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Making IT Visible to Management? 52

frustrated Dilbert asks: "We are a very small IT dept where the manager participates in the day-to-day operation of IT services. The problem is that he almost never talks to upper management and doesn't get involved in the business side until someone gives him a specific project to handle. The result is that IT is considered to be firefighters when things fail, and generally plumbers that fix stuff when other PHBs create new projects. We run all the mission-critical stuff in a line of business that can not work without technology. The IT PHB fails to see which sides of the business we need to support and which are second in line. I end up doing my stuff and a lot of his duties of picking up the direction of the business and making strategic decisions. The company is actually great to work for, but I was not hired (or paid) for teaching my boss to run his shop in addition to tech stuff. He simply wasn't made for it and got promoted into something he can't cope with. I'm getting really tired of having to do management and not get any credit and would love to have him replaced, but I hate having to rat on him too. How can I get a more organized workplace when my boss isn't capable of thinking ahead?"
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Making IT Visible to Management?

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  • Just stop (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SecaKitten ( 925554 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @04:14AM (#16173183)
    ...doing his job, and let him get himself fired. Problem solved.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by newsdee ( 629448 )
      Or just stop working there... and go somewhere else.
      Yes, easier said than done, but it doesn't hurt to polish that resume and start looking around.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's the ideal solution in a perfect world, but I wouldn't put money on the right person getting fired.
      • It really depends on the job description. If what you do does fit your job description, then continue. Only drop what doesn't fit the description.

        Anyway, it's time to move on.
    • Unless he can blam you in some way. I found that if the higher-ups aren't very aware of you, that they will very easily fire you. The more the higher management knows you personally and is aware of your skills, the smaller the chance is they'll fire you, even if they fire your boss.
      • by rednip ( 186217 ) *
        That's the solution, work around him. Obviously, you can't just start giving work to someone else, but the real nugets, the gems should get handed to others, likely the business people who you work directly with. Make you boss the last one to know your best ideas rather than the first. Find you boss's nemisis and start giving your stategic planning to him. They still might not give you credit, but your boss won't have the credit either, and eventually upper management will seek you out.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kfg ( 145172 ) *
        Here's the way it'll work. He'll stop doing his bosses job. His boss will fire him. He'll go get a new job.

        In the meantime, his boss can no longer get his job done without someone to do it for him, so upper management fires him.

        His boss get a new job, as his new boss.

        Life has a cruel sense of humor.

    • by daeg ( 828071 )
      Small shops may not be able to withstand waiting for someone to get fired. One or two projects that fall behind could easily spell doom for such a shop.
  • Your job is to make your boss look good. Don't complain, this is a great opportunity for you to expand your skills.
    • Expanding your skills doesn't help you get a job using those skills if you can't take credit for doing the work.
  • by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @04:56AM (#16173297)
    but I was not hired (or paid) for teaching my boss to run his shop in addition to tech stuff

    We all have to do things that we didn't expect in our jobs. If that's all you have to do, then go home and spend hours being thankful you're not digging ditches or working for bosses that constantly insult you or that you have a job that pays for a place to live and heat and water and electricity, or that you have an education that allows you to work in a well paying job, or that you're healthy enough to go into work each day instead of spending most of your time seeing doctors to deal with cancer or MS or something else.

    I don't think I've yet heard of a job where the person in it ended up doing exactly what s/he expected or wanted to do.

    Honestly, that is a small problem in the scheme of things. If it's big enough to make your life that miserable, do one of two things: find another job or step into the Total Perspective Vortex.

    Maybe instead of Ask Slashdot, this should be, "Whining Slashdot."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tim C ( 15259 )
      It's true that this is the way of things at many companies, but that doesn't make it right or mean that people should be expected to just put up or shut up. If everyone did that then things would never improve for anyone.

      If something is wrong, it should be fixed, not ignored. Whining here won't fix it, but asking for advice might be the first step in the right direction.
      • It would be nice if you could fix everything wrong, but that's not the way things go. Often fixing something will cost you your job and there may not be another available.

        A lot of things aren't right. Who told you life is fair? Your Mother?

        A business is run by those in chare of it who have the ability and, more or less, the right to run it their way. They don't won't it fixed and in many companies, trying to fix it will only cost you your job and any good reference you had.

        That's life. That's reality.
      • being thankful you're not digging ditches
      • working for bosses that constantly insult you
      • you have a job that pays for a place to live and heat and water and electricity
      • that you're healthy enough to go into work each day instead of spending most of your time seeing doctors to deal with cancer or MS or something else.

