In the tech movie spoof Office Space, one employee trying to save his job explains to efficiency experts that "engineers are not good at dealing with customers."
Stories by David Raths
It's still a "Man Bites Dog" story when a CIO is promoted to CEO, but more CIOs, especially in financial services, are making the leap.
The IT playing field has changed. Recruiting the hottest talent isn't just a lofty idea; it's now crucial to your bottom-line functions. "Companies must realize that they are now competing in two markets: a product or service market and a talent market," says Bill Curtis, co-founder and chief scientist at TeraQuest, an Austin, Texas-based consulting firm focusing on software process improvement. "Human resources people must start thinking of this as a market-driven process, not unlike professional sports. We are moving into something like a free-agent market."
A funny thing about the Internet is that every time you come up with a way to use it to automate a complex process, users turn around and tell you what a lousy process it is. So it goes with online training. The promise is sweet: cheaper, quicker, targeted skills training that students can access anytime and anywhere from their desktop computers. But the reality is that today's online training endeavors are falling short of the mark; sometimes material is outdated or dull, and corporate culture barriers aren't always addressed.
They can't kick the tires, adjust the seats, or rev the engine. They may not even save money. But, tired of haggling with salespeople, a growing number of people are buying cars online.
Jerry Marks works full-time as a customer service manager at software developer Echo Management Group, in Oakland, California, and for years he also has volunteered his IT skills to nonprofit organizations. He remembers, years ago, helping a shelter for battered women move its caller-referral service from 3-by-5 index cards to a computer database.
There's a widespread notion about working for the government or a university is that the pace is slower, the bureaucracy stifling and the technology outdated. But some network executives who have made the switch from the private sector say those are misconceptions.
The project manager has never been a highly touted position in information technology. One reason might be that it requires far more discipline than creativity, much like being a drill sergeant in the armed forces. Also, it can be detrimental to your career if you're the manager of a project that fails -- and many do.
How do you quantify quality? It's something PacifiCorp's 300 IT employees wrestle with daily, as they are beholden to specific service-level benchmarks and regularly comparing themselves to outsourcing options.
ONE OF THE KEYS TO benchmarking, consultants say, is to see it as only the first step in a learning process. As these case studies below reflect, IT managers facing a wide range of organizational challenges can use benchmarks in many different ways. It is all part of measuring efficiency and keeping their internal customers satisfied.