Modern Middle Manager
Primarily my musings on the practical application of technology and management principles at a financial services company.
Forest for the Trees IV - Behind the Curtain

Thursday, January 02, 2003  

Now, with my 2003 SWOT analysis complete, I have to ask the question, "What is the probability that the information services department will be able to implement those goals?" Ooh, that's a good one. In order to answer that question, I need to evaluate where I expect my department's time to go over the course of the year. I'm sure all IT managers answer the following question and statement pair, usually asked facetiously by administrative assistants or temps, "So what do you guys do all day? I never see you doing anything." That's right, and you shouldn't. Here's a rough breakdown of what 2003 is going to bring and why:

Security -- thanks to the GLB act and ever-tightening federal guidelines, we need to create an almost continuous improvement process for security. This year will be the establishment of that process and the team that will perform the assessment, give me recommendations and implement new standards and practices. Note that I'm not just talking about system security here; part of my job will be to guide the team to think bigger picture and get other department heads to do the same at our monthly meetings.

Upgrades -- I appreciate a number of the new features to be found in various software upgrades this year; the downside is that many will be painful, disruptive and time-consuming. We will be upgrading our desktop systems, our office suite, our CRM package, our trust accounting system and outsourcing our imaging system. I have a full 12 months to piss off everyone in the company. I think I can hit that target.

Infrastructure -- in order to support management requests for a better intranet portal (as well as reduce those pesky Microsoft licensing costs) I've gotten the go-ahead to implement an open-source portal solution internally. Assuming success, we'll be implementing an open-source Internet site and start replacing other Microsoft servers with Linux. That should not be disruptive; the goal is to reduce licensing expenses while simultaneously giving users more information and more reliable systems.

Thin Clients -- if this project gets approved we'll be converting most of the company to thin clients using Citrix's Metaframe server. I can already hear the screaming. The upside is less desktop maintenance by IS and lower replacement costs year after year. The downside is the gnashing and wailing of teeth.

Change Management -- our IT department has grown and with it the outdated processes need to grow. More formal change controls are part of that price in a regulated industry. So...we need to get with the program.

Reports -- it may be cliche, but it's true here that management wants new reports or changes old reports more often than underwear. We improved our ability to deliver with an XML to PDF/CSV/XLS generator and web-based, on-demand reporting but it still takes time to pull information together. And no, I wouldn't trust them to become proficient with Cognos or some other business intelligence tool. Not yet, anyway. The year of the Data Mart may be upon us as well.

[Aside: those are only five of the initiatives that Ought to Be Done This Year. The information services department needs to lay the foundation so the building will stand tall and sturdy. That's why nobody sees what we do -- but if we didn't, you'd know about it!]

With those initiatives, how will the IS department manage to implement the other goals? What's the likelihood of getting ANY of those SWOT-based objectives done? Here's my take:

1. We shouldn't build those partner portals/interfaces without the upgrade to our infrastructure. I believe we can have that done before the first half of the year is over.
2. The software upgrades will be drawn out over the course of the entire year. If we can centralize most of the company before rollouts, we'll only have to upgrade three Terminal Servers rather than 100 desktops. That's a significant savings in time and it dovetails with the cost-saving initiatives.
3. The security process will be ongoing and require a relatively small commitment of time each week. We are under no particular timeframe.
4. I can't free up the department's time unless we have a bug-free, stable backoffice. We've been improving that steadily for the last two years and it's my goal to hit 99.999% uptime this year and focus on continuous availability in 2004 as a precursor to possible 24x7 banking operations. My expectation is that with new vendor tools, blade servers, virtualization, consolidation and our own real-time enterprise focus for transactional processing, we'll free up our time enough to pursue adding value to the company.

posted by Henry Jenkins | 1/02/2003 06:10:00 PM

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