“Teamwork is easy for a one man (or woman) band.” – Source unknown
You say you want to be a CIO, but the CIO you report to isn’t going anywhere?
You say you’re tired of big-corporation politics, but being good at big corporation politics is the most important skill you have?
You say the only difference between you and God is that when God created the world, he/she/it/they didn’t have a pre-existing universe to have to integrate Earth into?
Is that what’s troubling you, Bunky?
If so, you might consider moving from where you are to become the IT department of an ultra-small business.
Not IT’s head. The IT department – just you.
Being IT for a small organization can be rewarding. Not financially, but if you’re looking for appreciation of what IT does, small is a better bet than big.
But it isn’t an unmixed blessing – there are some gotchas for you to look out for should you become small-business IT. Some examples:
Politics: Most small organizations are either family businesses or extensions of their CEO – their personality, biases, areas of expertise, and blind spots.
If it’s a family business, politics and family politics are the same. Your influence would be limited both genetically and by the basic good sense that tells most of us to stay out of another family’s business.
If it’s a CEO-centric organization, persuasion depends entirely on the CEO’s personality. Evidence and logic might work. Or, it might be even less effective than when trying to persuade a big-company governance committee.
Often, that is, IT governance means sucking up to the CEO.
This might or might not be an improvement.
The Cloud: Large enterprise IT has a whole department to keep IT’s platforms and infrastructure running. As one-person IT it’s just you. If you don’t move everything you can to the cloud, weekends and vacations will be vicarious.
But beware: In most situations, moving IT stuff to the cloud will call for a bigger IT budget, reducing your popularity – see “Politics,” above. Not to mention the increased vulnerability to network outages that comes with the cloud territory.
Excel-based application integration: When business users need to combine data from multiple applications, big-company IT creates custom views that combine them.
One-person IT can provide Excel extracts from each of the applications, and help users figure out how to create unified views from those extracts.
Not to mention what they can accomplish if they master mail merge.
In big companies, helping end-users achieve IT proficiency is a good investment. When you’re the entire company’s IT, it’s essential.
Outsourcing: Even very large organizations have been known to outsource part or all of the IT function. Whether it’s a good idea or not, it can work.
In a small business, outsourcing IT is just another way to increase IT staffing, something the CEO isn’t likely to want. Don’t even try suggesting it.
Instead, build what we genarians call a Rolodex – of contractors competent to fix something if it breaks. That’s contractors, not outsourcers. The difference? You only pay contractors when you need them.
What shouldn’t be a difference is that, outsourcer or contractor, you must pay them to familiarize themselves with whatever it is they should be ready to support.
Mobility: In a big business, career-minded employees want promotions. In the absence of promotions they’ll want lateral transfers that put them in a better position to receive a future promotion.
A small-business one-person IT organization, in contrast, has nowhere to be promoted to. You can put yourself in a position to move laterally to a position in business management should another manager leave, but that doesn’t happen all that often.
Depending on how long you want your work week to be, you can take on non-IT responsibilities along with your one-person-IT-department role.
The good mobility news about the bad news is that if the company you support does well, it will grow. As it does, business growth can put you in a position to hire a few additional IT staff.
Documentation: No, it isn’t any fun, but even beyond helping your successor survive you can count on forgetting how you did something and why. So every time you do anything, document it. You’ll thank yourself when the future shows up and you have to fiddle with stuff you did a few years back and don’t remember any of it.
Bob’s last word: Being a one-person IT department can be a lot of fun, assuming you find IT a lot of fun … and if you don’t, why on earth aren’t you finding something you like better to do?
And in case you’re wondering, yes, once, in my notorious past, one-quarter of my job was being one-person IT.
The best part.
Now on CIO.com’s CIO Survival Guide: “7 ways CIOs get themselves fired.” What it’s about: Keeping your job as CIO is tough, even when you do everything right. Here are seven ways unwary CIOs make their jobs even riskier.