      So either you get everything you want, or you have cancer? Get a grip. The solution is not to be grateful for what scraps you're given. The solution is to take your bosses job, since he doesn'

      • So either you get everything you want, or you have cancer? Get a grip.

        Bzzzt! Wrong. Logical fallacy: False Dilemma. I did not say there were only two choices or extremes. You decided to limit your choices to that out of infinitely many. Why would you want to narrow everything down, unless you needed to set up a straw man argument so you could feel manly when you attacked it.

        As for being grateful, you may not have everything you want. It could be better. It could be worse. You can complain about thin
        • Sorry, bud, it's your false dilemma. This guy wants to improve his situation and you bitch at him for being ungrateful. Not very helpful.

          As for taking your bosses job (and again, you use the logical fallacy of a false dilemma: it's all one or the other), that rarely works, but, then again, you must know that since I'm sure you're running some mega corp by [blah blah blah]

          Speaking of fallacies, you used a strawman (I suggested a course of action) and a pointless personal attack. I recently switched bosse

  • Manage your Manager (Score:3, Informative)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@[ ]mail.com ['hot' in gap]> on Sunday September 24, 2006 @04:59AM (#16173307) Journal
    1. Google for "Manage your Manager" and read several random links.
    2. Decide to forget your place in the hierarchy and look to your place in the team.
    3. ??
    4. Profit.
  • It's not ratting (Score:4, Informative)

    by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) * on Sunday September 24, 2006 @05:18AM (#16173355)
    If you're hired by a company, you're paid to do your job, and look out for the interests of the company. If your boss is really not what is in the best interest of the company, and it's making a problem, you need to bring that to attention (discretely). Its possible (though unlikely) that he could be moved to a position (demotion even) where his talents could be used well without putting the company out of risk.

    This sounds like a textbook case of the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org]. Good luck dealing with it, but realize that if he doesn't have the guts to say he can't cope with his position, someone should, or you may not have somewhere to work for very long.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Everybody always thinks that they are the critical link in a company. The truth is everyone is replacable. Not without some growing pains, in some cases, but everyone is replacable. Well, except me. :) Ahem. I am thinking of that Simpsons where Bart is walking around with a pot and a wooden spoon screaming "I am so great, I am so great." It seems to me that everyone these days is concerned with whats good for them, and hopefully that works out for the company too, but these people are forgetting that
  • by mge ( 120046 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @05:23AM (#16173373) Homepage Journal
    You've already said that "We run all the mission-critical stuff in a line of business that can not work without technology." Who interfaces with the business owners for the support of these systems ? More importantly, who do the business owners deal with on a day to day basis for support of these ? a) you, b) someone else, or c) your PHB ?

    Based on the subtext, I doubt the answer is a). However, if it is, it means that management have determined that you are their workaround. It is worthwhile asking for more money, or at least finding how high they'll go in terms of cash and / or other perks (like training, days off, etc)

    If the answer is b), then the problem has been solved, but you've either been left out of the loop or never were in it. Maybe you (specifically you) are not as important as you think you are.

    If the answer is c), and the substance of your story is true then I'm sorry, management have decided that you (and your unit) are just not as important as you thought. They have actually thought about this, so if you decide to stay, you need to find out who made the decison and why. It may turn out that while it sucks from an IT perspective, it is actually a good business decison. After all, from their perspective, they are still getting the work done...

  • Do your job first (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 19thNervousBreakdown ( 768619 ) * <davec-slashdot&lepertheory,net> on Sunday September 24, 2006 @05:30AM (#16173403) Homepage

    A big problem I see at nearly every company I've worked at is, concentrating on how to do your own job well is about the last thing people think about. You'll have tech support people making marketing suggestions, marketing people trying to dictate IT policy, etc. The issue is, you'll always make a terrible contribution that way, if you even manage to turn it into more than daydreams.

    That may seem like something of a tangent, but hear me out. Just do your own job well. Do that number one, and if it looks like things that need doing aren't getting done, if they're not your job at all, then don't worry about it until you have your own job completely taken care of. The problem is, doing your own job is usually boring, a lot more work than daydreaming about what somebody else should be doing, and doesn't seem like it affects much. That couldn't be farther from the truth. If people always know that your job is done, they'll start leaving you alone; that's when you can branch off into other things. Special projects that make everybody else's life easier will get big notice. Here's the big (huge) thing though: make sure it's related to your job as closely as possible. Nobody knows how to do your job as well as you do, you spend 40 hours a week (if you're lucky) doing it--no one else does. Sure, work on managing the IT department better, but only once you have your own job done as well as it can be under the current management.

    If you run into a situation where the people above you aren't giving you the support you need, leave as soon as possible, and stop worrying about it otherwise.

