Editor for a Day: Greg Shields, Raytheon Company

Despite a resistant corporate culture, Greg and his colleagues developed a formalized change management process, which can even be adapted to smaller groups.

Nearly three years ago, when my company began an initiative to establish IT enterprise processes, I stood out as one of its biggest opponents. Openly and emphatically I professed to coworkers and management my vision of an IT department that could no longer meet its deadlines. Forever stuck in endless approval cycles and incessant documentation of our ever-changing environment, I saw “process” as the end of my ability to get my job done.

Others in the organization shared my concerns. We felt we were no longer trusted to do our jobs without heavy management oversight. We felt that the strain of an extra two to four hours of approval meetings every week would keep us from doing “real work.”

Boy, were we wrong.

The culture in IT often shies away from formalizing our processes, but out in the real world people live and die by following strict sets of rules. As a mountain climber here in Colorado, I follow a known set of rules that determine when to keep ascending the mountain and when to turn around because of inclement weather, exhaustion or a bad route choice. As a backcountry snowboarder, I use time-tested rules to gauge the snow and determine that conditions are safe. These processes don’t keep me off the mountain—they ensure I come back alive day after day.

But I didn’t apply the same thinking to my job. Looking back on those times, I still laugh at how naive I was. In one meeting I’d be griping about how process requirements were removing my ability to accomplish tasks on time, while in another I was complaining about server problems caused by changes made without communicating them to the group. In still others I complained because one manager would send me off on one task, while another would pull me in an entirely different direction.

And old saying goes, “May you live in interesting times.” Indeed.

As Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine’s Editor for a Day, I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to see the inner workings of how a world-class technical magazine is run from the inside. I’ve attended editorial staff meetings, discussed art and layout issues at length, and had a nuts-and-bolts look at how this magazine goes from idea to your doorstep every month. The experience has been exciting.

As one part of this experience the staff at the magazine asked me to educate you, the reader, on a topic we all find important in improving our work experience. As in my experience, the practical reality of enterprise process in your company will likely be the culture shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to IT problems. In its implementation, you’ll also experience the dark side of organizational change—politics.

In this issue’s cover story we’ll look at some ideas for establishing IT process in your organization. Although the outline provided obviously fits well for a larger team, if you’re part of a smaller group you can easily tailor the general concepts to something that works for you.

Should additional formal approaches to developing IT processes and baseline management interest you, Microsoft offers its Operations Framework at http://www.microsoft.com/mof. There, you’ll find detailed assessments and recommendations on how to develop best practices suited to your IT organization. The site also provides a dozen case studies from companies all around the world that have used Microsoft’s process improvement programs to realize tangible benefits.

Finally, thanks MCP Magazine for welcoming me onto your team—it’s been an unbelievable experience. If you, the reader, want to let me know how I’ve done, email me at [email protected].

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

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