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Its Goal Setting Time…How Are You Measuring Your Value?

Community Manager

If your company is anything like SolarWinds, you’ve probably been going through the annual goal-setting process with your management team.  In many functions, this is relatively straight forward.  Sales sets goals based on quota, marketing based on creating demand, engineering based on product development and delivery, etc…  But, how do you in IT quantify the value you provide to the organization and therefore determine your goals?  Is it reliability, SLAs, cost control, customer satisfaction, something else?  Or, are you in such a firefighter mode that you never actually get to set goals and objectives?  Share with us some of your goals for the upcoming year and how you measure your value to your company.

43 Comments

We're understaffed enough that we spend too much time dealing with schedules and projects; there isn't enough time to be setting goals and getting training, so we rely on our department Manager for that.

Certifications, job accomplishments, reduced outages . . .  nothing seems to impact H.R.'s assessment of our value to the company, despite kudo's from the boss.  H.R. sets our salary figures based on similar sized health care organizations in our area (there aren't any), and keeps our salaries in the center of the pay range they discover.  Sigh.  It's good pay for Duluth and Fargo, but you hear about other organizations in bigger cities that offer more.  Happily, the quality of life here is great--no traffic, clean air, good people, lots of lakes with clean water, plenty of snow, plenty of sun, plenty of fish, and plenty of fun.  What more could one ask?

We work hard, make a difference, and keep health care costs low while ensuring Five Nines of up time.

Because we reliably perform well, because our Solarwinds deployment gives us the veracity needed to prove we know what we're doing, and because Management understands that The Info Highway relies on its Department Of Transportation Engineers, we get all the budget for hardware and designs that we request.

That's a huge responsibility.  It could be so easy to bite off more than we can chew--just five guys doing all the Network Support for 14,000 users in a hundred hospitals and clinics and business offices in across three states; that's too few people to have time to make awesome design changes without an awesome Network Architect leading us.  We had one; he did amazing work and then moved on to even bigger pastures.

We're following his excellent designs and policies, using his custom tools, and relying on compliance checking from NCM to ensure we have great consistency and the right configurations to go the distance.

This year our goals are to:

  • Replace up to 300 routers and switches in a hundred network rooms (as part of a 6-year never-ending equipment refreshment plan)
  • Migrate from Nexus to ACI in our data centers
  • Replace multiple Campus Distribution 6509 VSS chassis switch pairs with VSS 6807's
  • Replace data center / WAN core VSS pairs running on 7609s or 6509's with Nexus 7009's
  • Expand our WLAN from 2000 AP's to 3000 (running on brand new resilient 8540's)
  • Migrate from Sidewinder firewalls to Cisco's
  • Deploy a new method of providing Electronic Medical Health Care services to new businesses
  • Expand our network support team number

Maybe--if I'm really lucky--I'll find some success in breaking down the silo walls between Networks and Systems and Apps and DBA's.  I'm hoping to leverage my MVP NFR licenses to promote that single-pane-of-glass solution and develop a new position that works closely with the other teams--an overall Systems Monitoring position that benefits the customers and the I.T. teams.

I love praise and recognition, and when I can't get it via something bigger than a cost-of-living raise, I turn to Thwack for the only other quantifiable measurement of my accomplishments and value.  The value of points can't be discounted, and positive votes and remarks encourage me to contribute more--they make me feel appreciated and fill a gap that H.R. isn't filling.   Yet!   ;^)

MVP
MVP

We mainly measure goals via SLA's. Of Course our Customer satisfaction rating is thrown into the factor also. The happy our customers are the better.

MVP
MVP

I've been in this field for a long time - I remember storage on cassette tapes - and as with most operations we are understaffed and so often putting out fires. So, goal setting generally comes from above us as far as projects are concerned. I try to keep a list of short term things that I want to accomplish, but not much in long term.

On a totally different front I have come to learn that in this field we generally garner our value from what we accomplish - or Do. I'm really working to change that dynamic in most of my life to be about who I am rather than what I do. It's about really becoming a human BEing rather than a human Doing.

Level 12

Our goal for the Infrastructure Team here is to simply survive the next two years without burning out or killing each other.

