Seven Things IT Should be Doing (but Isn't)

Taking a hard, honest look at what you need to accomplish is the key to keeping your business competitive--and yourself gainfully employed.

Pity the poor IT managers.

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They're expected to know what their end-users want need, even if their end-users can't articulate it themselves. They're under constant pressure to develop new skills (like AJAX) while maintaining old ones (COBOL, anyone?), and to not only maintain line-of-business apps but jazz them up to meet the expectations of the Facebook generation.

They've got to deal with a data tsunami that increases more than 30 percent per year while simultaneously protecting the company jewels from devastating data spills. They're required to gird for disasters of unknown proportions and figure out how to keep the business going in the aftermath.

[ Think you've got it bad, check out "The 7 dirtiest jobs in IT." ]

And, oh yeah—they need to take a few business finance courses. In their copious spare time, of course.

Tough job? You bet. But in this Web 2.0-centric data-engorged world, it's the cost of doing business. Do them well and both you and your company will succeed.

Here are seven (more) things to add to your must-do list. Ignore them at your peril.

[ See also our slideshow "Seven things IT should be doing (but isn't)" ]

No 1: Follow your users You don't have to hire a gumshoe to find out how people actually use technology inside your company's walls, but it couldn't hurt.

"IT folks should shadow their users to find out what they really do for a living," says Jonathan Ezor, assistant professor of law and technology at Touro Law Center in Central Islip, N.Y. IT personnel often complain users don't understand enough about technology, but Ezor says the opposite is also true—IT recommendations don't reflect the real world of users.

[ Or you can cut down on the to-do list by putting end-users to work. See "Guerrilla IT: How to stop worrying and learn to love your superusers" ]

Case in point: pervasive wireless Net access. Great for many companies, but a potential disaster in Ezor's law classrooms. So starting next fall, some of the school's IT managers will begin auditing Ezor's classes, to get a feel for what student life is like.

Even better: Shoulder-surf your biggest customers. It's the best way to figure out what works and what needs fixing, says Richard Rabins, co-founder of database maker Alpha Software.

When Alpha builds custom apps for its biggest clients, it puts a development team inside the offices of the departments that will ultimately be using the software.

"Having developers feel the actual pain is very powerful," says Rabins. "If our IT folks can walk in the shoes of users and understand their business processes, that gives us a real competitive edge."

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