17 Reasons Why IT Fails
How many times have you heard about an IT Department that is completely on its game? Our guess is not enough, if ever.
All too often, organizations start to think of their IT as a necessary evil and end up settling for underperforming technology as a result. They naturally assume that IT is overwhelmingly complicated and difficult by nature, so it will inevitably be a struggle no matter what they do.
Running an effective IT Department is not an easy task. It has the standard complexities of running any team or group of people. Then, there are all the nuanced challenges presented by a field that is continually changing — creating a regular cycle of obsolescence. On top of that, 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? It may not surprise you to learn that the list is not a short one.
17 Reasons Why IT Fails
1. Setting Low Expectations
For some reason, we don’t have high expectations for IT. Many simply accepted that IT is unpredictable or unreliable by nature. And truthfully, when that server or switch or hard drive fails, how can you blame that on your IT? It certainly does “just happen” sometimes, but even then there is usually an underlying reason. It could be that the server is far too old to be in service, an operating system has not been properly updated, or maybe because routine maintenance checks were never completed. A single failure is one thing, but a pattern of failure indicates there is a bigger picture problem.
2. Assuming Your IT Can be Managed by Anyone
As we all know, this mistake is not limited to IT. We often promote people to management who are good at their job but may not be qualified to manage. Similarly, running an IT department effectively is entirely different than being able to install and troubleshoot equipment. It takes leadership skills, planning capabilities, and process knowledge. These are key characteristics of a good IT leader that are often overlooked when promoting from within.
3. Poor Systems or Process
I cannot stress this enough. If your IT does not run on iron-clad systems and processes, 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 a handful of essential systems that must be in place to succeed in IT.
4. Measuring Progress Inconsistently
As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” In IT, we need to consistently 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. Inability to Build a 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 the strategic from the hands-on must be clearly defined. It is very hard to successfully manage the day-to-day and the overarching strategy at the same time.
6. Overlooking Obsolescence
Everyone knows that IT changes quickly. However, many of us still cling to what we know. We often stick to what’s comfortable or refuse to stray from the outdated technology we know for way too long. Are you still on Windows 7, 2008 Server, using fax machines, or swapping backup tapes? If so, you may want to ask yourself if that familiar comfort is truly worth compromising your progress, productivity, and potential.
7. Operating Without 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. Struggling to Secure 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. Failing to be Strategic
This is probably the most prevalent IT failure. So often, the “urgent” completely obscures the “necessary,” resulting in an endless cycle of fixing things improperly, poorly allocating available resources, or delegating too much time and attention to irrelevant projects and tasks.
10. Ignoring Equipment Life Cycles
Replacing equipment regularly is part of what quiets a network down and creates stability. Many companies don’t even have a life cycle plan or schedule for their equipment. Create one and live by it. It will pay back.
11. Not Seeing IT as a Service Provider
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. Absence of Continuous Learning
Failing to stay current on trends and changes in IT innovations will inevitably stifle your company’s progress and limit your growth potential. Often, continuous learning initiatives get ignored due to expense or time constraints. Ultimately, this leads to ill-informed decisions or over-reliance on the opinions and directions of outside vendor partners.
13. Undervaluing or Underinvesting in Your IT
At the end of the day, IT purchases are a value decision. Sometimes an IT leader will propose changes that prioritize cost savings over worthwhile results. They choose the cheaper option without assessing the true value of that option. What will I get with the option that is three times the price? Stability? Increased productivity? Your IT decisions affect much more than your IT, so those options should always be weighed with the bigger picture in mind.
14. Incomplete Projects
Good intentions don’t finish a project. Halfway-completed projects have the potential to 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. Subverting Discipline and Proactivity
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. Muddling the Roles of IT Team Members
There are four types of IT work: business projects, internal IT projects, changes/maintenance, and reactive or unplanned work. These roles must be recognized, distinguished, and assigned in an accountable and resourceful way to qualified members of your 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 operate in a reactive fashion— working with a very limited division of roles, or without a solid plan, the right systems, or genuine accountability.
The truth of the matter is, your 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? Absolutely. More importantly, it’s essential for the growth and long-term success of your organization.
A specialized IT Team is what we offer at CTaccess — and that team strives to deliver laser-focused care and attention to our clients and their businesses every single day. If you don’t have an awesome IT Pit Crew in your corner yet, we’d love to talk to you about what our top-notch team can do for yours.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, a Brookfield IT support company that has been helping businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.