Webmasters With Attitude
By: Roy Troxel
Job Market Survival Tips For Webmasters and CIOs
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?"
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Your Bosses and Clients See You
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.
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
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.
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."
Pro-active Steps for the Webmaster
are, however, a number of things that today's Webmasters, CIOs,
and network admins can do:
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.
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
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.
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.
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
If your company thinks your role is "dubious", you might suggest
that they cross-train IT teams to business concepts and vice-versa.
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.
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
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."
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.
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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