We are in the process of building a whole new hospital on a new site a few miles down the road. The steel is up and they are starting to frame it all in now. We move into the building next August in 2018. We already have equipment rolling in that we have purchased for it that we are just sitting on and storing at the moment.

It is frustrating when the building designers and the business put their stamp of approval on the building, and then we learned they didn't put a data center in it. I heard that was a pretty rough meeting to be in for just about everyone in the room. We are not big enough to have an off site data center, so it needs to be in the main facility. Except the building designers just assumed we would have one off site and didn't bother putting one in. That also means there was no money allotted for one. So as a result of this, IT is using significantly more space then we were supposed to, and we are way over budget.

In basically a couple of weeks a little while ago we got nailed with three huge issues.

The first was the Avaya chapter 11 announcement. We are currently an Avaya shop and planned to be one going forward. Now we need to reassess the whole thing.

The second was the main person we had been working with for years with our main Support Vendor left the company. We had all our server and systems support through this company, and this one person managed all of it any time we needed support. They are also the company we planned on using to do a lot of the server installs and initial setups and moves and everything else. So that whole thing is up in the air now.

The third is we got a solid top that Cisco is going to announce End of Sale for the 6800 line of cores soon. When Cisco does that, they usually put a five year timer on the product and when it hits zero, they End of Life the product. They are switching their focus to the Nexus 7700 line and adding core functionality to that to make it suitable for both data centers and core systems. We had planned on going with 6800's for our new cores, but by the time we are in the new building, there will only be 4 years left until they are End of Life. No one here has ever worked with Nexus before, so we get to learn that whole system from the ground up in just over a year.

So yeah, our days are interesting right now. It is a constant fight day in and day out it seems. But one day at a time.

Each year I like to give my team three type of goals: Technical, Organizational, and "Soft" goals. This applies for training for the year, "All Technical makes Jack a dull boy!"

I also setup short-term goals: Make an improvement, any improvement, over 3 months: technical, procedural, documentation, certification. Mid-term: 1-year. Long-term: multi-year.

Some of my proudest moments as a manager is that I've helped multiple associates achieve their Masters degrees and advanced certifications in their fields while leveraging our employer's tuition reimbursement and training budget.

You wrote:  " I've helped multiple associates achieve their Masters degrees and advanced certifications in their fields . . ."

You're my hero!

Level 12

I wish more businesses and employers worked the way you do things!!!

Level 14

Peter you are the definition of a great leader.

Level 10

Can i please come work for you?

Level 13

We do performance based budgeting...so my budget has to align with the strategic plan, mission, values, or goals...if it doesn't align with one of these, then why are we doing it or spending money on it?

Every 3 or 4 years, depending on how long the strategic plan is for, I meet with the C-Suite (I'm not at that table yet, but at least they listen to my ideas), to help shape the strat plan. I then go back and create my long and short term plan, along with high level project names, such as "green initiatives" and put in a desired outcome at the end of the strat plan date (this current one is from 2017-2020). I then break this down into specific items and detailed projects to help get me to the outcome.

A very time consuming process for budgeting, but, touch wood, I've never had to go back to rework my budget numbers.

Of all the options available to measure your value, don't make the mistake of comparing your hours & income to anyone else.

If I work 60 hours a week and gross $50K or $100K, and I look at an administrator who works the same hours and brings home $600K - $2M, I'll have just thought my way into a dark room with few passages out.

On the one hand, an hour out of my life spent working for pay is equivalent to the hour out of someone else's life work is paid for their work.  On the other hand, someone else may have skills for which an employer is willing to pay more.  Or someone else may be more aggressive/successful at salary negotiation.  Or maybe they're just in an industry that's growing like crazy.

We each only have so many hours in our lives, and each hour is precious--more so as we approach the end of our lives.

Better to avoid the path to depression-through-salary-comparison and focus on those things that fulfill us, since rarely might we receive compensation equal to our true value in the eyes of all.

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Level 20

One goal for me is to get us onto the latest NPM, SAM, and NTA so I can start using perfstack, better appstack, and and new traffic end to end graphing functionality.

