Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What is IT? Well my idea of IT.....

Seems like this should be a simple question to answer, however it is not. Maybe we should ask ourselves what IT (Information Technology) isn’t. In my opinion IT is not desktop support, printer replacement, deployment teams, service desks, and project management teams. The first four (desktop support, printers, deployment, and helpdesk) are outputs or byproducts of IT and the latter is an input. The reason I bring this up (see previous blogs)? How many of you in the IT world are asked by friends and family “Can you fix my computer”? All you have to do is google the problem. No training required right? Frustrating huh? I will attempt to explain why this “break/fix computer guy/girl mentality dooms many an IT department.

What is IT? In a nutshell, (my opinion of course) IT is about the applications, and the infrastructure required to deliver those applications, that support your company’s primary mission. Example, say you work at a hospital and your case management system goes down –your hospital cannot admit/discharge patients, view/update patient charts, etc. Bottom line the hospital will be sued for any damages caused and if the outage is long enough, the hospital will experience financial difficulties. However you can work without email, a blackberry, internet access, or a lack of printing. When a primary mission application goes down, people go home because there is nothing to do.

This being said, the case management system should be the number priority of the hospital's IT department, right? Wrong, the hospital's IT department focuses primarily of blackberries, printers and desktop computers. It is staffed primarily for this purpose and often times the CIO will have the blinders on when is comes to applications side of the house. Often times the CIO thinks IT is break/fix and System Engineering is the loading COTS disks on Windows based servers. If this is how the hospital's CIO thinks….how can he/she go towards cloud computing, datacenter consolidations, disaster recovery solutions, FISMA/HIPAA/SOX compliance, and etc. These are the core missions of IT; hence this is what it is all about. Blackberry and email distruptions will make an IT department look bad. However, primary business related applications outtages will get someone sidelined and/or fired. So where is the problem?

Staffing is the problem. Actually right staffing (lack there of) is the problem. As I have stated IT is looked at as break/fix. The “technical” resources hired for a project are break/fix people. Right now, the hot IT jobs are Systems Engineers and Security Engineers. Hence the hiring manager thinks IT = break/fix people. The bottom line, if you hire the wrong people in IT, you will experience bad business decisions, security breaches, system crashes, limited scalability, zero traction on the CIO's initiatives, and cost overruns (these are just to name a few).

The good news is that we can fix this! In order to do so, the IT department’s management team needs to look inward. They need to realize that they are in the Engineering and Operations business and hire accordingly (this is where to place your eggs) Project Management, and IT Security or INFOSEC are inputs to this primary mission (this isn't where you place all of your eggs). The priorities need to be set to the applications in order of business importance. Roles and responsibilities must be defined; furthermore those job functions must be staffed with the right people (the right college education coupled with certifications and experience come to mind).

Lastly, all the inputs to the primary mission must understand the business of your company’s IT, they must be technical in the areas they manage i.e. if you are Project Manager on a java project, you need to have a general understanding of coding –the desktop guy/girl with a PMP (Project Management Professional) cert doesn’t cut it. Hence you need to know when a software contractor wrote a bad piece of software and/or if the infrastructure really isn’t scalable (which is what developers always claim)! When IT departments right size and more importantly right staff, the problems will downsize. As much as we wish the problems would go away.... they never do, as technology will never solve all of our problems :)

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