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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guest Column: An IT professional on Plainfield's IT moves

Plainfield's City Council approved a salary ordinance (MC 2009-18) Monday which puts the Robinson-Briggs administration on track to hire an Information Technology (IT) Manager (Level 1) with a salary range of $70,000 - $110,000 (see the state's Civil Service title description here).

Guest blogger for this post is Nat Singleton, a retired IT professional. Nat worked for IBM for twenty years as a telecommunications manager in systems architecture and network development and consulting. For IBM, he worked on assignment in Europe on the establishment of SWIFT, the worldwide financial funds transfer system. After retiring from IBM, Nat spent fifteen years with Unisys, as a manager responsible for risk assessment on projects for several Fortune 500 companies, including PSE&G. Nat is a twenty-five year resident of Plainfield, a member of the board of the Plainfield Area YMCA, and a former commissioner of the Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority.


With the passage of the salary ordinance establishing an Information Technology manager's position, the Robinson-Briggs administration and the City Council are embarking down a path they hope will solve the problems of the city's IT infrastructure.

They are hoping that this new hire will create and manage a new IT infrastructure that will bring the City of Plainfield into the 21st century, technologically speaking.

The problem here is one of putting the cart before the horse.

Let's look at how it seems this will roll out and the possible costs involved.

First, an IT Manager will be hired with a salary of $70-110,000, exclusive of health and pension benefits.

What will this person do?

Let's clear away first what they probably WON'T DO.

The Administration has given no indication whether the new hire will do any of the following --
1. Network design and implementation.
2. Man the Help Desk.
3. Problem solving/troubleshooting hardware and software issues.
4. Teach people how to use the system.
Well, you may ask, what DO they do?

The new hire will manage, which means they will - whoops! - need a staff (according to the Civil Service description, up to ten people)

The new hire (plus any staff that is added) will have to begin by doing what should have been done in the first place, BEFORE anyone was hired: perform a Needs Assessment.

A Needs Assessment is a specific methodology done by trained IT professionals which, when done correctly, should provide an organization a road map of where they are now, where they need to be, and how to get there. Unless the new hire is a seasoned hand with many such Needs Assessments under his or her belt, it is best done by outside professionals.

That will add a cost of $30,000 to $60,000 to the first year's expenses for the assessment.

So, if the manager hires a staff of say three persons and has an outside needs assessment done, we can quickly see the City's financial commitment -- with benefits -- ballooning toward $400-500,000 in the first year alone.

All of this comes with no guarantee of success.


Is there a better way, you might ask? Is there a way of thinking outside of the box where the same thing can be done for less money?

I think so. Nowhere in the Administration's headlong rush to get an IT manager has the phrase ‘shared services’ come up. I can only surmise that the Administration is unaware that Plainfield already has a cost-effective, highly competent and well-thought-of IT organization in place, one that is ALREADY paid for by the taxpayers.

That organization exists at the Plainfield Public Library. Why not be creative for a change, go outside the box, and make the Library the technological hub for the City of Plainfield?

This would provide a logical extension of the Library's expertise and experience, good public relations for both the city and the Library, and allow us to say 'the buck stops here.'

How can we determine if this is feasible?

Easy. Before anything else is done, hire the Library to perform the Needs Assessment.

Based on the results, we will be able to know if the Library can become the City's technology hub and whether it really makes sense for the city to continue going down the path of creating its own independent IT staff.

Finally, Plainfield might even be able to get the state to fund such a project as a pilot for developing a future technology role for libraries in the state of New Jersey.

-- Nat Singleton

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

Hopefully this administration will take notice. We need to take advantage of any solution that could possibly lower the tax burden on homeowners

Wake Up City Hall!!

olddoc said...

It is great to know that someone else has concerns similar to mine about the appropriateness of the recently passed ordinance. Food for a blog tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Very well thought out, but way too logical. It simply won't work for this administration.

Anonymous said...

Why not hire Remington Vernock ?? They already get half the City checks every week ??

Anonymous said...

Talk about watching a trainwreck unfold. This approval of the ordinance and hiring of a manager is FOOLISHNESS!

The council should know better. I dont have the same confidence in the Robinson-Briggs administration. I'm sure she has a bodyguard in mind to fill the position.

This explanation of how things should be done makes perfect sense and to my ears is EXACTLY what needs to be done.

Great write up!

Anonymous said...

Good idea, Nat. Barring your idea, which should be carefully considered, one of the criteria of hiring this person is the ability to do a needs assessment. And I believe that you are on the IT committee, so you will be well equipped to be able to see through any....stuff presented by the candidate.

City Hall - Think outside the box!

Rob said...

This thought process just makes too much sense for the city council and Mayor Jerry's Assistant to grasp. A common person can grasp it and agree it makes sense ( the needs assessment alone makes too much sense for Mayor Jerry's assistant Sharon ) but NOT the administration. Cart before the horse ??? BAH...forget the horse, buy the cart and watch it rot in place I say!! ( Yes Jerry, that is me in fact saying I believe I could work with and for you )

Anonymous said...

To Rob,

I hope you get the job with Jerry - in private enterprise.

Anonymous said...

to Anon 10:26, would you hire anyone who so clearly despises you and disrespects your authority as an employer as "Rob" seems to feel about the current administration?
This is what you and your friends don't understand. Nobody wants to be around people who hate them, vote against them, campaign against them, tell endless lies about them, and do everything they can to sabotage their every effort. Get it through your heads! Dan, please post this comment, I know you dont like to post comments that dont agree with you but it's getting a little old. This is at least the 6th or 7th comment I've sent you lately and you seem to be ignoring them all!

Dan said...

To 10:12 AM --

This comment is posted because it's germane to the topic, tho I hope you're not arguing that the only reason someone should be hired is because the Mayor is comfortable around them? The job title for that person is 'sycophant'.

Meanwhile, if there any lies about the mayor, give chapter and verse.

Also, you might want to consider NOT hiding behind anonymity and sign your real name, in which case I will always post your comments -- unless, of course, they have nothing to do with the post, which is the reason that comments are usually rejected.

Anonymous said...

Name me one person who was ever hired by the previous mayor (rip, no disrespect) who wasn't in the same frame of mind and supported him and his policies? Granted there were tenured employees in city hall, but look at his direct hires. I'm not saying that it is the only qualification, I'm just saying that the opposite would be anyone's "disqualification".

And by the way, I have no idea who "Rob" is so he might as well be anonymous.

0s0-Pa said...

Im sure they will have some good candidates with that lucrative position in the down economy.
-Jack Trade Association