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IT Management Questions Answered

By Paul Glen

Q: I have more than eight years of experience in IT and am pursuing my MBA in management technology. Although I've earned several certificates for computer training courses throughout the years, I have no Microsoft certifications. After earning my MBA, will I need to have some certifications under my belt if I want to gain a management position in IT?

A:It sounds like you have committed yourself to a career of learning, and not only is that admirable, it's necessary to grow and advance -- congratulations! You're at a major crossroad in your career, and it's time to make some hard decisions.

Early careers are driven by increasing your depth and breadth of technical knowledge. One very popular way to demonstrate continued technical growth is with certifications. As you learn, you are able to deliver more value to your employers and should be recognized, compensated and promoted for the increased value.

But at some point, you have to decide how you are going to continue to add more value to your organization. On the path of technical value, you become ever more specialized and narrowly focused on your technical knowledge. You deliver more value through the depth of your knowledge. On the path of managerial value, you add more value by making others more productive.

If you are committed to going the managerial path, forget about the MCSE. It will do nothing for you or your employers, since the technical value you can add will diminish rapidly.

If you want to continue to be primarily technical, get the MCSE. Slow down on the MBA but don't quit it altogether, because deeply technical people with good business knowledge are even more valuable than those who have none.

While it may seem attractive to try to go both ways, it's not possible for any but the most amazingly energetic and talented people. The technical people who can manage brilliantly are the alien abductees of the IT world. There are far fewer people who can do this than there are people who think that they can.

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Q: The staffers don't want to take the time to fill out time reports on what projects they are working on, their supervisors don't care enough to enforce it, and management won't do anything but "remind them." What can I do?

A: If the staff doesn't care about it, the supervisors don't care about it, and the executives pay only lip service to these reports, they probably aren't really important. If you are trying to collect data that no one uses, it's hopeless. Don't bother.

Just get rid of the rule. Having unenforced and widely disregarded rules can breed an attitude of contempt for all the rules. In IT departments, for every rule imposed, management pays a price in flexibility, morale and respect. Pick your rules carefully, and then enforce them appropriately.

If you want people to track their time closely, they need a good reason to do so. Let the staffers estimate their own work, and use the time tracking to test the accuracy of their estimates. That will help them learn how to improve their estimation skills, so they may put up with it.

If you want the supervisors to insist on time tracking, they should be evaluated not on enforcing the rule, but on using the information to bring their projects in on time.

Q: How do I guide my CIO to stay focused on the work of the company rather than spend large percentages of his time public speaking and applying for awards? I'm afraid that the CIO may be getting "rock-star-itis." I know the teams need recognition beyond the company, but what's the right balance?

A: If your CIO is more interested in building his public profile than in running the IT function, you've got a real problem. In my book Leading Geeks, I suggest that an IT leader has four key responsibilities:

Furnishing internal facilitation.

Providing external representation.

Nurturing motivation.

Managing ambiguity.

If a CIO is focusing on any one of these to the exclusion of others, the organization suffers. The CIO is shirking important parts of his responsibilities and needs to either change his approach or be replaced.

Read the rest of the article.

About the Author:
Paul Glen is an IT management consultant and the author of the award- winning book "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology" (Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer,2003). He regularly speaks for corporations and national associations across North America. For more information go to: He can be reached at

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