About 10 years ago my wife and I experienced a very traumatic event. It required both of us, at a moment's notice, to take an extended time off from work. Both of our bosses, and companies, were extremely supportive and helpful during this difficult time and we are both eternally grateful for this. We both recognized the generosity and empathy of our bosses and employers that we each agreed that we owed it to them to pay it forward. We took to heart the belief that a manager's/leader's most important function is to help others develop themselves.

MVP
MVP

I upgraded about 6 modules this past week and it went really well. I'd encourage you to "Get right on that."

MVP
MVP

Agreed. Management always says that their most important asset is their people. It's good to see that they lived it out for you.

Level 14

Words to live by Peter, it is a great legacy that you will leave.

I have always approached my job as a manager in several ways:

1. A BS umbrella

2. They are most valiable asset. Treat them as such.

3. Despite evidence to the contrary at times.... the people on your team are successful in their own lives outside of work.

4. Good, bad or indifferent, your team can make you or break you.

Level 14

rschroeder​,

I don't typically inject my opinion when it's not asked for, but I've heard rumors from 3 different vendors that Cisco has halted development on the 6800's. I have a VSS pair already and when I started looking for a few more, I was basically talked out it and told to look at 4500s. I don't understand all the sales politics that go on behind the scenes, and have no facts of my own to support the claims, but I trust the sources. You might want to ask around before investing so much money on a tech that might be going away.

Again, no facts of my own, only claims from trusted sources,

D

Thanks, I did hear this rumor from another client, and have queried my Cisco SE.

Who hasn't replied to my query.  Yet.

Fingers crossed, but we use a 6-year hardware replacement plan.  Putting those 6807's in now (at the recommendation of our VAR) won't hurt us even if the End-of-Sale is next year since End-of-Support won't be at least until 2023, and that'll be time for another round of hardware replacements.

Goals....keeping people motivated while they do the same for me.

Family

Sixteen days ago my wife had a knee replacement.  Keeping her up, moving, taken care of and motivated is a challenge.  She is almost to the point that the new knee is better than the old!

Friends

Helping my friends keep focused on their goals.  I am encouraging one to get their MBA and have it all lined up before the Fall semester starts.  Others could use other training and skills to keep fresh.

Personal

I received my CISSP in February and have now embarked on Cloud/Security training.  I have 15 of the 40 CPE's needed to maintain my CISSP on the books.

Yesterday, I was voted on the Board of Directors of a local non-profit that is Security/Law Enforcement focused.  Now let's get them growing and keep them on task.

I fired up a "Raspberry Pi Zero W" yesterday at my desk and plan to build a drip irrigation system for my garden out of the Pi and a 330-gallon rain harvesting system I put in last year.  I love the smell of soldering in the morning.

RT

P.S. Keep busy my friends.

Level 9

I heard the same thing recently while quoting for a project....

How do you in IT quantify the value you provide to the organization and therefore determine your goals?

We have a few qualitative metrics that we use to determine the effectiveness of certain processes and programs.  Uptime, helpdesk data and Red Team Scanning come to mind as good examples.  As a company, more work is being done to view and understand the metrics that help us bring value.

Is it reliability, SLAs, cost control, customer satisfaction, something else?

Cost control is always important overall as well as internal and external customer satisfaction information.  Most take the reliability of systems for granted.  Think about the Amazon S3 issue.  Now when the primary and secondary circuits fail cutting off part of the network, people just lose it.  It is not like the old TV commercial about the "network is down" and people get a bagel.

Are you in such a firefighter mode that you never actually get to set goals and objectives?

I feel we are moving out of Firefighter mode more and more.  What started the trend was the adoption of SolarWinds Orion as a monitoring platform.

I'm hardcore self-motivated; I don't know how else to be.

I try to keep up on general IT news and trends and generally plan to be waiting for the puck to arrive. This doesn't always work because Government is not always on the bleeding edge, or...on the edge.

To quantify my organizational value, I've been trying to build what I'm calling the "Value Correlation Matrix".

Its not something I've been super successful with yet cause I don't have control or visibility to everyone's activities but I think something like this is valuable, though the math is a bit fuzzy for the hardcore number crunchers - it could also be improved.

