So you’ve just landed that plum job as IT Manager. You can barely remember what you wrote on the application form, let alone what you promised at the job interview. And now you’ve got to deliver results. Few jobs can be as demanding or as thankless as IT Manager. And many new IT managers flounder in their first weeks.
So what’s in your action plan for your first month in the job? We speak to operations managers, finance directors, and business owners day in, day out. So we know what will impress them. And IT Managers are some of our most important clients. So we know which ones make it and which ones struggle. Here are our top 11 actions:
1. Meet all of your IT suppliers face-to-face. Find out what they do for you, how much they’re costing you, and why your organisation signed them up. And figure out if they’re good or bad.
Why? Because the good IT suppliers will become your allies. They’ll bend over backwards to help you out. They’ll make life easier come budget time. And they’ll be the ones with useful ideas that make you look good.
2. Collate and read all current service contracts. Sure, it’s a laborious task. As a minimum, check the contract dates, diarise reviews, and read the executive summaries.
Why? Because renegotiating old contracts can find you quick savings, sometimes you’ll even find obsolete services you’re still paying for, and you’ll be able to plan for contract renewals or tenders without panicking.
3. Figure out how to use your suppliers to the best of their abilities. Ask them what they’re best at, what they’re famous for, and how they’ve helped their most successful clients.
Why? If you think you’re busy in your first month, just wait until your boss asks you to complete a special project! Knowing who to go to for help will save you time and effort. And it usually throws up some smart ideas from suppliers who’ve dealt with similar projects countless times before.
4. Produce a flow chart that shows how all your IT systems work together or integrate. Leave nothing out. And be realistic about which systems actually do work together rather than should work together.
Why? This will show you how your IT systems fit in with the business goals. It will also highlight efficiency improvements to start working on in month 2. And it will speed up your ability to spot bottlenecks and vulnerabilities and fix problems.
5. Identify which systems are most critical for business continuity. Equally, know which systems are least critical. And make sure you have a documented record of recovery times and recovery objectives. Know where to locate your disaster recovery plan!
Why? When trouble hits (and it will) you’ll instantly know which systems to jump on. And to avoid disaster in your first month, check the critical systems or get your IT support company to check them for you. You’ll also know if you have a disaster recovery plan, or if you need to get one.
6. Get to know who’s responsible for finance of IT. Who signs off financial decisions? Who approves invoices? Who signs the cheques? Who sets and manages the budget? Who maintains management accounts?
Why? The people who look after the purse strings are the ones who can advise you on how to get things done, how to avoid traps like over-ambitious spending and what you’ll need to do to win businesses cases. They’re also often the first to know about important upcoming changes like office moves, restructuring and acquisitions. And you know how heavily these projects impact IT!
7. Find out what projects and expenditures your predecessor approved or pre-approved. And decide which of your predecessor’s projects and cost commitments you want to review, re-approve, cancel, delay or reprioritise.
Why? You’ll suddenly become responsible for any of your predecessor’s decisions that are about to come to fruition. That’s especially true if they’re expensive flops! The last thing you need in your first month is to waste time and resource on an avoidable white elephant.
8. Hold a one-to-one with each member of your team. Get to know each team member as individuals. Ask what they like doing more and what they hate doing. Get an overview of their main skills and weaknesses. And steer them away from talking about office politics and past disputes. Also ask each member for one big idea, something they feel would transform the business.
Why? Whilst you might decide to make changes to your team, you probably don’t want anyone to pre-empt your decisions by suddenly leaving. A lack of development opportunities is the number one cause of staff turnover. Listening to your team members will at least show you what development opportunities are possibilities. On top of that, collecting a bunch of free ideas could give you some ideas of your own.
9. Agree who your second-in-command is. Delegate some authority early on to provide support when you’re not there, when you’re meeting with suppliers, when you’re getting to know the wider business.
Understand what happens if you are not there, what support you have from either internal or external sources and what you can put in place to assist with any single points of failure. This will make your working life easier, less pressured, more structured and the most efficient for the company.
Why? You don’t want to be fire-fighting when you’re trying to learn the business. And you don’t want to carry the entire burden of maintaining IT when you’re also trying to develop your own strategy. If you get into an early habit of leaning on your IT support company and your one internal stalwart, you’ll have more freedom to bring in your own ideas. Trust us, it’s far harder to find your own free thinking space if you leave it too long!
10. Produce an IT Operations Manual. This is to show how the IT Department functions, including external parties, as well as the disaster recovery plan.
Why? If there’s one document that describes what your function does, it’s the IT Operations Manual. Having one in place in your first month (even if you intend to edit it later) builds confidence amongst your team and the wider organisation. You want your new bosses to breath a sigh of relief when they review their new IT Manager at the end of your first month, not (as often happens) worry about whether you’ve got a grip on IT.
11. Put together a 6-month IT Operations plan. Outline any changes, upgrades, and improvements that you can envisage based on the company’s goals. Share this plan internally, and with your most trusted IT suppliers from your previous experience.
Why? Your employer hired you as IT Manager for a reason. Most likely, it’s because of what and who you know, your track record and your ability to support their business goals. The more people who are prepared for your plans, the easier you’ll find those plans to execute. Trusted external suppliers can share their own experiences from other clients, help you avoid pitfalls and help you plan the resources you’ll need to get hold of. 6 months is a manageable time-frame. And 6 months is typically the longest probationary period for IT managers. So you’ll have a good chance to prove your worth.
Think you’ve got some better ideas? Tell us in the comments below. And send a link to this article to anyone who’s starting a new job as IT Manager.