Proud CSO learns when to share the load

The only obstacle to hiring consultants might be my own pride, says security manager

The issue: resources are stretched thin and there’s too much work on the security manager’s plate. Action plan: there’s some extra money in the budget, which makes using consultants a real possibility.

It’s been like Christmas this year in the security lab. We were able to purchase all the technologies we had planned on. That’s unusual, because IT and security equipment is expensive, making our budget one of the largest in our agency. We don’t always get the things we want and sometimes we can’t even get the things we think we need.

Even better, though, we just closed the fiscal year with excess funds that had to be spent and I was given first dibs. I took advantage of the opportunity by purchasing equipment that was not budgeted for until the next financial year.

That means I have extra money in the current budget, which presents an intriguing dilemma regarding the limits of my staff and my own time.

In my previous jobs, the types of projects that are under way right now at the agency were staffed with several security engineers. But here, I’m it.

Now, that’s something I don’t really mind. In fact, I’ve written before about my belief that it’s beneficial for technical managers to work alongside their staff on critical projects — a belief that’s strongly opposed by virtually all management gurus and supported by about half of the readers who have taken the time to write to me on this topic.

It has been my experience that technical people want technical managers who understand what they are talking about and can offer assistance from time to time.

Then there’s the fact that I don’t have anyone on staff with the level of expertise necessary to successfully complete these projects. I am grooming two senior people to take over, once these projects go into the maintenance phase, but I have to wonder what will happen in the interim.

It would be a huge relief if I could use some of that extra money in the budget to hire consultants. The only obstacle might be my own pride.

I want to be able to say, “Look at what I did!” Like a lot of people who work in IT, I take a lot of pride in what I accomplish professionally and it’s humbling to say I just can’t do it all.

But when I’m not blinded by my pride, I can see that it’s impossible to do everything I’d like to. I took a swipe at planning the projects through the next year. It’s all doable — if I, and the rest of the staff, don’t take any vacations or have any family emergencies for the next 12 months. But we live in the real world, of course, and we all have real families and real obligations to them, and so the schedule needs a dose of reality.

At this juncture, I could rewrite the master project plan to take us out over two years, instead of one, and still do all of the work myself. Or I can figure out how to bring in some consulting services for my most complicated security projects.

When pride comes up against that kind of time-frame reality, it has to take fall. I’m going to see whether we can manage to bring in some consultants.

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