|What if it were your boss out here instead of you?|
(That got your attention, huh?)
This is the suggestion of PBS columnist Robert Cringley in his Sept. 11 column, an answer to IT organizations facing cuts prompted by the economic decline. How can hey cut their budget by 10 percent? What if they have to cut it by 30 percent?
Sadly, we all know how this story usually goes: Another class of employees see their jobs move overseas. Contracts replace employees. Highly-paid consultants are brought in to help CIOs decide what they can do without. Projects are cut, or deadlines moved up to an impossible date.
But bosses, they usually get to keep their jobs, and Cringley makes his case for why it might be time for them to go instead. His reasoning as to why most big IT bosses "haven't a clue" and make bad decisions are as follows:
- Many are not numbers people: "... If the Big Guy is signing off on a budget he can't even read, much less understand, well something is wrong. Some IT departments like this, of course, just like my students liked it when class had to be cancelled (they liked getting LESS for their money), but in tough times, facing reality and speaking the truth is usually the best course."
- Most will cut from the bottom: "Because power in IT organizations tends to be based on head count, preserving jobs takes a priority," explains Cringley. "And when jobs have to be eliminated, they tend to come off the bottom of the organization when they should more logically come off the top -- or at least from near the top. A tech who directly helps users is more important than a manager who can't manage. This is especially true if that manager is making 2-3 times as much as the tech."
- Too many don't understand technology: "If your boss doesn't understand your job enough to describe it in technical detail, that boss is in the wrong job. If you are managing an IT shop and can't write the code to render "hello world" in C, html, php, and pull "hello world" from a MySQL database using a perl script, then YOU are in the wrong job." Furthermore, Cringley adds, "these latter tasks can be copies and pasted straight from properly composed Google queries,"--they're a test of the ability to use the Internet.
"Yeah, right," I am sure most of you are thinking. "As if we could fire our bosses!" And of course you cannot (though if you can figure out how, you might want to take that idea straight to the bank), nor is Cringley's column a balanced argument. But what he points to is something salient: when layoffs come around, it is all too frequently the wrong things that get cut, and by the wrong people.
Instead, running IT smarter should be the path to saving jobs--more cloud computing, fewer data centers and fewer six-figure contracts with no benchmarks to assess if they're worth what they're being paid.