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5 Red Flags to watch out for in IT Management


In this twenty-first century so much is expected from Information Technology (IT) managers. IT managers need to watch out for warning signals in managing the huge resources and investment entrusted into their hands. Don’t sit on the fence; it is time to do something.
Here are 5 red flags IT managers need to watch out for to ensure IT investment is secure and productive:

1. Poor Documentation and Procedure
Managing IT particularly in big organisations can be very cumbersome; however, it can be made easier. Usually, there are two types of knowledge: it is either you know it or you know where to find it. Lack of proper documentation can lead to business process disruption because needed tasks cannot be accomplished in the absence of the ‘guru-staff’. Proper documentation and procedure can in a way be seen as ‘permanent staff’. Every item in a staff job description should have a procedure/documentation in place. The least task, hardware/system/software configuration should have a documentation and procedure.

Often, the attitude towards a new project is usually result based, characterised by the question -is it working? . The resultant excitement eventually leads to a ‘don’t care’ attitude towards the project’s proper and comprehensive documentation/procedure.

In disaster recovery, the backup data is not more valuable than the backup media, except there is a procedure/documentation in place on how to use the backup data to recover business processes/activities.

2. No Separation of duties
Cross-skill within IT functions should be encouraged, but such skills should be used only with a high degree of separation of duties being in place. Functional encroachment should be checked. Higher percentages of system security abuses are usually insider related, hence functional, logical and physical separation of duties should be in place. This also goes to create checks and balances towards task completion and acceptability. Separation of duties also ensures someone is accountable for any task performed. However, the use of generic user-id to access or run any production application minimizes this advantage and also exposes staff to risk.

In this regard, staff who avoid going on leave should be made to go on leave. Leave should be mandatory not optional. Leave time can be organised based on an agreed leave-rooster rather than have staff request for leave arbitrary. Excessive willingness to help users resolve problem should be checked. Additionally, the use of help-desk should be encouraged.

3. Over-delegation/Over-dependency
Delegation is the process managers use to transfer authority and responsibility to positions below them in hierarchy. This at the same time should not be used to create total dependency on some staff for key jobs. It is possible that over time that you forget the job you have delegated – this is negative delegation. For every task, at least two staff should be able to do it. There is a natural tendency of always wanting to delegate to the best staff, but you will be doing better if you use this opportunity to create more champions by challenging other staff.

4. Lack of distinction of System Steering Committee and IT functions
IT managers should be able to draw clear-cut distinction between IT management functions and IT steering committee policy-making functions. IT managers should watch out when the steering committee starts getting too involved in implementation. Failure of IT projects is easily attributed to IT managers, and rarely the steering committee.

IT managers should ensure that there is unity of command - that is each employee is held accountable to only one supervisor. In similar manner, IT managers should be held accountable to only one person and not the IT steering committee.

5. Resistance to Changes
Today Information Technology is the fastest growing industry worldwide; it will be catastrophic for IT managers to operate at status quo level. IT managers reduce the cost of doing business through the knowledge and use of newer technologies. IT managers should not remain in the terrain where they are champions; otherwise, they will be out of the race for which they are seeking championship. Why would you want your organisation to incur the cost of acquiring higher bandwidth? Why would you spend resources installing application on every workstation?
The giant vacuum-tube engineers never believed that tiny semiconductor transistor would have them thrown out of the market. IT managers who are afraid to fail will find it very difficult to change and without notice, they will become irrelevant in this era. Change is expensive, but resistance to change is more expensive to the IT manager and the organisation.

A modern day IT manager should get involved in self-development through continuous education. IT managers should not be passengers, but drivers of change.


Dominic Ogbonna

Dominic Ogbonna is Head of Information Technology at Continental Trust Bank of Nigeria, with over 10 years of experience in banking systems, programming and IT Management. He is a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), with solid experience in Oracle, Visual Basic and various banking software. Drop him a line at:

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