Basically:

  • Any fault states our monitoring infrastructure has been able to successfully identify and/or mitigate gets tagged
    • (These are sometimes [because I can't force people to do this] captured as incidents/tickets [this doesn't always happen] that seem to hold much more intrinsic value to stakeholders than just charting a "notated" incident, I don't know why.)
  • Roughly estimating
    • How many people it would take to resolve the issue
    • An average "Hourly" rate of each of those people
    • A base or Mean Time to Resolution per issue category/solution
    • How many end-users are affected
    • An average "Hourly" rate of each of the end-user
  • Combining these against other known High-Impact incidents that were not accounted for in monitoring (for various reasons I'm not going into lol)
  • Result showing Cost-Benefit when High-Impact incidents occur

The other method I've been working towards has to do with tying down accurate metrics, KPIs, and Alerts Fired which in my environment is a larger sign of monitoring utilization - but these aren't fully developed either.

Day-to-day keeps me rocking and rolling enough that these haven't bubbled up from the backlog yet.

I try to use the "Agile Results" method to organize my "working" sprints - week-to-week; I've found it very helpful.

http://agile-results.com/

Level 20

That great news Richard... I think I'm finally ready to take the plunge and hearing from people like you that it went alright is a HUGE plus!

Level 8

We have the project to create monitoring dashboard by service.

So that we can provide a better line of monitoring for our customers.

Best regards.

Level 10

Yes, we recently requested a tech refresh for a building, and the Cisco Rep also told us to reutilize and upgrade the 4500s that we have. It was an interesting conversation.

Level 7

How long did that take?

MVP
MVP

I took my time and spread it out over a couple of days (just to leave time for other work) I'd estimate putting about 10 hours into it total. After each update I would run the configuration wizard, just to keep things clean. The wizard was the longest part - and I always tell it not to do that final web optimization piece, that can take a lot of additional time. It's a little bit of a juggling act as I have a primary SolarWinds server, a SolarWinds SQL server, a flat file server for NTA and an additional Poller server. Overall pretty painless, just brush up on your patience and juggling skills.

Level 9

For the first 5 months of this year we have been shorthanded in our department.  Though each of us have different responsibilities,  we have for the past few months been stepping more into the technical support role and trying to  keep up with tickets, outages, equipment issues, etc.  We try to plan our days with what we want to accomplish,  but usually that's not the way it goes.

Fortunately, we have just hired a new person and our department is fully staffed again.  I hope we will be able to focus on individual goals (such as my quest for CCNA certification) as well as departmental and company goals once the newbie is trained. We have so much planned - moving our main data center,a major remodel of our facility, which will include new laptops for 90 users, new antivirus software, a new backup solution -   and last but certainly not least, installing the Solarwinds DPA!!

Thanks,

I did learn that the 6807's are slated for end of sale in the near future.  However, I have four in place now, and their end of life/support won't come before my corporate hardware lifecycle replacement process retires these four, so we're good.  Thanks for the info!

MVP
MVP

What do you do with your old equipment - I've been trying for 3 years to get the hospital to get rid of our last upgrade and it's all still here.

Level 13

I'm a huge believer in goals, goal setting, measurement, etc.  At the moment I use bits of the S.M.A.R.T. system (which I honestly never really liked) and OKRs (see Google, John Doerr, Intel Andy Grove) with a bit of just my own take on things.

To me if you can't demonstrate tangible bottom line value, you're not needed.  We have "keeping the lights on" goals and "stretch" goals (like implementing new features or major upgrades).

In addition I have a bunch of personal development goals.

Note: write them down.  be specific.  If it isn't written in such a way that it is very clear whether you accomplished the goal or didn't, then it's not a goal, it's a dream or wish or something else.

We trade it in towards new gear.  If it's obsolete and has no value, I wipe the configs and send it off to a local recycler who tears it down to component level to recover gold, silver, and copper, which they resell.  The rest is broken down for the metal value and recycled that way.  The circuit boards are considered hazardous waste, and are disposed appropriately.  Anything reusable is likely separated and sold on a used market by this vendor.

My apologies, Richard, for not seeing your question three months back.  My bad!

