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Hiring the Right IT Guy

15 Jul, 2009 By: Charles L. Nault imageSource

Hiring the Right IT Guy

If you are a typical dealership or SMB, often your IT department or IT
manager doesn’t understand your ideal business model in depth, thinking he is
doing a good job handling his daily duties, rarely communicating with you on the
nature of the overall business, your vision to grow the company, but more on
addressing immediate IT needs. Sound familiar?

However, with a small amount of effort, you can learn to boost your IT
department in a way that will procure company-wide benefits in IT.  There is
more to hiring an IT person regardless of qualified certifications…the best ones
have certain attributes that, if you want them to lead in a way that is
ultimately effective to your business, you must confirm they possess them.

In small to medium-sized businesses, IT guys have risen to top positions
after having done most of the IT work themselves, or have overseen and built up
a staff as the company has grown. An interesting side note is that the Society
of Information Management’s 2008 list of 30 books that IT leaders absolutely
must read, contained just one book that had anything to do at all with
technology! And instead focused more on the non-technical attributes. Odd but
true. Therefore, the best IT leaders should have some combination of a number of
the following personality traits and attributes to become key IT personnel:

  1. Passionate desire & ability to understand your
    business, your strategy, & your value to your customers
  1. Understanding of the economic engine that drives the
    profitability of your business
  1. Humility before ego in order to lead
  1. Integrity over “anything goes” in order to keep to set
    company culture
  1. Vision to change & grow as the business demands
  1. Ability to communicate effectively; both verbal  and

It is no accident that the majority of these attributes have a lot more to do
with non-technical skills than with technical skills. The most effective
companies have their IT departments led by the most effective managers. Not one
dimensional individuals but those with multi-skill sets. It doesn’t matter if
the techs are on staff or outsourced - they need to possess key traits in order
to enhance their company’s business, or a client’s.

The first two attributes listed are the ones least understood as IT
leadership attributes. The person who leads your IT efforts has to start with
the roadmap of your business. How did your business get to where it is? Where
are you going and why? What will it take to get there? How can IT support or
even accelerate that plan?

The IT manager must also know exactly how you make money. What are the
critical activities that produce profit for your company (your economic engine)?
Remember “Activity Based Costing” in your managerial accounting classes? If your
IT manager doesn’t understand that concept and how it pertains to your business,
you need to fix that. If you’re bringing someone new in, that must be understood
up front. I’ve done some general business consulting that was not centered on IT
and in every case I have started with, “What activities make the most money for
your business?” Followed by, "How can you do more of that and less of (something
else)? Your IT manager must understand this concept and then look at the ways in
which technology can enhance those set activities. This way he or she can be an
effective member of your “information technology council.”

The next two attributes should pertain to every hire in your company:
Humility and Integrity. By “humility” I do not mean that the tech be a wimp. On
the contrary, he should be extremely confident in his ability to get the job
done. It is important however, that IT staff not get impatient with those that
are less IT savvy as themselves. It is a skill set not all are geared for, with
a language all its own. In contrast, integrity is a very common attribute in
technical programmers. Straightforward approaches are usually the norm.
Technicians are most like doctors in that they diagnose a problem and fix it, or
they prognosticate, finding suitable programs or means to achieve the best
results. It’s always quantifiable.

Vision and communication skills, attributes five and six, are tougher for
many IT technicians. However, management positions requires them. If you are
interviewing techs, insist on a presentation with the technology that the
candidate is most familiar with. Can he put it in laymen’s terms? Is he
passionate about it? You should see a clear and articulate understanding of the
technology, communicated in easy to understand terminology, and sprinkled with a
clear vision of where the technology is going, and how it might benefit your
organization. The latter being very important! 

My company has had real success with those who can do this type of
presentation, regardless of the position they are being hired for. If you’ve
been in the habit of hiring people without a great deal of work up front and
hoping for the best, you’ll need to adjust that for filling this position. It
must be more concrete.

Achieving the best results will only be possible if the right person is
driving the entire IT process. Whatever the case, the right person in charge of
your IT is one who has most or all of these attributes.

Mr. Nault authored “Risk-Free Technology: A Simple Non-Technical Business
Owner’s Guide to Stemming Huge Productivity Losses from Poor Performing Computer
Systems”; is COB at Atrion Networking; & works closely w/Cisco Systems. At

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