We're all prone to mistakes. Even as developers, planning, managing and building an app is a sequence of more or less harmless (or not) mistakes. But, when you're the one in charge with enterprise technology, strategic gaffes might just take your whole career down the hill. And even the company along with it. So: which are the biggest IT management mistakes that, as a leader, you really don't want to make?
Let me briefly touch upon just some of the most common ones (I'll be digging into details in a bit):
- hurrying the recruitment process and hiring the wrong people
- promoting the wrong employees
- becoming dependent on a vendor that you can no longer free yourself of
- ignoring serious problems (e.g. poor team communication) or hiding them away from management
And now, let me expose these 5 IT leadership mistakes that you would never want to make:
1. Promoting the Wrong Internal Talent
In other words: select your internal candidates for promotion WISELY.
For if, in theory, promoting from within your organization has proven an excellent policy, you need to:
- be 100% sure that that employee truly wants to be promoted: some might feel like they're being forced to climb their career path and taken away from doing what they really love to do
- promote for all the good reasons (and promoting someone just to confirm yourself that you're a good leader isn't one of them)
- closely evaluate that potential candidate's progress and gather strong proofs of his/her skills and competencies needed for the new position (a rock-star developer doesn't automatically make a fantastic tech lead, as well)
But let us take a closer look at the most common wrong reasons that you might risk to fall into this IT leadership pitfall:
- you promote an employee only to feel good about yourself that you're a great manager
- you reward an internal talent's loyalty (and his loyalty only) with a promotion
- you open up a new career path to someone who's reluctant to leave his/her current position or just doesn't feel ready yet to climb the career ladder
And now that we've identified the causes behind this IT leadership gaffe, one of the most common IT management mistakes, after all, let me give you some solutions, as well.
A few tips on how to tackle the process of promoting from within:
- put together some sort of a framework where the internal candidates that you "target" for promotion get closely monitored by their supervisors; their progress and initiative get attentively evaluated
- ... and are given the right guidance so that they can advance in their work
- after you've promoted a given employee, keep monitoring him/her; provide him/her the same level of support and constructive feedback
In conclusion: take your time to analyze thoroughly all the reasons that you base an employee's promotion on.
2. Becoming Trapped in Single-Vendor Scheme
Or briefly put: vendor lock-in.
"IT managers start out with good intentions, but before they know it, the vendor is not replaceable and has significant control of IT assets and tremendous pricing leverage." (notes Andrew Howard, CTO at Kudelski Security for CIO.com)
Resist the temptation to "fall for" a vendor's promises and irresistibly low prices! For once he's got you "trapped", stepping out of this relationship isn't going to be simple.
By giving in you put your environment at risk since almost every vendor would try to:
- infiltrate itself in
- rapidly expand inside your environment
3. Putting Your Core IT Systems at Risk by Applying Agile Methodology
Striving to keep up with the faced-paced business world? And how do you cope, as a CIO, with the ever-growing demands of speed and agility?
Do the cloud services "lure you in"?
Now, no matter how tempted you might be to go for agile delivery mechanisms for your core IT systems, as well, just like you would for your business systems:
- using micro-services
- "joggling with" Docker containers
... do think twice before risking to put your core system at a major risk!
Because applying agile delivery mechanisms to those key systems that you're in charge with — emails, back-office apps, ERP — can severely impact hem.
Instead, you, the IT manager, should keep a steady control of the core IT systems and not rely on an agile methodology: change control differs a lot in case of core systems.
And how can you avoid falling into this trap, one of those top mistakes that IT managers do in their jobs?
Draw and enforce a strict line between:
- your business systems, where an agile methodology can easily be applied
- and your core systems, where changes should be more rigorously monitored and kept under control
Word of caution: don't expect it to be easy! Drawing this strong boundary and keeping it is going to be a major challenge for you, the IT manager divided between:
- the increasing demand for agility
- the need for prudence and for methodical changes to be applied to the core systems
4. Ignoring Vulnerabilities/Hiding Problems from Your Manager
Problematic issues and unexpected vulnerabilities do happen during a project's lifecycle, no matter how much prevention you might apply (you can influence their number, but not their occurrence).
So, what do you do when you "hit the wall" during a project's development process:
- A. You bury the detected weaknesses of the project until someone notices them (and hope that no one ever will). You hide the detected problem trying to get it fixed somehow, "undercover", within your team. God forbid the CFO ever finds out about it!
- B. You signal the issue to your manager right away and rush to repair the project and to get it back on track ASAP.
And the outcomes of each one of these 2 possible scenarios:
- A. You risk losing management's trust and your credibility. And this is also one of the biggest IT management mistakes, that could cost you your position, as well.
- B. You stand a whole lot more chances to recover the project and to get it completed within the deadline.
5. Being Reluctant to Delegate: One of the Big IT Management Mistakes
Get over your reluctance to delegate tasks! Your "paranoia" that the moment you ask for support the whole project will collapse only leads to:
- burn out and loads of stress
- a discouragingly heavy workload
- less time to focus on your core responsibilities
Instead, wisely choose the people to whom you pass over some of your workloads and self-insure your team with .... confidence. Encourage them to develop new skills.
The ability to delegate is what makes the difference between average and great managers.
The END! These are the 5 IT management mistakes that, as a CIO, you definitely don't want to make. What other gaffes — be them just embarrassing and harmless or extremely serious — would you add to this top?