Space is too precious, even in our warehouses, to let old gear collect dust.  Sell it as quickly as possible so you can get at least something from it, even if it must go to third-world hospitals.  For years we had a sister-hospital arrangement with an impoverished health care system in central Africa.  When we had equipment that was retired, but still ran, we shipped it to them and they were grateful for anything they could get that could be integrated into their network and provide "new" functionality for their providers and patients.  I sent them a LOT of Nortel gear, when Nortel was still producing a good product.  They were even happy to get our old Synoptics hubs!

MVP
MVP

I've been trying for 3 years to get rid of literally a room full of Cisco equipment including a couple of big chassis. We get a little traction, I pull all the model numbers and values and it dies. Can you imagine how much value is lost in 3 years of sitting in a room. Alas, now we have retired our Aruba equipment and I'm building a stash of that because we are going to "sell it."

MVP
MVP

Would you believe ... if the media does not cover us, we are good to go!!!   I am in a very difficult situation, that suits me well.

I started here 6 years ago.  The network needed attention, they did not really have any internal monitoring, it was a full Cisco Shop, and we were paying a 3rd party to keep an eye on interfaces and remote site connectivity.  I was fully supported by management! (not too many people can say this).  I crawled thru every wire, and began my own adventure.  I am not a success by myself!!! I used folks like THWACK, personal contacts, and worked with a pretty special Engineer from Presidio.

As of November 2017, we are totally Virtual both server and client.  By March 2018, I should be replicating data to a new DR site with capabilities to recover in about 15 minutes.

Now, talk about goals!!!   I am totally motivated, and although I work in a Government setting, I do what it takes to get the job  done.  Now technology is an infinite game, so there will never be an end.  I take my job very seriously, and am motivated to keep pushing the bar.  I had no idea that I would be working with Software Defined Networks; I was gong to retire before I had to learn that!!!!! HA!!!   I have evolved with the times, and I can't believe what I have accomplished.  What a life I am leading now!!!  

For the last 6 years, I have created my job, and the success can be measured in how well the job was executed, and how we never dropped a 911 call during the cut over event to a new facility!    It is unfortunate that no one can manage me.   I keep my hands in everything, and my goals are driven by what needs to be done!

I was presented a brand new facility to build from the ground up; I am pretty amazed how it all turned out!   I am in a totally different world than most of you, as there is no one here to lead or drive me.  There is no one here to tell me to get back to work!   I am determined to do the right thing for our community!   It does take a special person to stay focused, working for a government institution, and trying to do good!

My goals this year!  Start writing governance, so that I can deploy better security rules!

"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand." Vince Lombardi

Level 11

Yes, we do goals and performance management. I'm not fond of the process as it is somewhat artificial and many seem to game the system. After 30 years here, my 5 year/long term goals are quickly turning into exercises in ways to creatively say retire sooner than later.

MVP
MVP

jeremyxmentzell I love your attitued!

Level 9

More goals are a little more sales based since I am in purchasing. Although, I do have training goals thrown in there - we generally have similar goals each year.

I put a new query out and got a nice response from a few vendors interested in buying our old Cisco equipment.  They've been picking up 2960S switches as I replace them with 3850's lately, and the price has been better than simply sending the hardware to the recycler.

It used to be that Cisco would buy the gear back from us; that wasn't the case in the latest project of swapping 300+ 2960S switches for 3850's.

Still, we're getting 75% off MSRP for the 3850's, AND we're selling the old 2960S switches to a different vendor, so it works out well.

MVP
MVP

I am laughing.... my value will be determined after my vacation.  I am taking 23 days to whitewater raft the Colorado River thru the Grand Canyon.  No TECHNOLOGY !!!  A SAT phone to call if we have a human emergency, not for calling in to check or supporting my job!!

I am trying to get everyone ready; it will be "neat" to come back... I know that they will miss me!

Level 20

That should be a crazy rafting experience!

Level 9

My department has the same goals every year - the content of each goal changes though. I.E. that training's we need to complete.

Level 11

I have yet to set a yearly goal for my site and my team. At the moment we are only really able to set daily goals as the customer need varies day to day. One day we could have little to nothing going on and just get caught backup with things we set the day before or the week before. And the next day all heck will break look and we are running around like crazy fixing things.

What will today bring????

Level 12

My work center has the same goal every year, with very little variation and it's typically: keep the ship afloat.

Not a real innovative bunch.