IT not a support functionSupport Function – The History

One of the enduring debates within the corporate world is that IT is a support function in the same way that Finance or HR are. This is something I contend is no longer true in any modern business. You certainly don’t here of any businesses that are gaining market share on the back of being able to do their accounts quicker or more efficiently than others.

Back in the day when everyone was rushing to implement first generation ERP systems and improve the transaction base of the business this was probably true. These systems enable businesses to get in control of the nuts and bolts of the business and put order in place.

At first these were differentiators and businesses that were first to market could gain improved share and business based on these improvements. Generally productivity increased and cost saving were made. However they were very much the automation of the back office.

Over time most companies moved to some level of ERP and the field was levelled.

Then the push was for Data Warehousing which eventually became BI (Business Intelligence). This provided businesses with a means of understanding themselves and their markets in ways that had never been thought of before. This was the point at which the paradigm changed and IT became more of a partner with the business.

Support Function – The Future

In the 21st century businesses can no longer survive without great IT and in many instances the IT is what differentiates certain businesses from others. Being able to react to markets and customers quickly is now the way to gain market share.

However as this change has progressed there are still many cases where people in the business perceive IT as a Master/Slave relationship. They still talk about IT as if it is a bunch of geeks in the basement who love to code, understand the technology but not the business.

These dinosaurs need to be convinced of the benefits of IT and made to see that the world has changed. In order to do this the IT department need to up their game and prove to these sceptics what they have to offer.

It is up to senior IT management to sell the ideas and offerings of the department to the business. To challenge when necessary and offer alternatives and ideas to the business leaders.

We are entering a time where the technology opportunities are increasing constantly and as IT professionals we need to consider these technologies and see how they can help our businesses grow not just follow instruction. How can the tablets and other future technologies be deployed to the business to give advantage?

An old boss of mine always used to say you need to “walk in the steps of the business man” to understand what he needs and then provide it. This is more important than ever and we should be partnering (equally) with the business when ever we can. Once we do that then IT will not longer be perceived as a support function and a slave to the business.


Your CV is so important

Summary CV or Detailed CV?

As a freelance Project Management/Programme Management contractor the main document I have to sell my services is my CV. This is a document that has taken years to hone and be in a position that I am really happy with it.

As my current assignment was coming to an end I decided to update my CV and get it out in the “jobsphere”. I spent some time looking at it and thought, did it need a refresh? Is it still relevant? Will it still work?

Detailed CV

The current offering is 5 pages in length and details my career today well, the first page being a profile followed by a summary in key areas, those being –Project/Programme Management; General Management; People Management and Technical Application Management. Following on from this was the detailed chronology of roles over the subsequent 4 pages.

As well as looking at the CV I did a lot of research around the subject of CV’s and it became clear that most sites and articles suggested a summary CV of no more than 3 pages.

Summary CV

As a result I decided to change my CV with this in mind. I worked with a colleague to make sure that the content was compelling and developed the 3 page CV. I sent this out and seemed to get some initial interest and thought that was job done. In fact I even achieved an interview from the CV within a day of publishing it!! (Although I did not get the assignment in the end as I was too expensive for the client).

After the initial flurry of interest it got very quite. This is unusual as you normally get at least a couple of calls a week when job hunting and over the last few years with my 5 pager I was getting calls from people who had picked up my CV even thought I wasn’t actively seeking alternatives.

The fact it went very quite worried me a little and made me re-consider the content and was the summary CV the correct way to go? So I decided to develop a hybrid CV, taking the new rewritten summary from the new one and grafting it onto the more detailed CV.

With the hybrid CV developed and published I waited to see if this had changed the situation. To my surprise the number of calls increased considerably and one agent stated that he loved the detail in the CV as it answered a lot of the questions he would normally ask.

Detailed CV – The Winner

So in summary the recommendation from me in terms of your CV as an independent IT consultant is – develop a one page summary of your key skills and then provide a detailed chronology of your assignments with bullets of the key tasks you undertook.

If you are interested in having a look at my CV please contact me through the site and I will be delighted to send you a copy or advise my opinion on the best way to improve your current CV for the best effects.

Project Manager

Project Manager, Programme Manager or Portfolio Manager – What are you?

As an independent IT consultant who specialises in Project and Programme management I am constantly asked what do you consider yourself to be. Well the answer I always give is all of the above.