  • Ouch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @06:02AM (#16173493)
    Hmm.. this is a toughie. I wouldn't advise being sneaky. It was suggested earlier that you let him fail. That's risky. Failures cost money, and if it can be proven you could have prevented that loss, your ass could be in the line of fire. A more subtle approach would be to raise the visiblity of your contributions. If, for example, you need to purchase equipment, maybe create a diagram of the equipment and put your name on it. Then pass it around. Maybe even print a big copy of it and hang it on your wall. That may not be a great suggestion, but hopefully you get the idea. That doesn't solve the problem of getting your boss replaced, but hopefully it helps with the credit part of it. Who knows, maybe somebody'll see what you suggested, and when something doesn't go right, they'll remember that a different solution was proposed and ignored?

    Well, I dunno. I wish I knew more specifics about your job and what your boss is failing in. These things happen. Maybe it's the sort of thing a little more communication would help with. I mean, if you became buddy buddy with him and got to where you could converse informally, maybe over time you two could build trust with each other. From there you could get him to realize the problem and either learn how to cope or maybe hire an extra person to help him out. It's hard to say. I agree with your view about not wanting to rat him out, though. Sometimes it's necesary to do that, but exhaust your other options first.
    • One way to keep your butt out of the line of fire is to communicate your ideas for how to fix things, but only communicate them to your incompetent boss. Then, when the failure occurs, you can say things like "I emailed him 4 times about it, offering suggestions, and he didn't do anything with my or anyone else's ideas".
  • by cornjones ( 33009 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @07:58AM (#16173883) Homepage
    In my experience, just do the job that is most needing to be done. If that is your job, great, if that is his job, fine. The best way to get a promotion is to do that job and you will eventually get the title and money. The worst kind of employee is one that won't do the tasks that need to be done b/c it isn't in is pay scale (up or down). You do have to remember not to work yourself to death but w/i the bounds of working hours, work on teh important shit as you see it. If they don't recognize your efforts in a timely manner, you can step into your next position w/ much more experience (which should translate into money/power as you wish)
  • Job Description (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormcrow309 ( 590240 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @08:11AM (#16173947) Journal

    It is likely that you have a line in your job description that reads 'and other tasks'. Many of us have it. Well, honestly, many of you have it since I helped my boss rewrite the job descriptions of my coworkers and me. This includes educating your boss. Here is the trick, if your boss is an idiot, what makes you think you are not? There are several essential skills needed for management, some skills are more important then others depending on position. These skills are technical skills, managerial skills, personnal skills, and networking (suck up) skills. Your boss has to have some technical skills to manage you, but not as great as you have. His level should be enough to make decent decisions based off the information you give him. He should have better managerial, personnal, and networking skills, but not as good as his boss, who would be offset by lesser technical skills. You discuss your perception with you boss and learn his perspective on things.

    On a side note, most IT workers expect for some ungodly reason that their bosses have equal or greater technical skills. My manager has an ETL and BI expert (me), two ERP and business process experts (my cohort and me), several SQL experts (7 of us including me), two EDI experts (my cohort and another guy), two pc experts (another guy and me), web programmer (me), a server expert (me), 3 HR process experts (3 other people), and 9 cobal programmers (don't look at me, I don't do big iron). Add in the fact that he also has 3 records retention technicians, their manager, and two archivists (in the traditional sense), one would get the idea how diverse his staff is. How the hell could he be expected to have this skill set? Now he needed to be educated on how we work in some instances. He viewed script programming easy, yet he had never seen complex scripting for business apps on the web before. It is my job to fix misperceptions that would make his decisions wrong and it is his job to ask for information in my area of expertise before shooting his mouth off.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Sunday September 24, 2006 @08:17AM (#16173971)
    Just by your comment filled with "PHB", makes it seem like you have no respect for management at all. When management comes up with these projects for you to do is their job, they are trying to find ways to improve business productivity. Now the mistakes that a lot of managers do is not give IT or other employees for that sake, a clear image of what needs to be done so the people take it upon themselves to fill in the missing pieces. If you don't want to do the managers job when you come to a point in the project where you need to make a decision you go to management and work the direction you need to take. So for example if you need to create a report and you need to know if you need 3 decimal places in the percent or two. You could just look at the size of the numbers and guess what size is best, or you can go to the manager and ask him how many decimal points accuracy you need. This does a few things.
    1. It keeps IT visible on the IT radar, even during the development process.

    2. It puts more responsibility on management for bad decisions. So for the case the manager says he want 2 while they really need three you can point to the manager for that fault.

    3. It creates a personal connection to you and management so after a while they know how you thing and you know how they think. So after a while the line of what is your job and what is their jobs get better explained.

