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Book Review Manage IT

Belinda Pianezza

Sometimes the mysterious science of alchemy works. For example, who would have thought that by joining together the simple concepts of self-assessment, employee orientations and coaching with a generous amount of skill training to produce a book that is “greater than the sum of its parts” and addresses an age-old HR challenge: The transition of newly promoted IT managers into their new role?

Manage IT, by Joe Santana and Jim Donovan is a little book written to address this big challenge that most HR professionals are more than painfully aware of . . . the results of the practice of promoting high performing technical people into management roles where they are doomed to failure. As we in HR know, nowhere is this problem more painful and prevalent then in Information Technology. Manage I.T. is the first book to provide HR with a tool it can use to help newly promoted IT Managers and candidates make that transition into management successfully.

The structure of Manage IT sits on top of a very simple foundation: specifically that in order to increase the effectiveness and success of IT managers, we need to:

  • Make sure the management candidate has the talent and passion for the job (aptitude and attitude)
  • Provide them with a clear orientation of their new role (Not only at the what to do level, but at the how to think differently level)
  • Teach them new skills (e.g. how to see and connect to the big picture, people management, etc)
  • Reinforce the newly taught skills through application and coaching

When you look at the background of the co-authors, it’s easy to see the synergy that brought this book into existence. Santana is an IT executive who currently works for a tier one IT outsourcing and consulting company in the OD space. He has been in the IT profession for a little over 22 years in various executive positions. During this time, he personally selected for promotion and trained hundreds of new IT managers. He admits to a high percentage of failures in the beginning, which led him to create a more systematic approach for selection and development that produced huge results for him.

Donovan, on the other hand, is a consultant who has spent the past twenty years in general human potential development space. Before partnering with Santana to coauthor Manage IT, he authored three internationally successful self-help books that help readers to identify the blockages to their growth and create strategies to move forward toward their goals. Combined together, Santana and Donovan offer a vast wealth of experience that includes management and leadership development in IT and proven coaching techniques that produce extraordinary results. To this pool, the authors have added contributions from other key industry experts.

The book is logically divided into chapters that progressively build on a core teaching/coaching model. Throughout the book, you will find numerous rich, real-life examples where the authors share their own experiences to support the topics covered. Another consistent factor throughout the book is that each chapter ends with items for the readers to complete to help reinforce the material. Here is a brief overview of the contents by sections.

The first chapter of the book is designed to help you guide IT management candidates through a well thought out career decision while at the same time providing a basic management role orientation. The chapter provides specific examples designed to help the reader get a clear understanding of the IT management role. It also walks the reader through the process of weighting the pros and cons of the specific management job offer they are considering. The authors recommend that at the end of this chapter that the reader make a decision whether they want to continue on the path to management. The authors, in fact, have made it easy and financially painless for HR professionals to obtain a copy of everything from the cover through this first chapter, which contains this self-assessment and orientation material, by providing it as a free download from their web site.

The second chapter helps you guide the new manager through the process of getting and maintaining the big picture. The model for IT alignment presented in this chapter is based on the seminal work of Dr. Howard A. Rubin, an EVP and Board Member of META Group. Rubin is the pioneering developer of the IT Investment Portfolio Management Model. Rubin personally declares the book a landmark publication based on how it takes his creation to the next level in terms of using it to help managers align themselves and their teams to the big picture. This is a surprisingly easy to use, powerful tool.

Chapters three through six will give you the basic content you need to ground your new IT managers in some of the most useful people management skills they will need to learn to be effective. The authors consider the coverage of these skills in the book as a starting, not ending, point in the development of the new manager. The coverage is actually quite thorough and establishes a solid foundation for any of the many excellent management soft skill programs out in the market today.

The seventh chapter enables you to walk your new managers through the process of doing something that is often harder than acquiring new skills and practices —letting go of old practices and tasks. This “shedding” skill, as the authors call it, is important because unless new managers master it quickly, they will never be able to focus the time and energy on the tasks that will enable them to produce the most value in their new roles as IT managers.

T he eighth chapter gives you an opportunity to briefly introduce and positively frame the topic of IT outsourcing. As more and more companies outsource large and small components of IT, the authors believe that it becomes important to introduce and properly present this topic early so as to avoid future negative reactions on the part of IT managers that often result in harm to both the company and the individual manager.

Chapter nine is a bonus offering especially useful to HR professionals. It presents a complete reprint of the Employee Lifecycle© HR Model white paper developed by Dr. Jon Couture, an SVP of HR at Siemens Business Services. Couture developed this paper as a means of explaining the cyclical nature of careers and how various components of HR need to respond and support employees as they move through life cycles. For example, the idea of providing a role orientation with every promotion and lateral move is a key tenet of the Employee Lifecycle© HR Model. While the model clearly applies to HR professionals supporting non-IT managers, it is clearly well suited to HR professionals supporting IT managers.

At the end of this book, you will find an excellent list of additional resources you and your IT managers can use to continue to build on the foundation established using this book.

Overall, the book is well written in a mentor-coach voice that speaks to the new IT manager and IT manager candidate. The book can be especially useful to HR professionals who utilize it as content in management skill development and coaching discussions. HR pros that want to reduce the cost of poor IT management in their company and start driving the benefits of superior information technology leadership at every level in their companies will find Manage IT an excellent tool.

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Belinda Pianezza
bpianezza@hr.com

Belinda Pianezza is HR.com's Magazine Editor and our resident "celebrity". She's no stranger to cameras as she has worked for several major national and local television stations as a host/anchor and reporter. With more than 15 years of experience under her belt, this journalist won't let anything slip by her...especially, when it comes to editing and proofreading.

As Editor, Belinda is the hunter and gatherer of articles for HR.com. She works with production editor, Martha Watt, to ensure you're always getting the best information possible to do your job better. Have a great story idea to pitch? Send it to her!

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