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.

Or both.

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’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.

We used to call it “retiring in place” (RIP). Now, those who like to claim ownership of old ideas by attaching new names to them are calling it “Quiet Quitting.”

Back when I was in management and needed to recruit an employee for an open position, a prerequisite was drafting a position description – an eloquent soliloquy that listed the responsibilities the new employee would be responsible for and the skills they’d need to fulfill those responsibilities.

The final responsibility was always, “Other duties as assigned on a time-available basis.” The skills needed for it: flexibility, adaptability, and the ability to innovate.

HR generally asked me to remove this responsibility. I generally explained that it was the only responsibility that mattered.

HR and I didn’t always get along.

But neither HR, job applicants, or I once considered that including it would end up placing an unfair burden to a new hire. Quite the opposite – it was understood to be the most efficient and accurate way management had to understand what other roles employees could succeed in, which in turn translated to providing opportunities for promotions and the increased compensation that accompanied them.

Sometimes it even worked that way. But in all too many companies it devolved into a transparent stratagem for employers to get fifty hours of work for forty hours-worth of pay, with the promised benefit to employees somehow never turning up.

Understand, I’ve been writing about this and related subjects for 18 years, questioning whether “work ethic” has anything to do with ethics (it doesn’t – see “Work Ethic,” 9/13/2004 and “More Work Ethics,” 9/20/2004). All that’s happened since then is that employees have (1) caught on; and (2) acquired enough bargaining power with their employers, at least temporarily, that they can do something about it.

And so they are. Some are embracing the “gig economy.” Many are leaving jobs (and managers) they hate for pastures they hope are greener. Overlaying this are those who don’t leave but do work remotely as much as possible, in part to minimize contact with the managers they dislike, along with those who RIP or QQ.

As a manager in this new world of employer/employee relationships, your options are limited. Your protestations that employees who … QuietStay? … will find their efforts rewarded in the long term might be credible on an interpersonal level, depending on your reputation within the confines of the business that was.

But unless the whole business has earned credibility, any promises you make are bounded by your personal presence and won’t survive you should you move vertically, laterally, or beyond.

So as a manager, assess the aggregate mood of the employees in your organization and adjust accordingly, recognizing that like it or not, your relationship with employees is and will increasingly be more transactional than you’d prefer.

Bob’s last word: If you’re an employee considering the RIP/QQ alternative, think very hard about a downside that’s rarely mentioned. As I said in one of articles linked above, “If someone wants to work hard for an employer who doesn’t value the hard work and rewards other qualities, there are good reasons to do so, as several readers pointed out. For many people it’s a matter of self-respect. Even more important than that, slacking off is an easy and bad habit to get into, and hard to break once you have.”

Bob’s sales pitch: Want to give your group an entertaining and iconoclastic view of How Things Work? Sorry – Bill Nye isn’t available and if he was, you couldn’t afford him.

On the other hand, I am, and you probably can. So if you’d like a keynoter who can deliver the Keep-the-Joint-Running perspective on life, the universe, and everything, or at least on how IT and the rest of the business can and should fit together, let’s talk.

Now in CIOs get wrong about optimization.” They ignore the principle that in order to optimize the whole you must sub-optimize the parts.