How often do you hear about an IT Department that is on its game? Too often organizations see their IT as a necessary evil and just put up with under-performing technology. They naturally assume that IT is complex and difficult and must always be a struggle.
Running an effective IT Department is not an easy task. It has the normal complexities of running any team or group of people. Then, there are all the extra challenges of a field that is continually changing, creating a regular cycle of obsolescence. And, there are additional intricacies of running a service team that exists to serve an internal group of users who are truly the IT customers.
So why does IT so often miss the mark? The list is not a short one. Here are 17 Reasons Why IT Fails:
1. Acceptance that IT is unpredictable. For some reason, we don’t have high expectations for IT. And truthfully, when that server or switch or hard drive fails, how can you blame that on your IT? It certainly sometimes does just happen, but at least as often there is a reason. It could be that the server is far too old to be in service, or because we did not upgrade the operating system, or because maintenance was never done. A single failure is one thing, but a pattern of failure indicates there is a bigger picture problem.
2. Assumption that a good IT engineer or technician can manage IT. As we all know, this mistake is not limited to IT. We promote people to management who are good at their job, but may not be qualified to manage. Running IT effectively is entirely different than being able to install and troubleshoot equipment. It takes leadership, planning and process. These are key skills of a good IT leader that often overlooked when promoting from within.
3. Lack of systems and process. I cannot stress this enough. If your IT does not run on systems and process, it is just a couple of guys or gals putting out fires. Everything is dependent on you having good people, and if they leave, you have a mess. There are 5 or more important systems that must be in place to succeed in IT.
4. Lack of measurement. As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” In IT we need to measure things like On-Time Project Completion, Trouble-Ticket Response and Completion Time, and a host of other things. Without these measurements, there is no goal. Without a goal, there is no accountability.
5. Failure to build team. It is nearly impossible to fulfill the IT role as a one-man-show. There are a few exceptional people out there who manage to be successful in a smaller organization, but it is the exception. At the very least, the separation of strategic from hands-on must be clearly defined. It is very hard to succeed managing the day to day and the strategic at the same time.
6. Lack of attention to obsolescence. Everyone knows that IT changes quickly. However, we cling to what we know. We often stick to the comfortable and what we know way to long. Are you still on Windows 7, 2008 Server, using Fax machines, or swapping backup tapes?
7. Inability to create a budget. IT should be planned and budgeted. Don’t settle for the line that you never know what might happen. IT is more a science than people want to admit. Insist on a plan and a budget. There will be times the unexpected will still sneak in, but start from a solid plan.
8. Inability to sell the budget. I see some IT people get stuck here. They create a budget, but the number is too big, and they can’t accurately set priority or convey priority to the chiefs. An IT leader must be able to convey business value. They must not shy away from the big numbers, when they are necessary.
9. Failure to be strategic. This is probably the most prevalent IT failure. So often, the urgent completely obscures the important and becomes an endless cycle of fixing things.
10. Ignoring equipment cycle plans. Replacing equipment regularly is part of what quiets a network down and creates stability. Many companies don’t even have a schedule. Create one and live by it. It will pay back.
11. Failure to understand the role of IT as that of serving. IT is without a doubt a service provider to the rest of the organization. A good IT leader will see the rest of the organization as the customer and measure their department on how well they are meeting the needs of people.
12. Not enough continuous learning. Not staying plugged into current trends and changes in IT will cripple a company. Often this gets ignored due to expense or time constraints. It ultimately leads to bad decisions or over-reliance on vendor partners and their direction or opinion.
13. Being too cheap. IT purchases are a value decision. Sometimes an IT leader will propose out of their own wallet. They choose the cheaper option without asking the question about value. What will I get with the option that is three times the price. Stability? Lack of down-time?
14. Not finishing. Good intentions don’t finish a project. Half-way done projects cripple a company and introduce additional points of failure. Remove the old equipment. Get everyone on the new solution. Push for completion. Set a goal date. Ask questions to confirm it is truly done and then ask again.
15. Ignoring the discipline of being proactive. Preventative maintenance is the highest form of work in manufacturing theory because it eliminates unplanned work. This absolutely applies to IT. Ignoring proactive tasks allows for data loss or security breaches.
16. Not recognizing and separating roles. There are four types of IT work: business projects, internal IT projects, changes/maintenance, and reactive or unplanned work. These roles must be recognized and assigned in an accountable way to the resources on the team.
17. Lack of accountability. When it comes down to it, we want to be accountable. How do I know I am doing a good job? Most often, this is by an accurate measure of my work that I can see and compare to a standard. What do we do with the measurements we mentioned earlier in this list? We hold it up and see how our team measures up. KPI is our friend when done correctly.
How does your IT measure up? There are many well-intentioned IT people and companies who try to do IT in a reactive fashion without a solid plan, with a very limited division of roles, without the right systems, and without any true accountability. The truth of the matter is, IT should not be a mystery, it should be a well-run machine. Don’t get me wrong, developing a strong IT department is not an easy thing. It takes great people doing hard work together in a strong framework of growth and accountability. Is it worth it? It is not only worth it, but essential for the growth and long-term success of the organization.