The definitions I use are as follows.

Project, Programme or Portfolio

  • Project manager. Someone who manages a discrete piece of work that requires several steps to be followed and completed in order to deliver something.
  • Programme Manager. Someone who manages several interrelated and interdependent projects that constitutes the delivery of an overall solution.
  • Portfolio Manager. Someone who manages multiple not necessarily interrelated or interdependent pieces of work that delivers multiple discrete solutions.

Each of the definitions themselves can be very vague and do not really tell what skills a person has. For example you can have a Project Manager who manages a project of 50K but they are not in the same league as a Project manager who manages projects of 20million.

Again with a programme management you have the extremes of size from small to large and the skills required at each end of the spectrum is different.

This is why I always respond with all of the above. It isn’t arrogance it is the fact that I have the skills to cover all of the roles and will pull the requisite ones out of the tool box depending on the role.

This highlights one of the fundamental flaws with the way that independents are hired within the IT business. The emphasis in on buzz words and generic definitions of roles but this doesn’t really work at the higher end.

Most very experienced Project/Programme Managers will have both of these on their resume to make sure they are not excluded from any roles. They transpose the skills as needed and feel comfortable in either space.

If you are reading this and looking to hire then you have to know that experienced people can fulfil either role.

2010 Ends and a New Year Begins

Now that 2010 has ended and 2011 arrives we need to consider what will be the major advances and changes in the coming year and the future. There used to be a distinct split between the consumer and corporate advances but that is becoming more blurred now and many consumer tech advances are crossing over very quickly.

2010 – Keep Taking the Tablets

In 2010 several technologies became the darlings of the industry. The tablet computer came back in to view with the launch of the iPad. Nearly 4 million were sold since the launch and all of the major vendors are now looking at bringing their versions to market.

2010 – The Year of the “Cloud”

With the rise of the ipad and the ongoing popularity of Microsoft’s Windows 7 the term “Cloud Computing” came into the public vocabulary. This technology change has been on the cards for some time and many of the major suppliers have been building their massive infrastructures in order to support the on-demand model. One of the biggest players in the space, Amazon, when the Wikileaks supporting hackers tried to bring the site down and all Amazon did was turn the tap up until the hackers ran out of capacity unlike Visa and Mastercard whose sites were brought down by the attack.

2010 – The ongoing rise of the Smartphone

As well as changes is form factor and the rise of the “cloud” smartphones became more and more important in the market place and this led to the move to purchasing APPS and using them. This really has shifted the thought process and usage patterns of people and is really intriguing to see where this leads. Combining mobility with the cloud, location and very specific APPS has totally changed the game for the user.

2011 – The Continued Rise of the Cloud

This leads on to the key point of this post and that is what are the future technologies that will be the drivers for change in 2011. I feel that cloud computing will continue to grow and will somehow cross over into the corporate world. I don’t mean that companies will develop there own “clouds” as that really defeats the object of the cloud!! I mean that organisations will look at the major vendors to run and manage certain applications to see if this will work. There will be lots of challenges with this in terms of pricing and support agreements but it will be worth the investment as the advantages of a fluid infrastructure are appealing.

2011 – Corporates to Take the Tablets

The changes in form factor and the move to the tablet will be more of a challenge in the corporate world as it is difficult to see the benefit. Obviously for many years sales and marketing departments have embraced these new forms and it is in that area or in the customer facing area that the tablet will become more acceptable. Whether we will see the tablet outside these departments is difficult to asses at the moment but with the mobility aspects of the technology and the extended battery life you only need to let your mind wonder a bit and you can start seeing the benefits.

2011 – The Corporate APPS

To me one of the most interesting advances and one that I can see as a game changer is the use of apps and app stores. In the major corporates over the years investments has been massive in huge monolithic enterprise or transaction based systems that are still being used and enhanced to this day. Millions have been spent with large vendors to make these systems support the business.

However with the advent of APPS there could be an opportunity to develop small little snipits of functionality that can be plugged into the legacy systems that perform very specific activities. The trend started a while ago with the concept of Software as a Service but in reality this hasn’t really caught on as in most organisations it is a solution looking for a problem.

Most corporates have a core database and core processing functionality (back-end) that it doesn’t really matter what it looks like, however at the User Interface (UI) point is where these APPS can come into their own and improve the experience and as a result improve the productivity of the user.