IT’s Top Ten

Rule 8: You Manage What You Measure

Measure only what you care about, and communicate that to everyone — your direct employees, peers, and your own management — so they understand and accept your priorities.

If you don’t care about cost, then don’t manage cost. If you don’t care about schedule, then don’t manage schedule. If you are not measuring it with a metric, then you are not managing it.

At Sun IT, we care about availability and quality. I know the availability and performance of every one of my systems and gather volumes of performance data on each. And when a system is slow, I am instantly paged so I can address the issue. I track those metrics all the time, and I manage my employees by them. So my employees know what their focus should be, and my peers and management understand my team’s priorities.

Rule 9: Best is not Better

This rule addresses “analysis paralysis”; the tendency to over-analyze. By trying to implement the world’s best system, you might analyze for three years, which means you won’t gain benefits for at least that long.

If you follow rules one-through-eight, you won’t make a bad decision. So decide what you want now and move forward. Be confident in your decision. Even if you want to add new technology later, if you base the system on open standards and separate your layers, it’s easy to make changes.

Rule 10: Nothing in Life (or IT) is Easy

The last rule is tongue-in-cheek. Always assume the worst from a risk-management perspective. Remember: this is about setting expectations.

Assume that a system is going to production and the server hasn’t arrived; your project lead is leaving for another company; and users will do all the things you don’t think they’ll do.

Don’t plan too optimistically. Assume that these are the kinds of things that are going to happen, and because there are so many moving parts, something usually does happen. As an executive, you’ll be prepared and will be able to lead any type of project effectively.

These are the top 10 rules by which I manage myself and my teams at Sun. I feel if you follow these 10 rules, you’ll always be successful with technology.

Bill Vass, CIO of Sun Microsystems, joined Sun as an IT vice president four years ago. Prior to joining Sun, Vass provided CIO oversight for software systems in the Department of Defense (DoD), the Pentagon, and all infrastructure groups. Bill also acted as the DoD’s CTO.