The author Akber Ali is a resident of Iowa, Waukee and an IT professional. The author works full time at Bankers Trust. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.


IT Management in the age of Corona

The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting every sector of an organization. An increase in the remote workforce has created capacity and skillset challenges in mid-market organizations and especially in IT departments preventing their ability to deliver and support rapidly changing organizational needs. The escalation of telecommuting has brought on an increase demand on its core network infrastructure, a significant surge in user support requirements and new security threats.

Who is managing this additional work, and at what expense? Covid-19 has created technical as well as resource (workforce) management challenges. I always believed and still believe that management is a skill set that you are born with. Yes, with education, proper training, and experience you can polish your management skills, but you can't change your default characteristics. It is very easy to sit at the top and be a super manager but the real challenge is to come down and look upward. I always believe that you have to strive and be humble to win the hearts of your workforce.

As someone said “smile is the best medicine in the world”.

In this article I am not going to talk those abstract terms which consultants and ivy-league university professors introduce in a five stars hotel with expansive food served during the break. Rather, I am talking about simple management skills that ordinary workers understand and like to have it in their bosses and managers attitude.

If on one hand the managers and consultant give extreme importance to communication, then why in the world a polite approach, saying good morning to your workers, sharing a cup of coffee, inviting them to their home, calling them randomly and just asking about their family, etc. won’t be considered an important communication ingredient for organizational success. I personally see no advantage of staff being scared of their manager. I see no advantage when your supervisor pretend that they are always right and that they can pass by you without saying Hi!!!!!

Why people prefer to speak to customer agent rather answering automatic telephone calls. We are human first and need humanly interactions. Now to keep myself in the scope of this article Let me share with you some challenges that a Manager and especially an IT Manager/supervisor/CIO etc. is facing currently and then post Covid-19 crisis.

Communication

we are always being told that successful leaders understand the critical role that communication plays in their daily work and longtime success. We know that It does not matter how better you plan and design strategies for organizational success as long as these are not well communicated to their followers. If you look at the success and failures of covid-19 crisis, you will find that communication played an important role. Leaders across the world who consistently and passionately communicated to their followers/people proved successful, but leaders who kept of changing their message, or did not communicated passionately about the Covid-19 crisis saw more deaths and infections. US is a clear example. US suffered more than any other country beside the fact that US is the richest country on the face of earth, and technologically way advance. Well-planned, high-level daily briefings by leaders/managers can help calm fears, reduce panic, and demonstrate transparency. I work in an IT department. We are agile and participate in daily scrum meeting. I believe that it will make a big difference if our scrum master, or manager, or team leader for that purpose will update us on daily basis about Covid-19. I expect from leaders not only to update me frequently but also to help me with the fears. Now this is what I call "Persistent Communication".

I claim that good management is a skill set that you are born with. One needs to make decision as cards are dealt in each turn of the game. You can’t become a good scrum master (leader/manager) by just 2-weeks long Agile Training. You have to have the knowledge and default skills to communicate effectively. So, I have a 6 members family, and I tell them about this crisis on daily basis. I know they don't like it but I do it. You know I convinced my 22, 20, 19, and 10 years old that covid-19 is a crisis and we have to be watchful and take it seriously. I made sure that they are not fearful, rather they are informed.

Decision Making in Crisis

This is another most important task that managers have to perform. Well you keep on communicating but do not make decision is like you keep on reading about programming languages but fail to write code. As we do not have a big set of data on Covid-19, so the decision making is extremely challenging. I am sure that within a year or two, we will overcome covid-19 crisis, but will we follow and apply the lessons that we learned from the crisis. So, the question is "Are mangers making effective decisions that who does what?”. Are the managers developing backup workforce plan? Let's suppose that I am a support person taking calls to address all email related problems from my customers. I am super effective and knows all the trips and tricks around email issues. I solve my customer problems in minutes. So, what happen if suddenly I get infected with Covid-19. Did my manager used communication tools and made effective decision to prepare my backup? Did my manger clearly nominate another person along with training to be my backup in case of crisis? In short leaders have to be aware of Emergency Decision Making Skills.

Planning for what next and not just responding to what is?

IT management is very unique. You have to agree that IT professionals are few of those people who are literally smart, have a high demand, and thus find jobs very easily. They are very prone to switching jobs as well. So, in the context of strategic foresight and planning closely tied to leadership decision making. Managers specially need not to get preoccupied with only current events and how things are moving. Managers need to get proactive and plan for post-covid time i.e. when crisis are over and team members start coming back to office in full strength. Managers need be ready that certain team members will take more time to readjust themselves. They may start looking for jobs which allow them to work remotely. Their productivity may fall. In my opinion managers need to identify moral boosting training's.

Compassion

Since this is decidedly human crisis, so making changes that support employee health and well-being is critical, including flexible work hours that allow people to balance work and family. Managers have to show compassion. In my personal opinion you have to win the heart and soul. We all know that people leave their jobs not because that they don't like company rather managers. Personally, I will hate if someone will quit job because of me, my attitude, or my work ethics. A manager should not feel offended if his employee is smart, or give suggestion that are more logical or better. As we know that this a very unique time in our lives. None of us have ever experienced crisis of this magnitude before. Workers are adjusting to maintain a balance between work and family around as well. Could you imagine that when you leave your desk to grab a cup of coffee and your seven years old come and press the button to turn off your computer. Imagine your beautiful cat get strangled in wires and pull the cable of the router. The point I am trying to make is that a manger should be highly sensitive and behave humanly to his/her workers. The manager or supervisor should always show empathy toward the team. If you are a manager then go and drop some groceries at their home. It is not impossible. Try to win their hearts.


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Akber Ali 8/7/2020

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