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IT: Don't let the CEO wonder what you do all day

Minda Zetlin | Nov. 19, 2013
If there's no catastrophic system failure or major software deployment to work on, CEOs might wonder what IT does all day. Here's how to make sure your contributions aren't undervalued when things go smoothly.

The same goes for the functions they're accustomed to using easily in the cloud, such as email across many different devices. "A lot of IT teams for the past 10 years have been supporting Microsoft products," Vitale says. "Then — boom! — overnight this executive has an iPad and wants it to work on the network. People are getting rid of BlackBerries and want to use Android or iOS devices. It sounds easy to them, but it's not. They just expect it to work, and if it doesn't, there's a good deal of anger."

Indeed, IT often goes unappreciated unless and until something fails to work as expected. "I've seen a lot of companies where business units can overrule IT," Vitale says. That philosophy holds, he says, unless an important tech function fails. "Then they're waiting for the IT team to swoop in and save the day. It's the most thankless job in the world right up until something goes wrong."

But while it may be tempting to deliberately break something or allow it to fail so as to gain the recognition that comes with fixing a business-impacting problem, deliberately doing your job badly will not be beneficial to your department, your employer or your career. And there are better ways to get IT's value across to top executives, even when things are running smoothly.

Let them know what you're doing
"There is this conception that if I'm concentrating on BYOD, all the old stuff like server patching and firewall configuration can take a back seat. But those things need to be taken care of as much as the new shiny projects do," says Joel Dolisy, CTO (and top IT executive) at SolarWinds, an Austin-based network management company with annual revenue of $269 million. The solution, he says, is to provide regular updates on what IT has accomplished. For example, he says, "I have a meeting with my CEO today to talk about the latest things we've achieved in Web development, and that people are not twiddling their thumbs all week waiting for problems to happen."

"Executives are sensitive to money and to the total head count devoted to the IT department. Providing that information on a regular basis is primordial, because otherwise people think the money is going into a black hole," Dolisy says.

That's not a good situation. "There's a clear danger that if IT is not communicating well with the rest of the executive team and providing transparency into day-to-day operations, a lot of mundane tasks will be trivialized," Dolisy says. "At that point, it's difficult to deal with. The only thing that comes from the rest of the executive team is pressure to downsize the budget and downsize the number of heads, and only work on the new shiny projects. That's a recipe for disaster."


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