Confessions of an IT Director

What do you do here?

What Do you do?

I posed the question on LinkedIn the other day and for my 16 twitter followers (side note: I have GOT to get more followers)… “What is valuable (IT) information to bring to a monthly MOR (Management by Objectives and Results) meeting? What kind of metrics/KPIs do you think the senior management wants to see?”

That was my sort of “LinkedIn” version of wondering aloud what sort of metrics executive management wants to see. 

Let me explain

Anytime I can throw a “Princess Bride” reference in, I’m going to.

My current place of employment is owned by private equity. So every month there is a (monthly) internal, and external MOR meeting (Management by Objectives and Results). The internal one is with the CEO and Leadership, the VPs and Directors of their respective departments. The meeting itself is a good 2 to 3 hours (depending on the month) long. Each department is expected to contribute a few slides to a PowerPoint deck that sum up objectives and results for their department. After the internal MOR, the top end leadership (CEO, VPs) take the deck, make whatever changes, and deliver a similar deck to the Board of Directors for the PE company. Usually the operational stuff is considered superfluous, and the BOD is really only interested in the financials… sales, forecast info, EBITA, etc…. Their primary focus is how profitable the company is, because when they decide to sell the company, that’s the marker. “We’re flipping a house” is a common phrase said around here.

The presentation deck for the internal MOR is usually 130 or so slides long, with the last 15 or so slides being appendix slides. The IT department slides (my slides) come in around slide 100. The final department prior to the appendix slides showing all the financial datasets, etc. 

So, a recap. 15 to 20 people have been sitting in a small-ish office for nearly 3 hours, and it’s my turn to present. When I was first briefed on this particular exercise, I was told to prepare 4 or 5 slides. That was pretty much it… no real direction on what they wanted to see, because I honestly don’t know that they knew what they wanted to see. Everyone is a little stir crazy due to being cooped up in the office listening to data going on and on and on… and then there’s IT, a department people don’t really understand to begin with. What DO you do?

Therein lies my problem. Get too technical, and people don’t understand and tune out. Nobody wants to know the issues you had in switching the routing from the old firewall to the new firewall, or the details in the open case with Cisco because one of the switches wasn’t passing traffic, or how this old version of one of the ERP modules isn’t compatible with the new version of the ERP, and so you’re in negotiation with the vendor to provide an updated file. It’s the teacher from Charlie Brown.

The other way isn’t great either. Don’t give any real info, and people start asking, “What about my issue from…. _______?” and, better yet, people start reporting IT issues to me that I wasn’t aware of (which invariably precedes the question, “Why didn’t you know about this” Cause it wasn’t reported.) Then I’m talking about a purchasing clerk’s computer and when it’s up for refresh, or why the credit card processor was slow at 11am, or why the new sales guy doesn’t need 64gb of RAM.

I gave less information once, and one of the bosses called me into his office afterwards and told me I missed my opportunity to “showcase my wins”. “Wins” are subjective. What is it he considered wins?

Worse yet are the PowerPoint slides – best “data” I can give is ticket counts… opened, closed, categories… etc. Not a great metric, because if you didn’t know… a ticket can constitute 15 minutes or 15 hours, depending on what it is. Some tickets are closed immediately after opening them, and some stay open for weeks with a variety of variables, priority, type, resources needed… etc. 

But… it’s the best I have to offer right now. There are multitudes of tools (for $$$) out there that can deliver automated reports on system health, bandwidth usage, top talkers, and potential trouble spots… but… “We’re flipping a house”. Granite countertops, but galvanized piping. 

So I strive to stay on that narrow road. Ticket counts shows the stakeholders that IT is busy, but they don’t really show what IT is doing. Don’t give too much attention so I don’t put everyone to sleep, but give enough so that people feel that IT is doing something. 

But, at the end of the day – I don’t have an answer. If someone out there has found a winning formula, a KPI that energizes the organization and gets executive management engaged into IT direction, then please forward that my way. Until then, I’ll keep throwing stuff on the screen showing that IT is doing something, even if they don’t understand WHAT it is.