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Hiring the Right IT Guy: A Vital Component in IT Success For Your Business
by Charles L. Nault

 
       
   

If you are a typical company, your IT department doesn’t understand your business, thinks it is doing a better job than everyone else in your company thinks it is doing, does not like to communicate with you and when it does it tends to talk in language you can’t understand – and then tends to make you feel inferior for not understanding. However, with a small amount of effort, you can boost your IT department in a way that will procure company-wide benefits in IT.  If you have the money to place a competent person in charge of IT, there are attributes that this person must possess if he or she is going to lead in a way that is effective for your business.

In small to medium businesses, IT managers and IT guys have risen to the position after having done most of the IT work and built up a staff as the company has grown (assuming the company has grown). Look at whoever is leading your IT efforts and take stock of the attributes that he or she brings to the table. An interesting side note on this issue is that the Society of Information Management’s 2008 list of 30 books that IT leaders absolutely must read contained just one book that had anything to do at all with technology and instead focused more on non-technical attributes. The best IT leaders should have some combination of a number of the following personality traits and attributes:

  1. A passionate desire and ability to understand your business, your strategy, and your value to your customers.

  2. An understanding of the economic engine that drives the profitability of your business.

  3. Humility.

  4. Integrity.

  5. Vision.

  6. A clear ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.

It is no accident that the majority of these attributes have a lot more to do with non-technical skills than with technical skills. The most effective companies have the most effective IT led by the most effective managers. It doesn’t matter if the people they are managing are on their staff, or are people they trust outside of their company.

The first two attributes are the ones least understood as IT leadership attributes. This is where your thinking changes if you currently view IT as a necessary expense. It is a necessary expense, no doubt about it. IT is both necessary, and expensive: all the more reason for doing it right. The person who leads your IT efforts has to start with the roadmap of your business. How did your business get where it is? Where are you going and why? What will it take to get there? How can IT support or even accelerate that plan?

The IT manager must also know exactly how you make money. What are the critical activities that produce profit for your company (your economic engine)? Remember “Activity Based Costing” in your managerial accounting classes? If your IT manager doesn’t understand that concept and how it pertains to your business, you need to fix that. If you’re bringing someone new in, he also must understand it. I’ve done some general business consulting that was not centered on IT and in every case I have started there: what activities make the most money for your business, followed by how can you do more of them, and less of everything else? Your IT manager must understand that and then look at the ways in which technology can enhance those activities. The only way that he or she can be an effective member of your technology council is if he or she is armed with this knowledge.

The next two attributes should pertain to every hire in your company:  humility and integrity. By “humility” I do not mean that he ought to be a wimp. On the contrary, he should be extremely confident in his ability to get the job done. It is important that he not be conceited and boastful about it. Cocky technicians tend to intimidate others with their knowledge and have a really hard time relating to those who do not know what they know.  It is not easy to find this combination of attributes in anyone, let alone in a technical person. I will say that in my experience, integrity is a very common attribute in technical folks. Sometimes they are honest to a fault, so the communication skills are also quite critical. These attributes are a bit of a challenge to measure. It may take a personality profile, which is fairly common these days for companies that are determined to hire only the best candidates, who will fit into their business culture. Get the right people on your bus. Every one of them must have these two attributes.

Vision and communication skills, attributes five and six, are tough for many technical people. However, this position requires them. If you are interviewing, insist on a presentation on the technology that the candidate is most familiar with. Can he put it in laymen’s terms? Is he passionate about it? You should see a clear and articulate understanding of the technology, communicated in easy to understand terminology, and sprinkled with a clear vision of where the technology is going, and how it might benefit your organization. My company has had real success with those who can do this type of presentation well, regardless of the position they are being hired for. If you’ve been in the habit of hiring people without a great deal of work up front and hoping for the best, you’ll need to adjust that for filling this position.

Achieving the best results will only be possible if the right person is driving the entire process. You may have the right person in that position already, and if so, that is wonderful. You may instead have someone with the negative attributes I’ve described and need to make an adjustment. Or you may not have anyone in the role of leading IT and see the critical importance of that position now, since you do intend to get IT performing as the strategic asset that it should be for your company. Whatever the case, you’ll need to assure that the right person in charge of your IT is one who has these attributes.

       
   
 
       
   

The Author

Charles Nault

Risk-Free Technology

Charles L. Nault is author of the new book “Risk-Free Technology: A Simple Non-Technical Business Owner’s Guide to Stemming Huge Productivity Losses from Poor Performing Computer Systems” (Global Professional Publishing) and Chairman of the Board at Atrion Networking Corporation. A recognized expert in “network utility thinking,” his firm provides training and consulting to companies in addition to working closely with Cisco Systems on network design, implementations and support.

He can be reached at 401-736-6400 ext. 111 or cnault@atrion.net or by visiting http://riskfreetechnology.com/

 
       
   
 
       
   
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Copyright 2009 by Charles L. Nault . All rights reserved.

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