Ask the IT Director: Upgrades Get Blamed For Everything

Dear IT Director,
We upgraded one of our major systems last year. We had some glitches, but overall it went fairly well. Here we are a year later, and people still blame the upgrade when they have problems. Very frustrating!

Upgraded in Upton

Dear Upgraded,
Hahaha! HAHAHA! C’mon, laugh with me. LOLOLOL! The only other option is to cry. There are a few things we can do to reduce this problem, but we can’t eliminate this completely because, well, people are people. And, in part, we did this to ourselves. Let me explain.

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Ask The IT Director: Vendor Screwed Up

Dear IT Director,
One of my long-term vendors messed up last week, and we are dealing with the fallout. They know my company really well and I don’t want to look for a different vendor.
Angry in Akron

Dear Angry,
I feel your pain. Anyone that uses vendors has dealt with this problem. One of their people makes a mistake that causes extra work for your team. They push a problem into production that impacts your users. They build something that requires rework that blows your budget and schedule. They supply a person who just isn’t up to the normal skill level.

There are a few things we can do when this happens, and, yes, one of those options is finding a new vendor. Let’s walk through them.

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Ask the IT Director: The Late Pile

Shoreline Stones

Dear IT Director,
My company is growing, and we got behind on orders. We have been doing a lot of work to catch up, but it is hard to tell if we are making any headway. My boss asked me if I have any ideas.
Confused in Cincinnati

Dear Confused,
Increasing late orders is a tough situation to be in, especially if revenue is growing. We have to deal with more orders than we have ever seen, and we need to catch up on late orders. If you focus on one of those, the other gets worse. Customers get cranky. When you hear about businesses not surviving their own success, this may be part of the cause.

I suggest the concept of Late-Days. This provides a single, trackable number that quantifies the size and age of the late pile. For each order, add up the number of days late. If you have variety in the size of your orders, you can tweak this by multiplying by the dollars or quantity of the order. As a bonus, we can use this concept for other late things besides sales, hint – how is your IT to-do list?

Before we get to an example, why is Late-Days useful? In my experience, not all overdue is created equally. Since there is never one silver bullet to fix overdue, we need to approach each situation differently. Ten orders that are weeks late differs from fifty orders that are days late. The solutions you try will be different in each case. Late-Days quantifies that for us in a way that helps us understand if we are making a difference.

While the number of late orders is the primary metric, it doesn’t really tell much of a story about what those lines are like. Days-Late gives a little more information.

First, the math. The simplest way is to add up the days late for each late order.

OrderDays Late
A12
A24
A35
Late-Days11

As I mentioned before, you can add a dollar or quantity multiplier if those vary in your situation. I’ll also remind you that no single metric holds all the answers. Late-Days is a simple metric to add to your mix of metrics.

How can we use Late-Days to monitor our progress?

Let’s look at the scenario I mentioned above: ten orders that are weeks overdue and fifty orders that are days overdue. We might have a Late-Days of 357 for the first and 128 for the second. By themselves, these numbers are not helpful. But when you track this metric over time, you will see changes. And that tells you if you are winning or losing.

Track Late-Days every day and work to make the number lower. The goal, of course, is zero.

The hard part is figuring out how to ship all those late orders, AND to ship all new orders on time. Late-Days provides a useful number to know if you are making progress.

Good Luck Confused,
The IT Director

Ask the IT Director: Finding Time To Improve IT Processes

Dear IT Director,
Help! We are running around with our hair on fire, working on too many business projects. Our IT processes need help, but we don’t have any time to improve them.
Overwhelmed in Omaha

Dear Overwhelmed,
I feel your pain. The list of changes the business needs is long and you want to get it done faster. At the same time, you and your team know how to improve your processes to become more efficient. But there is no time. How do you stop working on the business tasks to improve IT?

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Ask The IT Director: Cantujust Dilemma

Dear IT Director,
People seem to think that IT has an “easy button”. That we can just make simple changes and slap it into production quickly. How can I respond to this nonsense?
Frustrated in Fresno

Dear Frustrated,

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Advice to IT Interns

One spring a few years back, I was looking through a stack of intern resumes. Wanda (not her real name) was not selected and received an email notification. She then, to her credit, reached out and asked for feedback on her resume. Awesome move on her part. This drive to improve will take her far in her career. Here is my response to her.

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Ask The IT Director: Confusing Metrics

Spanish Car dashboard. Photo Credit: Joyce Bredesen

Dear IT Director,

I know metrics are a good thing. But metrics need goals, right? I have some metrics that don’t make any sense to have goals for. Like number of Help Desk tickets coming in. If I set a goal, it will make me and my team take the wrong kind of actions.

Waffling in Wauwatosa

Dear Waffling,

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Ask The IT Director: Trust and Teams

Dear IT Director,
I am a new manager. My team keeps coming to me with questions. They seem unable to make decisions on their own. I have too many of their tasks on my plate, and I can’t get it all done without working 16-hour days and weekends. Help!
Drowning in Delano

Dear Drowning,

Ouch, sounds like you are paying the price for a prior manager that didn’t trust their team. Changing behavior like that is hard. You need to trust that they can do the job you expect of them, and they need to trust you to provide them useful advice and guidance. The bottom line is that you are starting from scratch on the trust game. Here are some suggestions.

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