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Webmasters With Attitude

By: Roy Troxel

Job Market Survival Tips For Webmasters and CIOs

There's a funny skit on Saturday Night Live that portrays IT specialists as wisecracking characters who love to belittle the other employees who bring their computer problems to the help desk. They say things like, "You're still running Windows 2000? Where did you get it? The Antique Road Show?"

Well, that's really not good customer relations, especially if you're in business for yourself, so that's not what this article is recommending. But the truth is, IT has been getting a bad rap for the past few years, and you do have to convince your clients that you're worth every cent you're asking.

There are numerous ways to publicize yourself and your skills, but I've noticed that a lot of people these days are doing it in a very general, undirected manner. In other words, don't just hand out business cards. You need to focus on a specific niche of clients and then try to understand their business.

For example, if you want to do IT work for accountants during the tax season, then you should certainly start meeting some tax accountants. Find out where they gather or meet. Learn something about IRS forms, and attend classes on taxes. (And of course, bring your business cards to those classes.)

The same is true if you work for a corporation. If you think your IT job is in jeopardy, it's probably because the bosses don't think that IT is worth it's salt anymore. Understand the mind set of the CEO or the CFO: They went through the high- tech bust a few years ago, got burned and now see people like you as easy scapegoats. It was a Webmaster who convinced them to jump aboard the Information Highway by sinking, say, $50,000 into those Unix servers that were never used. Many bosses in smaller businesses feel the same way, and they've been coming to some distressing conclusions.

How Your Bosses and Clients See You

1. They don't need the CIO or Webmaster in any executive, decision-making positions, so they're relegating IT under the Chief Financial Officer, who can keep a ceiling on IT's spending habits.

2. Why not just outsource all the web design and development projects to Singapore? The wages there are very low, compared to the demands of American "experts". (For those of you who live in Singapore or India, your jobs may be shipped to certain areas of China, where the state-controlled wages are even lower.)

3. There are numerous off-the-shelf solutions available today. You don't really need in-house developers or web designers when you can use some of the packaged accounting or web design software that's available today.

Industry analyst Stephanie Overby, writing for CIO.com, notes that "In the incessant competition for privilege, ambitious groups seek legitimacy by declaring themselves an elite that deserves an exclusive position." She was talking about the techno-wizards of a few years ago. Consequently, "CIOs who had achieved a place in the executive ranks and a straight-line reporting relationship to the top of an organizational chart are now seeing that access threatened."

Ten Pro-active Steps for the Webmaster

There are, however, a number of things that today's Webmasters, CIOs, and network admins can do:

1. Run IT like any other business unit, but do it in a public manner: send emails to the executives, plan projects, give presentations, and fire unproductive employees if you need.

2. Surround yourself with people who have business backgrounds. Don't just network with techies. Get out of IT for a few weeks and talk with people in other departments - not necessarily the bosses, but the specialists as well. If you're working at an insurance company, make sure the people you hire know something about insurance; don't hire a techie just because he knows all about Linux. If you're self-employed the same principles apply.

3. Teach your staff to do the same; i.e., visit other departments, talk with users, find out how this particular business really works. Don't just hide out in the server room.

4. If your boss or your clients think your budget or the money you earn is too high, then divide the total cost by the number of people in the company. Break the overall cost of operation down to smaller incremental numbers. Show your clients how much they are paying for each service or product they're buying, instead of presenting them with a lump sum. This kind of quantification makes negotiating much easier.

5. Rebuild any bridges that have been burned. Try to salvage your relationships with the executives or clients. You've probably been doing a good job all along and you're probably knowledgeable, but maybe you haven't been communicating this effectively.

6. If your company thinks your role is "dubious", you might suggest that they cross-train IT teams to business concepts and vice-versa.

7. Make your company's web site an income generator by linking to affiliate programs or shared services with other companies. Products like MS Small Business Server and SharePoint Server are designed for creating portals and extranets in order to share services among companies.

8. If the bosses are considering outsourcing IT projects, then remind them that they still need a CIO as a strategist, as someone to manage the vendors. You will be the one who keeps an eye on the outsourcers: Are they living up to the conditions of the contract? Are their quality control procedures in place? Are the same developers working throughout the duration of the project?

9. If your bosses are considering off-the-shelf solutions, suggest to them that: "If everyone is buying their own thing, like we did ten years ago, we'll end up with systems that don't talk to each other."

10. Make a list of everything that could go wrong with your company - taxes, inflation, bad economy, and then use IT to predict what your company's losses would be. By knowing these facts in advance, you and/or the executives you can prepare methods to divert or recover from disasters when they happen.

Finally, you should periodically remind your clients that IT and web technology exists to make business more efficient and work more comfortable by automating the tasks that humans just can't do. You are here to help in that process.


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Rick Contrata

www.devNIC.com - Domain Name Registration, Web Hosting, Articles, Tutorials and An Internet Business Resource Directory…Coming Soon!.......Blogware.


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