efficient,” he says. “They spend most of their time running around in circles, tripping over deadlines, yelling at each other, and cursing their tools.”

How to escape: “When you’re digging a hole in hell, the first thing to do is stop digging and climb your way out,” says Roth. That means making sure you have the tech expertise in house to solve your own problems, going with open source to avoid vendor lock-in, and taking the time to refactor your code so you can be more efficient the next time around.

2nd circle of IT hell: Tech lust
Description: A deep cavern filled with mountains of discarded gadgets, with Golem-like creatures scrambling to reach the shiny new ones at the top
People you meet there: Just about everybody at some point

The circle of tech lust touches virtually every area of an organization. Developers who abandon serviceable tools in favor of the latest and greatest without first taking the time to understand these new frameworks and methodologies (like node.js or Scrum), thereby preventing anything from ever getting done. Managers who want hot new gizmos (like the iPad) and invent a reason why they must have them, regardless of the impact on the IT organization. Executives who become fixated on concepts they barely understand (like the cloud) and throw all of an organization’s resources behind it in the fear of falling behind the competition.

“In reality, we all visit the circle of lust now and then,” says Lowe. “The problem with tech lust is the accumulation of things. You can get so mired in ‘we can’t finish this project because a new tool just came out and we’re starting all over with it’ that nothing ever gets done.”

How to escape: It is difficult to break free from the circle of tech lust, admits Lowe. “We all love shiny new things,” he says. “But you have to know what’s good enough to get the job done, and learn how to be happy with what you have.”

3rd circle of IT hell: Stakeholder gluttony
Description: A fetid quagmire filled with insatiable business users who demand more and more features, no matter the cost
People you meet there: Demons from sales and marketing, finance, and administration

This circle is painfully familiar to anyone who’s ever attempted to develop a business application, says Threatscape’s Dermot Williams.


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IT Hiring Manager Seeks a Perfect Fit

Written by admin
October 4th, 2013

Cynthia Nustad has served since February 2011 as SVP and CIO at HMS Holdings, which offers cost-containment services to commercial and government health-insurance payers. HMS specializes in coordinating benefits (verifying the right payers pay claims) and program integrity (making sure claims are paid appropriately).

Last year, HMS recovered $3.2 billion for clients and saved them billions more by preventing erroneous payments. As a company with significant investments in data, HMS relies on an IT team that is growing by double digits. Nustad describes how she hires IT staff members who fit the company’s culture.

What’s the culture at HMS like?

We bring solutions to the healthcare marketplace that reduce waste and inefficiency. It’s an important mission; a nonpartisan group estimates that the U.S. healthcare system wastes about $750 billion a year. Through constant improvement and ongoing technological investments, we’re addressing that significant problem and helping to improve the system for everyone.

What’s the best way to ensure that new recruits will fit in?

We highly value our current employees and their personal and professional networks. We offer reward incentives for referrals from employees as a way to drive a shared culture. We also find that new hires are more successful when they were referred by another employee because there is an added level of accountability to the employee that made the referral.

How do you tell whether someone will rally around the company cause?

We share our company story and what drives our business and then see what the candidate offers in conversation about their experiences with the healthcare system. We might ask, “Was there a time when you were able to help drive technological development for the betterment of others?” We also ask whether they’ve applied cost-effective technology to solve business problems rather than installing technology for technological advancement. As a fast and dynamic company, we also ask about their ability to take action rather than wait for approval.

Do you hire from certain industries?

For the IT department, we hire from all industries, but because of our great need for deep data and analytics skills, we’re especially interested in experienced hires from consumer companies. That industry has been investing in big data and listening to their customers for years. HMS can offer this highly sought-after talent a mission that focuses on making a difference in people’s lives by creating value in the healthcare system.

Do you put each hire through an online assessment for interpersonal and cultural fit?

We use these tools more at the senior leadership level than middle management or college hiring. They offer some value, but I find the input of my peers and my team to be of greatest value. They know the culture and the team dynamics best and can provide me with the feedback I need to make a hiring decision. I’m not necessarily looking for unanimity, but the feedback also helps reinforce our culture. An online assessment tool can’t do this. Generally, we like our talent-acquisition process to include panel interviews and peer feedback so that we listen to all inputs to find the best employee fit for our team.

Phil Schneidermeyer is a partner with Heidrick & Struggles, where he specializes in recruiting CIOs and CTOs for all industries.


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IT departments won’t exist in five years

Written by admin
June 6th, 2013

Generation gap between new technologists and old is widening, say experts at CITE conference

SAN FRANCISCO — Consumerization of IT and self-service trends will lead to a restructuring of the today’s IT shop, leaving behind a hybrid model consisting of tech consultants and integrators.

“The business itself will be the IT department. [Technologists] will simply be the enabler,” said Brandon Porco, chief technologist & solutions architect at Northrop Grumman.

Porco was part of a four-person panel of technologists who answered audience questions during a town hall-style meeting at the CITE Conference and Expo here this week.

Among concerns raised is whether IT is losing control as consumer technology becomes part and parcel of everyone’s work in the enterprise, and the data center is left behind.

Others said they are not sure how to address a growing generation gap between young and veteran workers, each of whom are comfortable with different technologies.

“Interns coming in for the summer are asked if they’re familiar with Google Apps. They say, ‘Of course we are,'” said Nathan McBride, vice president of IT & chief cloud architect at AMAG Pharmaceuticals. “Then we have other employees coming in who worked for other companies who say, ‘I need Outlook.’ We have to say we don’t use that anymore.”

McBride said 75 Fortune 100 companies now use Google Apps along with most Ivy League schools, meaning that the next generation of workers won’t be users of Microsoft Exchange or Office.

In five years, McBride said, companies will have to ensure they’re matching their enabling technology to the demographic of that time.

Kathleen Schaub, vice president of research firm IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice, said many corporate IT organizations now report to the head of the business unit it’s assigned to.

“The premise is that wherever IT sits in an organization will dictate what they care about,” she said. “If they’re in finance, they’ll care about cost cutting. If they’re in operations, they’ll care about process management. If [the company] decides it wants to focus on the customer, they’ll put it in marketing.”

While the CIO position will likely remain in an enterprise, his or her role will morph into a technology forecaster and strategist, rather than a technology implementer, according to Porco.

John Mancini, CEO of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), agreed with Porco, saying that in the consumer technology era, it’s the business side that has all the tools, so it will be able to trump IT’s desire to control who uses what and how.

While the business can dictate the service or technology it wants, McBride said IT can still decide the flavor of technology.

For example, when AMAG business users asked for Microsoft’s Visio tool set for diagraming and creating flow charts, McBride’s team found a less expensive, web-based tool, LucidChart. “That was only $15 a seat,” he said, adding that users were just as happy.

“We’re not trying to be ahead of the technology curve and we don’t’ want to be behind, but we’re trying to maintain pace in order to know what they’re going to ask for next before they ask for it,” McBride said.

Porco said he takes advantage of university partnerships and take cues from entrepreneurial centers throughout the U.S. such as Seattle and Denver to keep his finger on the pulse of tech innovation.
 


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