Considering an offer to manage an IT department

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Considering an offer to manage an IT department- the article. 3

Introduction. 7

Considering an offer to manage an IT department 9

Conclusion. 13

Vocabulary. 14

Considering an offer to manage an IT department

Tuesday May 23, 2006 (08:00 AM GMT)
 By: John Murray

Congratulations - you've received an offer to manage an IT department. Having worked hard to get that offer, your natural tendency is to accept. Not so fast!

Too often, candidates for an IT management position focuses on the wrong aspects of the job. Concerns with compensation, status, power, and control and the size of the department's budget receive an inordinate amount of attention. While those items are important, they should not obscure some less obvious but equally important issues.

Consider that the people making the offer want to bring in someone to solve their immediate IT management problems. In an effort to solve those problems, they may present an unrealistic picture of the existing situation.

One aspect of employer anxiety is to tend to minimize the extent of problems, and to gloss over subtle difficulties. When questioned, they may say things like, "We just feel it is time to bring in someone new," or "A need exists to become more fully engaged with the technology." Such answers may themselves be symptoms of problems.

Of course, failing to provide an accurate picture of the status of the problems may not be the result of an attempt to minimize them; perhaps the people presenting the issues do not have a clear understanding of everything that is wrong. In any event, many IT managers have found, after accepting a position, that their organization's problems are more serious than originally presented. Uncovering serious problems after coming on board increases the management challenge and adds to the risk of failure. Therefore, probing more deeply into the organization's reasons for bringing in a new manager represents a sound pre-employment strategy.

However, digging for answers prior to accepting an offer to manage an IT department presents a dilemma. You may be concerned that too much questioning may embarrass the potential employer and cause the offer to be withdrawn. But if you fail to get answers to pertinent questions, you may find yourself in an even worse position. Honesty and candor on the part of all the parties involved will lead to the best outcome.

Pushing for answers can also provide some insight into the culture of the organization. Every organization has a unique culture, and the more you understand about the company culture prior to agreeing to join the organization, the better. A prospective manager who understands the culture can determine whether he feels comfortable and can operate effectively in that climate.

Taking the time to uncover the issues involved

The following are examples of issues that can affect a new IT manager's success or failure. This is not a comprehensive list, but it represents some areas to explore.

·  Why did the former manager leave? Was the reason a lack of overall competence? Was it an inability to get along with people, the IT staff, the IT customers, or senior management? Was it due to a failure to develop and drive a vision for the IT department?

·  Can you talk to people in the departments served by IT in order to obtain a broad perspective of the issues involved?

·  Has the organization's senior management developed a mandate for the IT department? Does it have a mission statement that informs people throughout the organization about the IT function and its goals? If neither of those documents exists, is management in favor of having such documents developed and published?

·  Does senior management view IT as a tool to move the organization forward, or simply as a necessity?

·  Is there a feeling that IT "costs too much" and that the organization would benefit from a reduction in IT expense? If senior management sees the cost of IT as too high, ask to do a review of those expenses to determine the validity of the claim.

·  Does senior management recognize what improvements a new IT manager is expected to make, and will they support what needs to be done to make the required changes?

Posing such questions may create a negative reaction on the part of the person offering the job. If that happens, point out that covering those issues prior to accepting the job will help avoid problems in the future. If, after making that statement, the employer continues to have difficulty, it is probably time to break off the conversation. When a prospective employer fails to see the value in a candid discussion about what has gone wrong, it should provide clues about why the position is open.

Assessing support

Where bringing in a new IT manager is necessary, it follows that some level of change within the department is going to be required. Simply bringing in a new manager and leaving everything else as it was sets the new manager up for failure. Therefore, one of the first issues you should consider has to do with the level of management awareness of the requirement to make changes, and the level of willingness to support the needed changes. Guessing at the answer to that question can be difficult and can present serious future problems. The best approach is to come right out and ask about management's willingness to provide adequate levels of support for IT.

Increased support can mean different things to different people, so ask the prospective employer about specific fiscal levels of increased support. The answer will provide some insight into how much the employer really understands about the current condition of the IT department, and it provides an assessment of the employer's willingness to provide adequate funding to bring the department up to speed.

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