    Next I find it important to be face to face with management as much as possible. If they are in the same builing as you try to be as much face to face as possible. IT Departments have a tendency of doing things electronically, Fixing the problem of the persons PC over VNC vs. just getting off your but and working on the system. The reason why IT is Invisble is that you don't to much work to make yourself visible.

    • Just by your comment filled with "PHB", makes it seem like you have no respect for management at all.

      No, just the one boss. The question seems to be "how do I get my boss replaced?" with a subtext of whether he should try and replace him. Increased visibility is a good idea, but I'd want to get involved in finding out what the direction should be for the dept - if the bosses start looking to you for IT stuff, you may just push the other guy out.

  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @09:04AM (#16174155) Homepage Journal
    Do your best to complete your specific responsibilities, and do what you can to pick up your bosses failures. One of two things will happen, either someone will notice your hard work and eventually make job description changes, or no one will notice your work, but you will have learned a lot about middle/upper management of IT. Either way, your resume will be better for it.

    I work in a similar position. Our IT shop is split into Apps (my side) and Networks. The manager was a programmer 20 years ago, but I am not aware of any higher education on his part. The two supervisors are supervisors by attrition, neither have any education related to management of people or projects (one has a CS assoc, the other has a HSD). The supervisor on the network side has managed 80% turn over in the last two years. All of those people sited the supervisor as a major reason why they left in their exit interview with the manager. And yet nothing is done.

    At this point I'm in a boat very similar to yours. My supervisor has limited project management skills (based on 2 years of failed/successful projects). My manager has no idea what Project Management is, and no understanding of IT Alignment. So I'm putting my education to the test, pushing for a job description change, and if I can get a little more hands on experience to match my management education, I'm headed out the door.

  • Well since you are doing more than you should you can either stop doing what you don't like to do and only focus on your duties. Or do more but get paid for more. But I think you can get tired of doing too much. After all if you are working 9~17 you want to go out at 17, go home to your wife or girlfriend, have a life. That is perfectly normal. If your management is overloading you with work that is management not yours problem. The problem is it is either badly managed or they lack staff. But none of these
  • by JerseyTom ( 16722 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @09:59AM (#16174381) Homepage
    I hate to plug my own book, but...
    1. Read the chapter titled, "Visibility and Perception"
    2. Read the "Managing Your Boss" section of the chapter titled, "Being Happy"
    3. Hand your boss a copy of the book and ask him to read "Visibility and Perception" and the chapter titled, "A Guide for Technical Managers"

    Your question is exactly why we wrote this book.
  • Delegate someone from your department, preferably someone who has a better understanding of your company's product and who also has relatively good people skills, and ask to have that person included on meetings with your product development staff. Initially just an observer, your delegate will gain a better understanding of how your systems are actually used by the users. They will then be in an excellent position to offer adjustments to the architecture to better facilitate workflow, or to point out ser
  • Uh oh... (Score:4, Funny)

    by localman ( 111171 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @10:48AM (#16174761) Homepage
    I wonder if this is about me. I've been the Director of Development for the past six years at Zappos.com [zappos.com], but my signature for most of that time has read "Director of Plumbing" :)

    I don't think it is about me, but maybe I'm just too much of a PHB to even know! Hey, Frustrated Dilbert, if I'm the guy you're talking about just sit down with me sometime and fill me in!


    (leaving potentially ironic signature in place)
  • Many large companies use the concept of a 360 review, where managers are reviewed by all their direct reports and some of their peers. These types of reviews are generally anonymous questionnaires, so individuals are not directly connected to comments.

    Make a friendly suggestion to your HR department that they should consider adopting this practice as it offers many benefits and helps employees feel more part of the company since they have a voice, albeit an anonymous one.

    I've seen a few ineffectual

  • I end up doing my stuff and a lot of his duties ...I was not hired for teaching my boss

    It looks you don't know if the problem is if you want a new boss or you create a problem because you want to be the boss. Make up your mind about it and act accordingly.

  • He's delegating the aspects he doesn't understand to someone more capable.

