As part of our IT services and cybersecurity business, I get the opportunity to meet with people in a wide variety of organizations to evaluate and discuss IT. I am often surprised by the excuses people make for their IT support company or their internal IT department. These seemingly harmless excuses can truly lead to dangerous circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about being kind, and I know things sometimes don’t go as expected. These are not the kind of things I’m talking about.
For some reason people don’t apply the same standards to IT, as they might to accounting or production. We don’t excuse accounting for not getting the payroll done or sending out duplicate invoices. We don’t excuse production mistakes, and say that this is just how production is. It’s complicated. Things go wrong sometimes, and production is just unpredictable that way. However, when it comes to IT, I hear excuses for IT people who talk geek speak, or who go out of their way to avoid having a conversation. I hear excuses for lack of communication. I even hear excuses for IT not moving important initiatives forward. Recently I heard a departmental manager say something like, “IT has priorities, they are just different than ours.”
Why do we make excuses for IT? I think it is because there is still some mystery around the bits and bytes. However, if properly managed, IT should be enabling our goals and helping drive us forward, not holding us back. Let’s debunk a few of the excuses people make for poor IT.
EXCUSE #1 – It isn’t our IT people’s fault that things are always breaking, and they are constantly running around fixing things. When things are constantly breaking, there is almost always an underlying cause. Almost always, it results from a lack of planning and foresight. Technology spirals downward when there is no plan. Good IT management will manage technology hardware and software and pay attention to the lifecycle. Stretching that life cycle beyond 5-years is a game of roulette. You might get by for a while, but eventually you will end up in the downward cycle of break/fix that can drive productivity through the floor. The lack of a plan shows up in many areas. It could be that there is no system in place for doing the proactive things (patching, testing backups, setting alerts, reviewing logs, testing backups). It could be that there is no process for managing trouble requests and remotely solving issues. It could be that the IT resource does not know how to set and manage a budget or does not have the influence to get funding for the budget that is needed.
EXCUSE #2 – Our IT person is a technology wizard, he just doesn’t communicate quite the same as the rest of us, but that is how IT geeks are. This is a stereotype that holds some truth. There are many IT people out there who were never taught to communicate well, who don’t make the effort, or who carry an attitude of superiority and talk down to others. These are not the IT people you want helping your team with their IT problems. Helping people with technical problems is complex, and the right person for this job is customer service oriented. They get people, and they get technology. They want people to benefit from technology. Your team deserves an IT communicator, not a tech-head who is rude or uncommunicative.
EXCUSE #3 – We are just a small company of 10 or 30 or 80 people. We don’t need the same IT process and systems as a larger company might. While this may seem logical on the surface, this statement holds little truth. Your people need the same or better support than a larger company. If a machine is down in your company, you may not have a spare. If the person who sends programming to one of the CNC machines has a computer glitch, there may not be someone else who can back them up and production may stop. In addition, the need for standard IT systems and IT best practice are just as important. It is just as critical to have things in place like patching, ticketing, remote access, help desk, policy management, and more. These standard systems keep our companies secure and enable good strong IT within an organization.
EXCUSE #4 – I know our IT is being reactive, but that is just how IT is. We haven’t had any serious IT problems yet, so we should be just fine. I hear this often as it relates to IT security. It amazes me that people still think this way, after all the stories of security breaches, but some of us still think that we are not a target. We are all a target, just by being on the Internet. Every IT person and company should be on high alert to implement password policy, encryption, monitoring and security best practice. Thinking that you are too small or too anything to be a target is completely inaccurate. Security attacks are often automated and perpetrated by a virus, malware, or some other variant penetrating your network by a user action. Once that virus attaches itself to your network, it allows access for a deeper and often automated scan of your data for all types of valuable information. And, often the worst thing that can be damaged is your reputation. If your reactive IT resource has all of their time sucked up by the broken thing, no matter how good their intentions might be, they do not get to the important proactive and preventative things that must be done.
EXCUSE #5 – We have special IT needs because of [insert excuse here: old software that we need to keep, specialized equipment, demanding users, demands of our type of business, etc.]. These needs keep us tied to our IT person or our IT company, even though they are [insert description here: slow to respond, unkind, not that bright, or not a good manager]. This might be a little amusing, but people put up with poor IT for so many reasons. IT is just too important to feel like you are backed into a corner due to some special circumstance. I have met with many owners and managers who feel like they are cornered. Their IT person holds all the knowledge. They may have all the passwords. They may be the only ones who know how the backup works or may have the corner on some system setup information. They may have special knowledge of the business, they may be a relative, or they may have you believing you would be lost without them. Especially in this case, it may be time to look for another solution. Having one person with all the IT knowledge is a bad thing on many levels. Critical IT knowledge should be documented and ideally verified by another IT person.
If any of these items hit a chord with you, and if you find yourself making excuses for your IT people or IT company, please feel free to smile a bit at the crazy way we sometimes give IT people an excuse. But, don’t stop there. Get in touch for a non-excuse making IT conversation about improving IT. Getting a little outside perspective can be a very good thing!