The story so far:
- It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 1 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)
- It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 2 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)
- It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 3 -- by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd)
- It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 4 -- by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd)
- It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 5 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)
- It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 6 -- by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd)
- It's Not Always The Network! Or is it? Part 7 -- by John Herbert (jgherbert)
As 2016 draws to a close, Amanda finds that there's always still room for the unexpected. Here's the eighth—and final—installment, by Tom Hollingsworth (networkingnerd).
The View From The Top: James (CEO)
The past year has been interesting to say the least. We had a great year overall as a company and hit all of our sales goals. Employee morale seems to be high and we're ready to push forward with some exciting new initiatives as soon as we get through the holidays. I think one thing that has really stood out to me as a reason for our success is the way in which our IT staff has really started shining.
Before, I just saw IT as a cost center of the business. They kept asking for more budget to buy things that were supposed to make the business run faster and better, but we never saw that. Instead, we saw the continual issues that kept popping up that caused our various departments to suffer delays and, in some cases, real work stoppages. I knew that I had to make a change and get everyone on board.
Bringing Amanda into a leadership position was one of the best decisions I could have made. She took the problematic network and really turned it around. She took the source of all our problems and made it the source of all the solutions to them. Her investment in the right tools really helped speed along resolution time on the major issues we faced.
I won't pretend that all the problems in this business will ever go away. But I think I'm starting to see that developing the right people along the way can do a great job of making those problems less impactful to our business.
The View From The Trenches: Amanda (Sr Network Manager)
Change freezes are the best time of the year. No major installations or work mean maintenance tickets only ... and a real chance for us all to catch our breath. This year was probably one of the most challenging that I've ever had in IT. Getting put in a leadership role was hard. I couldn't keep my head down and plug away at the issues. I had to keep everyone in the loop and keep working toward finding ways to fix problems and keep the business running at the same time.
One thing that helped me more than I could have ever realized was getting the right tools in place. Too often in the past, I found myself just guessing at solutions to issues based on my own experiences. As soon as I faced a problem that I hadn't seen before, my level of capability was reset to zero and I had to start from scratch. By getting the tools that gave me the right information about the problems, I was able to reduce the time it took to get things resolved. That made the stakeholders happy. And when I shared those tools with other IT departments, they were able to resolve issues quickly as well, which meant the network stopped getting blamed for every little thing that went wrong.
I think in the end my biggest lesson was that IT needs to support the business. Sales, accounting, and all the other areas of this company all have a direct line into the bottom line. IT has always been more about providing support at a level that's hard to categorize. I know that James and the board would always groan when we asked for more budget to do things, but we did it because we could see the challenges that needed to be solved. By finding a way to equate those challenges to business issues and framing the discussion around improving processes and making us more revenue, I think James has finally started to realize how important it is for IT to be a part of the bigger picture.
That's not to say there aren't challenges today. I've already seen how we need to have some proper change control methods around here. My networking team has already implemented these ideas, and I plan on getting the CTO to pass them around to the other departments as well. Another thing that I think is critical based on my workload is getting the various teams here to train across roles. I saw it first hand when James would call me for a network issue that ended up being a part of the storage or virtualization team. I learned a lot about those technologies as I helped troubleshoot. They aren't all that different from what we do. I think a little cross training for every team would go a long way in helping us pinpoint issues when they come up instead of dumping the problem on the nearest friendly face.
The View From The Middle
James called Amanda to his office. She went in feeling hopeful and looking forward to the new year. James and Amanda sat down with one of the other Board members to discuss some items related to Amanda's desire to cross-train the departments, as well as improving change controls and documentation. James waited until Amanda had gone through her list of discussion items. Afterwards, he opened with, "These are some great ideas Amanda, and I know you want to bring them to the CTO. However, I just got word from him that he's going be moving on at the end of the year to take a position in a different company. You're one of the first people outside the Board to know."
Amanda was a bit shocked by this. She had no idea the CTO was ready to move on. She said, "That's great for him! Leaves us in a bit of a tough spot though. Do you have someone in mind to take his spot? Mike has been here for quite a while and would make a great candidate." James chuckled as he glanced over at the Board member in the room. He offered, "I told you she was going to suggest Mike. You owe me $5."
James turned back to Amanda and said, "I know that Mike has been here for quite a while. He's pretty good at what he does but I don't think he's got what it takes to make it as the CTO. He's still got that idea that the storage stuff is the most important part of this business. He can't see past the end of his desk sometimes." James continued, "No, I think we're going to be opening up applications for the CTO position outside the company. There are some great candidates out there that have some experience and ideas that could be useful to the company."
Amanda nodded her head in agreement with James's idea.
James then said, "However, that doesn't fix our problem of going without a CTO in the short term. We need someone that has proven that they have visibility across the IT organization; that they can respond well to problems and get them fixed while also having the ability to keep the board updated on the situation."
James grinned widely as he slid a folder across the table to Amanda. He said, "That's why the board and I want you to step in as the Interim CTO until we can finish interviewing candidates. Those are some big shoes to fill, but you have our every confidence. You also have the support of the IT department heads. After the way you helped them with the various problems throughout the year, they agreed that they would like to work with you for the time being. We’ll get some professional development scheduled for you as soon as possible. If you’re going to be overseeing the CTO’s office for now, we want to help you succeed with the kind of training that you’ll need. It’s not something you get fixing networks every day, but you’ll find it useful in your new role when dealing with the other department heads."
Amanda was speechless. It took her a few moments to find her own words. She thanked James profusely. She said, "Thank you for this! I think it's going to be quite the challenge but I know that I can help you keep the IT department working while you interview for a new CTO. I won't let you down."
James replied, "That's exactly what I wanted to hear. And I fully expect to see your application in the pile as well. There's nothing stopping us for taking that "interim" title away if you're the right person for the job. Show us what you're capable of and we'll evaluate you just like the other candidates. Your experience so far shows that you've got a lot of the talents that we're looking for."
As Amanda stood up to leave with her new title and duties, James called after her, "Thanks for being a part of our team Amanda. You've done a great job around here and helped show me that it's not always the network."