A CTO of a wireless software company tells us about a venture capitalist who lost his BlackBerry on a business trip while he was in the middle of closing a highly sensitive, confidential deal. The BlackBerry wasn’t password-protected, so even after the panicked venture capitalist contacted his IT department to have e-mail delivery to the device stopped, anyone who happened to pick up the lost BlackBerry could read e-mails already received.
In this case, the minor convenience of not requiring a password had major implications. Ignoring the security of easily lost devices, particularly those belonging to key executives that traffic in confidential information, is a recipe for disaster.
7. Promoting the wrong people
As CTO or CIO, rewarding your top technologist with a promotion to a management position might seem like the right thing to do. But when a technologist is not ready to give up constant, hands-on technology work in favor of more people-oriented management duties, it could be a mistake you’ll regret on many levels.
One vice president of IT painted a grim picture of such a decision: The promoted employee could be resented by former peers and might not like the new management duties, which could lead to poor performance. Even worse, the new manager might feel compelled to cling to the ill-fitting position because the old position might no longer be available.
Just such an experience put this particular vice president in the tough position of having to deal with a new manager’s performance problems, which led to a double whammy: A top technologist left the company, and the new manager still had to be fired.
Management training can help avoid such disasters. But use your gut. Either the aptitude is there, or it isn’t.
8. Mishandling change management
The former CTO of a computer equipment manufacturer describes one situation in which a talented, but perhaps overly ambitious, systems administrator decided to make seemingly simple changes to a set of critical servers during routine maintenance.
While this individual was making the changes, all of which had been agreed on and planned in advance, he decided on his own to upgrade BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain), the open source server software that powers mission-critical local DNS for many companies.
A few hours later, the entire business was at a standstill, as all DNS functions failed. Reversing the “one small change” took hours, and millions of dollars in revenue were likely lost as a result. The lesson is that even talented employees can cause major problems when they don’t follow change management procedures.
Remember, change management is cultural. It all starts at the top: If IT management cuts corners, so will IT staff.
9. Mismanaging software development
In his seminal book The Mythical Man-Month, Frederick Brooks posited that planning software-development projects based on per-unit “man-months” ultimately does not work due to the unique nature of software development.
Even if the building of software could be broken into easily managed, interchangeable time units, the vast productivity difference between the best coders and merely average ones means IT managers might get their best work out of fewer, but more talented, programmers doing their work in less time.