CIO — AFTER A FEW MONTHS in my new position as director of software development at a midlevel ERP applications company, an amazing thing happened to me. I had run through all the classic management techniques of holding staff meetings and one-on-ones with my managers, maintaining an open-door policy and so on. I was comfortably ensconced in my cushy corner office, and my only major concern at the moment was the CEO’s total lack of technical knowledge. Then good fortune smiled on me, and the lights went out.
This is hardly the occurrence that most executive dreams are made of, but it brought me closer to my staff of 60 than anything else I could have imagined. When my office lost electricity and heat, I moved my PC and some paper files, had the phone extension switched and set up shop for two days next to one of our senior QA analysts.
What an experience! It had been 15 years since I was a cube dweller. We are all familiar with sending IT analysts out into the business units to experience "real life"?I now make the case that top-level managers need to climb into the trenches to experience real life too.
For all the CIOs and VPs out there this is going to be an eye-opening experience. Let me share my insights with you.
I had a 19-inch monitor, and I used it mainly to read e-mail and access Microsoft Office. My programmers, on the other hand, had 14- or 15-inch monitors, and they needed to have multiple windows open at once for coding, debugging and documentation. No wonder they made typographical errors?they were continually misreading variable names or transcribing code incorrectly because their work area was too small. My PC, installed by the friendly IT manager on my first day, was the most powerful in the department. Company policy equated rank with CPU speed and disk capacity. My junior programmers had machines that barely did the job. Lesson: Just as I needed a big desk to function, they needed big screens and a powerful CPU.
If the daily environment in which we place our staff does not reflect a commitment to quality, what right do we have to expect it in return? When crashing e-mail servers, network and printer outages, and the need to restart browsers and PCs throughout the day are standard operating practices, what are the realistic expectations for your staff to "get quality"? Lesson: If you expect quality output, give your staff quality tools.