Survival of the fittest

IT experts offer 10 tips for keeping your job secure in the face of outsourcing and offshoring threats.

"We're conducting a layoff. We're outsourcing IT. We're offshoring." Those are words that no IT manager wants to hear. While some events are beyond your control, IT managers who have weathered these business changes offer some advice about what you can do to boost your job security.

1. Tell the truth. "Be honest in dealing with managers, peers and subordinates," says Charles Lewis, professional engineer for electrical power company JEA in Jacksonville, Fla. "Keep your commitments, and if you can't, be sure co-workers know that something interfered and tell them why."

2. Align IT with the business. "Ensure your department's goals are directly in line with business objectives," says Mark Moroses, senior director of technical services and security officer at Maimonides Medical Center in New York. "We do this through several organizational steering committees that meet monthly and quarterly. These committees directly prioritize MIS projects and approve MIS budget submissions."


IT outlook declines due to outsourcing, offshoring


3. Determine ROI. Plan how your money is spent. "Include ROI analysis on anything above a small project as part of the project," Moroses says. "If you're not keeping score of your work, you're not really measuring your value to the organization and also not learning from your mistakes." What's more, performing ROI calculations gives you data to demonstrate the successes of your IT staff.

4. Keep on top of technology. Ron Hills, systems consultant and desktop engineer for PMI Mortgage Insurance in Walnut Creek, Calif., says one of the most important aspects of keeping your job is continuing education.

"I learn as much about my job as I can," Hills says. "This includes continuing education courses, certification and seminars to stay in tune with current technology." He reads the industry news for awareness of relevant technology issues to discuss with his employer.

5. Don't say no outright. "We very rarely say no to any request," Moroses says. "We do, quite often, however, have to compromise with how we solve a problem."

Moroses normally will start a dialogue with his customer in which IT will explain the possible implications of a technology change.

"A particular solution may meet a smaller need but create a bigger global risk," he says. "We have an alternative plan that will provide 95% of their needs with no security implications. By engaging our clients in this manner and making them part of the solution decision, they do not become disenfranchised, and feel like a partner instead of a frustrated supplicant."

6. Be flexible. "Become more of a versatilist," says Joe Santana, director of training and organizational development Siemens Business Services in New York and author of Manage IT, a guide for IT managers. "In organizations in the past, specialists were highly prized. If you can be segmented into a person that just does one thing, that does make you a candidate for offshoring or outsourcing.

Santana recommends developing additional skills such as requirement analysis, process design or vendor management.

7. Don't become indispensable. "Avoid making yourself 'indispensable,' " Moroses says. "Sometimes ensuring all workflows [and projects] go through one super-important person has the opposite effect."

Santana says indispensable managers have some sort of specialized information they aren't sharing with their team and can't produce the same quantity of work as a team could put out. "Eventually, this is going to come back and bite people," he says.

8. Become more client-facing. "People who deal with clients directly, whether internal people in the organization or outside the company, are valuable," Santana says. "The demand for client-facing people with technical skills is actually increasing."

9. Optimize staff talents. "In the past people became managers because of what they did technically. After they were managers, they just continued doing what they were doing before," Santana says. "Now to really drive value into the corporation, managers need to leverage their people. That means to have good management skills, assessing when their people need direction, support or coaching."

What to watch for

These events might indicate that layoffs, outsourcing or offshoring are imminent in your IT department:
The rumor mill is relatively accurate.
Budget cuts are occurring.
You’re given an assignment outside your area, such as getting moved to the help desk.
The company is stringing out vendor payments.
Things suddenly get very quiet.

Job searching strategies

If you're the victim of downsizing, try these tips for finding new work:
Do a post-mortem analysis on your successes and failures in your most recent position.
Remember that layoffs are not personal, so quickly resolve whatever animosity arose through the separation process.
Find an approach and be persistent.
Network, network, network.

David Bratt, technology architect for H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., says it is also a good practice to "create an environment where employees can succeed. Be honest and realistic when setting technological goals."

10. Develop leadership capability. "The key to success at staying in an IT position is getting leadership skills and being able to get those teams of IT people to work together to meet the organizational goals and keep them focused and aligned on what they are trying to accomplish," says Dennis Haley, CEO of Academy Leadership in King of Prussia, Pa., and author of The Leader's Compass: Set Your Course for Leadership Success.

"When we talk to IT departments, very few of them have any leadership training, even though they have had four to eight years of training in computers and computer science," Haley says. "A lot of times, a company will take their best IT person and make him the manager, and then they have two problems: They've lost their best IT person, and they have a bad manager."

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