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  • Adam Walter

Fourth Quarter Madness

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Blog Ep 127

Chances are, if you work in IT, you’re all too familiar with the infamous end-of-year scramble, otherwise known as Fourth Quarter Madness. This week, Skip and Adam talk about why this seems to always occur no matter how hard you try to plan ahead, then share how you can prevent it (and maybe actually take a few days off for the holidays this year.)

Why Does Fourth Quarter Madness Happen?

IT professionals always try to schedule projects out equally throughout every quarter, but no matter what, the fourth always ends up being the most hectic. Although you may wish you could avoid this annual problem, in a way it’s motivation to finish everything you had planned for the year and incorporate your “use it or lose it” mentality.

Plus, most IT folks view the days when everyone is out of the office as a great opportunity to get projects done without the risk of user error. You can focus on the building aspect while everyone else is away eating their turkey.

Regardless of whether you embrace or dread Fourth Quarter Madness, how did it come to be? First, IT people are just that — information technology engineers. They’re intelligent “fixers” who have not been to business school. They don’t know how to plan, budget, finance or manage projects like an accountant or salesperson would, and they’ve had no one to formally teach them these skills.

Furthermore, IT has only been around for 20-30 years, which is less than one career cycle. The changes that have occurred within that cycle are astronomical, leaving IT professionals feeling like they’re constantly playing a game of catch-up. The second a schedule seems to be nailed down, a new technology comes out. It’s such a young field that hasn’t had time for many norms to be established, making it difficult for its workers to plan ahead.

How Can You Prevent It?

The good news is, in another 20 to 30 years, the mad rush of the fourth quarter wont be as big of a deal, as long as we start working together with business executives in order to learn how to better plan ahead. That time may come even sooner, given that technology didn’t change nearly as much in the 2010s as it did in the early 2000s. So, although IT can be quite unpredictable, in the end it comes down to effectively running a budget — and this isn’t something that’s automatically learned.

Business owners: you should approach your IT staff, mentor them through the budgeting and project management process and help them learn the business cadence so they can schedule your project to fit into their gaps. Technology professionals will likely never reach out to you for help like this for fear that they’ll seem incpompetent, but the reality is, they’ve never learned sound business management practices because they’re engineers.

IT professionals: to stay on track, hold beginning and end-of-year meetings. Set out with a mission, lay out a forecast and plan ahead. It’s good to have expectations. You should also carefully examine the previous year, in terms of budget and scheduling, before heading into the next. Take your methodical engineering processes and apply them to finances.

In sum, it’s often difficult, but never impossible, to predict your spending for the year. The best annual plans are only achieved when business owners guide IT professionals through budgeting and project management, and in turn, IT professionals communicate with business owners about their yearly goals and objectives.

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