Editor's Desk

The Influencer

Just because you don't have a "C" at the beginning of your title doesn't mean you're not influential.

When outsiders like magazine publishers and product vendors study the world of IT, a great debate always rages over who makes purchasing decisions. Is it the CTO? The CIO? The line-of-business manager? The MIS manager? And on and on.

In fact, IT purchasing decisions are often made not by so-called C-level folks, but by the technical people in the trenches. That’s you. You’re what I call an influencer. That means when a problem comes up in your organization, you pinpoint the answer, research solutions, make recommendations—and fill out the check request. You do everything but sign it. You heavily influence your company’s technical strategies by structuring the problem and formulating the responses—and by understanding the details behind the decisions.

According to our latest readership survey, the organizations where you work have an average of 249 servers and 3,441 workstations. Those are not insignificant numbers.

You're what I call an influencer. When a problem comes up, you pinpoint the answer, identify approaches, research solutions, and fill out the check requests.

The same survey says a quarter of you work for Microsoft partner companies. That means you have the power to effect decision-making in the companies where you consult. And since the trend these days is toward outsourcing, that influence will only grow.

Ironically, outsiders often have trouble understanding your influence. Despite our title, only a fraction of our editorial pages every month focuses on career and certification topics. The bulk of the magazine is devoted to a mammoth number of product reviews, detailed technical coverage, and hardcore how-to columns. We tailor the content to MCPs in the field. You do far more on the job than prepare for your next exam. In fact, most of you have trouble finding time to study at all—work is too demanding.

It’s time for you to proclaim your true value to your employers and the outside world—and it’s not just as an MCSE. You’re the person who works for a solution provider and is called to the client site to figure out how to make the business work better. You’re the person who recognizes the relative advantage of NAS over SAN and speaks up in the technical meeting to point out the flaws in the thinking of the VP of technology. You understand the details—and the tools—behind successful network migrations, data transformation, desktop deployment, messaging, clustering, and a hundred other technical topics. At the same time you’re doing what you can to glean insights into how to talk to the business leaders, develop ROI, and turn your operations into more than a cost center.

I believe you, the experienced, Windows networking professional, compose a sleeper audience. If vendors truly understood how IT works within most organizations, they’d realize the importance of decisions made by the technical professionals who install, configure and support the networked systems that make business work. When that day comes, expect software and hardware companies alike to start wooing you with a vengeance.

How are you using your influence to steer your company toward the right technical decisions? Tell me at dian.schaffhauser@mcpmag.com.

[Note: This article was re-edited June 20, and may appear different from when it was first posted on June 12. —Michael Domingo, Editor]

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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Reader Comments:

Sat, Jun 22, 2002 R Chicago

As an MCSD, I can only assume that you are NOT talking to me. In your editorial above, you used "MCSE" as the default reader. As an MCSD, the magazine has minimal technical info aimed at me, but I continue to subscribe to get it for the occasional Exam prep article. I would have to say I am the type of reader that your advertisers THINK all your readers are. I do enjoy the magazine, it just doesn't take me very long to get from front cover to back cover.

Fri, Jun 21, 2002 Tom Black Anonymous

Rarely will you see a CIO standing in front of a customer and if they were and the customer asked a question about the network or what they might recommend it's us that gives the answer. We influence our customers decisions. I have been dealing diretly with customers for over two decades now and it is my experience that it is the technician the customer sees on a regular basis that the customer listens to, not sales or management. It's us they trust!

Fri, Jun 21, 2002 Mike Maryland

At the end of the day, it's the Marines in the trenches that win the battles, not the Generals in their corner offices...Meaning: The folks running the cable, completing tape backups, rebuilding the servers, configuring the routers, etc keep the C's employed. The C's know this deep down inside, but they can't admit it in public or they would be forced to take a pay cut.

Fri, Jun 21, 2002 James McClung Seattle WA

I work within the production operations group of very diverse corporation. In this challenging, mixed-heterogenous WAN that supports internationally cobranded Websites for many of the wireless companies of the world, Webhosting for thousands of individuals, and credit card authorizations for thousands of merchants it is interesting that how many people within in my company know my name. That is because I deal with every group within the corporation dealing with the monitoring and resolution of the issues. My email alias flies across the desktops of everyone at my company. When I meet someone in the elevator or a company party, they almost always say "WOW, it's nice to put a face to the name". While I am far from being the head of the company, I do make a major contribution to the operation of it and sometimes it's only the "WOW" that really rewards me. Maybe someday the other rewards will follow. Until then I hope to continue to WOW them and vice versa.

Fri, Jun 21, 2002 Peggy (MCP) New York

You got it! Fortunately, I work in an environment that recognizes the value of my work. To those looking to get a foot in: try contract jobs (monster.com) - it worked for me. 6 months of contract jobs and I then with that experience came a full-time job. And now THEY are paying for me to get my MCSE...not the other way around. Good luck to all!

Fri, Jun 21, 2002 Mark Louisville

You are right on the money with this one. The onus is on us to speak up when it can make a difference. Any C* worthy of the title will recognize those who have an effect on the business, good or bad. If we, through our knowlege and efforts make a positive contribution to the profitability and longevity of the organization, we need to be prepared to accurately communicate this to those at the top. My own experience has been that often when IT has made a significant contribution, they don't know how to properly take credit in a format that the C*s will recognize.

Fri, Jun 21, 2002 Keith Maryland

True True, there are two ways projects happen. One, the CIO buys a product and directs his staff to implement it. Two, the CIO tells his staff what he wants to happen and then plays golf. Guess which one results in the most successful project. :)

Fri, Jun 21, 2002 Anonymous Paris

the real trick is to use subliminal messages at the coffee machine , cofee machine converstions ALWAYs come back to the "c"'s ;) , then they'll built their speech on it and thanks the A*** who speaks in your back , the trick is to make it so that only have the solution details ironed out before the management even thiks about this problem , basically be six month in the future ;)

Thu, Jun 20, 2002 TomBain Anonymous

So what does a guy do till then to break into the IT field so it matters? My degree and Certs haven't helped yet.

Thu, Jun 20, 2002 Michael DFW Texas

All I know is that after many months of busting my butt and 15K dollars later, having earned that MCSE, MCP+I and CNA...I still can't get a job because I don't any experience. Yah, I suppose you just gave a good pep talk, wish I had a position to evaluate what you said.

Thu, Jun 20, 2002 RichW S.F. CA

So very true. The CTOs and CIOs give me their vision and direction. I am the one tasked with looking for the solutions to bring about that vision. This means identifying the requirements and scope. It also involves researching, evaluating, and finally adopting and implementing those products which will bring about the required results.

Thu, Jun 20, 2002 Tony Alabama

You are exactly right! However, until those "C's" realize it - nothing will change.

Thu, Jun 20, 2002 Jo K Seattle

All the "C"s I know are too busy with motivational rags, learning mgmnt-speak and dealing with contracts to spend time to shop for techie stuff. They will test components, but only after the field has been narrowed down. You're right about the influence - we determine what components they evaluate.

Thu, Jun 20, 2002 Mark Gittoes UK

Spot on - just what I wanted to read and so true. The key factor here is details details details.

Wed, Jun 12, 2002 Mike Tampa

Suddenly I feel like a nice warm buttered Piece of Bread! Nice pep-talk!

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