    You just need to learn to delegate your job to someone lower down the chain.
  • Find a new one. And keep in mind that your new boss probably won't be as smart as you think you are, either. So it might be best if you tried to be the boss for a while. And while you're shopping around, be sure to avoid mentioning that you left you old job because you were asked to do work that you didn't want to do. You might highlight your skill in more or less running your small IT department, tho.
  • by Zarf ( 5735 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @03:38PM (#16177409) Journal
    I can't tell you what to do. I can only give you advice. My advice may be bad advice. I don't know your business. That said here's a few points
    1. Tech isn't important. For virtually all companies technology is not all that important. Conducting business is. If tech helps make business cheaper or faster... great. If it gets in the way then it is a money sucking annoyance at best. As a grade "A" technologist you focus on first getting your tech out of the way, then on getting tech to help make business cheaper, faster, easier to conduct.
    2. Your job is to get your boss promoted. You are employed to make your boss look good. If your boss is an idiot that you simply can't make look good no matter how hard you try... get another job. Your boss' job is to get his boss promoted and so on up the chain until you hit share-holders who are in it for the money.
    3. If you out shine your boss you will get fired. Don't. You can shine, just make sure you redirect the glory to the boss power structure. This kind of brown-nosing will get noticed. Sucking glory into yourself will cause conflict.
    4. If your boss is an idiot convince him that your great ideas are his. Sometimes you do this by chatting up one of your ideas and saying what a smart person your boss is for having thought of it. If you do this be prepared to be the scape-goat if your great plan fails. Remember what your job is and do it. Your job is to get your boss promoted. He will sacrifice you to get this goal accomplished.
    5. IT is a cost sink. It completes no sales, makes no revenue, and never turns a profit. To ensure the survival of department make certain to collect very negative metrics showing huge expendatures and then show how great you are doing at cutting these costs. You must how victory even when you are being utterly defeated.
    6. Never strike a man lest you mean to kill him. Unless you really belive you can get your boss fired so fast it will make his head spin don't stop doing your job. People are smart and can see through the double talk. Or they can't and you need to keep them in the dark until you can strike the killing blow.
    7. Know your boss. Do not assume loyalty in a person who has never demonstrated it. Do not assume sentimentality. Do not assume. Know what motivates your boss' bosses. It's probably not what motivates you.
    8. Technology is about equal parts of science, math, and politics. You can't pull off tech leadership without mastering all three.
    My company is currently implementing these great ideas that my boss thought of. It is such a pleasure to be working with a genius of his caliber. I would never have considered these ideas without his guidance and insight. I am so glad to be learning these things from him. I'm so glad he thought of this... even if he can't remember when or how he did.
  • The question is, was he promoted by existing management, or by someone who's no longer there?

    If the latter, and he really "almost never" talks to upper management, i.e. he rarely schmoozes with the business managers, then he can be end-run around. In that case, even though you're not paid (yet) to do that part of his job, embrace it. Interface with upper management on IT-related strategic business decisions, thereby letting them know that, you at least, are thinking about "the big picture". Preserve your de
  • Don't undermine your immediate superior. That's just a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, make it generally known to upper management that you're going above and beyond your current job description for the good of the company. Carefully avoid casting your immediate superior in a bad while you're doing it, instead focusing on yourself and how you're contributing to the company's bottom line and strategic objectives. Pretty soon, upper management should notice your contributions and promote you, perhaps
  • You better be certain that you actually want your IT department being brought to the attention of upper management. An upper management that thinks of you as plumbing doesn't want to think of you beyond plumbing - they have much bigger fish to fry. Forcing them to have to understand what you do lowers your value considerably. Especially if you really think your IT department walks on water. Telling that directly to upper management might make you the target of interesting actions like downsizing/outsour
  • by n3tcat ( 664243 )
    I remember one of the characters in the movie Go speaking in regards to the younger generation not understanding the value of proper work ethic. He gave the example of back in the day being able to get promoted based on you being better than the guy above you. Today however, everyone bumbles along until the guy above them falls on his ass, and surprise! you're now on top.

    I've also noticed a trend in America where people seem to be promoted over and over and over due to their skill in an area until they fina
    • Work ethic? Yet you see no problem in gleaming lifes lessons from a movie you once saw?

      Perhaps what you are seeing is related to people realizing that they are treated as expendable. That the 'ethic' you percieve as having eroded, has simply changed based on more information the individual has about their own place in the world.

      Back in the day, people used to work for one company, and get one pension. And they ACTUALLY got that pension. However, in the recent past up to today, most companies use their e

  • Do you have annual performance reviews? If so, that's your opportunity to play up your responsibilities. Take a look at your boss's job description, and pretend that description is an organizational description. Document how you're meeting those "objectives".

    But chiefly, as others have said, do your job well despite the problems. If your boss isn't doing anything for you, then ignore him. He is irrelevant. It will be clear to your clients that you're the person to go to, not him, and that will eventua
  • Why not talk to your boss about it, and help him out as a partner? It doesnt have to be 'you against him', you are both in it for the same thing. Treat it as such.

Given its constituency, the only thing I expect to be "open" about [the Open Software Foundation] is its mouth. -- John Gilmore