Is Your IT “Alignment” Pulling to the Right?
I wasn’t known for being a careful driver in my teenage years. In fact, my friends gave me the nickname, Mario, after the famous racecar driver. I didn’t necessarily drive that fast, but I liked to see how quickly I could get to the speed limit. Along with the enjoyment of getting there quick, came typical youthful carelessness. All of this resulted in more than a few fender-benders, some self-performed auto body work, and too many tickets.
One of the most serious incidents happened while I was driving my dad’s old Chrysler New Yorker. This was a luxury car from the 80’s that he let me use, because my TC3 had decided to start on fire one day (another story for another time). I was traveling home to Ohio from Wisconsin, after a short weekend visit to see my sweetheart, now wife, Vicki. I started the 6.5-hour drive home, on very little sleep, late on a Sunday. I made it through Chicago, and somewhere on the boring stretch of 80/90 across Indiana, I fell asleep. I awoke to the sound of a rumble. I wasn’t sure what had happened. After pulling over and getting out of the car, I discovered that I had drifted into the median and hit a guardrail that protected me from going right into the columns of an overpass. After assessing the damage, trembling, I got back in the car and began to drive to a hotel realizing what a close call that was. I quickly realized that in addition to having a long dent all the way down the side of the car from the guardrail, the car was badly out of alignment. I drove that car for miles that way with a firm hand on the wheel, and the tires slightly squealing, as I tried to find a hotel. It wasn’t an easy drive, and I was worried about having to tell my dad about what I did to his car!
Alignment is an interesting thing. Unlike my accident where it occurred suddenly, sometimes our vehicles go out of alignment without us really noticing, until we see a strange wear pattern on a tire, or until we realize we are constantly holding the wheel to keep it from pulling us into the ditch. Strangely, I’ve seen this several times recently, as I’ve met with companies about their technology. I could see a clear problem that is best described as being out of alignment. However, for these companies, it was just normal. They didn’t see the problem because it had gradually gotten that way, or they just didn’t know what standard to measure against. Let’s examine just a few of those instances, with the names and exact circumstances hidden to protect the innocent.
XYZ Specialties and the IT Manager – In this case, XYZ is a company that has down-sized due to business conditions. They have always had an on-staff IT Manager, so when their current IT Manager left, they found another one. The new IT Manager is a great guy and has been doing IT as a single-person IT resource for years for other companies. Interestingly, he is making lots of changes, coordinating new vendors, changing cloud strategy, consolidating servers and more. These are all good things. However, there are several issues. How does the organization know if his viewpoint is better than the previous IT Manager’s? How does XYZ Specialties know if they are spending appropriately on IT for their size. In this case, the company has hired an on-staff person, but is still using a myriad of external vendors to provide IT services. The primary thing that is out of alignment in this instance is cost. They are spending more on IT than they should be and likely much more, just because they have always had an on-staff IT Manager and can’t imagine how it would work to be without.
Good Stuff Manufacturing and the Danger Zone – Good Stuff Manufacturing has been around for a long time, has a niche product, and is very successful. They have brought in new management because of their success and are looking to grow to the next level. As they look to expand their ERP system, the new management is recognizing just how far behind the times their technology is. They outsource their IT, but it seems the outsourced IT firm has not been very progressive about encouraging them to stay up-to-date. They still have lots of old software, old equipment, Windows XP, Windows 7, and it just won’t power the new initiatives. In addition, much of the preventative maintenance that should be happening is dependent on the outsourced engineer having time or remembering to do it while onsite. The primary thing that is out of alignment here is an outsourced IT firm that is little more than an on-call IT person. The IT person comes onsite and works on the to-do list and the maintenance. The missing piece is that their IT company is not recommending IT replacement and innovation to keep up with the times and enable company growth goals. In addition, the lack of diligence in replacement and updates is leaving the company at risk to a cybersecurity breach.
PQR Agency and Service Cindy – PQR Agency is a growing company. They are in a growing industry, and they are adding people regularly. They have outsourced in the past, but now they have Cindy, an on-staff IT person who is very service focused. She is awesome at rolling out new machines, taking care of users who have problems, creating work-arounds to make life easier for technology users, and provisioning new machines for new hires. Cindy is great at her job, but because the company is growing, she is being asked to do more. She is now being asked to figure out new technologies and recommend solutions for her company. She is also evaluating vendors that could potentially be her backup when out on vacation or leave. She doesn’t do anything with servers, so she needs to find a company to replace her server. The primary issue here is that the IT person is expected to be a jack-of-all-trades. Just because Cindy is good at desktop support, does not qualify her to set a plan for IT or choose vendors. IT is a discipline that requires a team of specialists, and desktop support is just one of those specialties.
Alignment is important. If you are always pulling to the right, you are likely to end up in the ditch. IT alignment is no different. Months or years of being out of IT alignment create a high risk. What is the solution? First, recognize that IT Management is a discipline that requires multiple skills represented by multiple people, multiple software management systems, and layer of management that knows how to direct it. If you are a larger organization, building a team might make sense. For others, it makes sense to outsource that function to an IT Company that has mastered both the team and the management process that makes IT function well.
CTaccess is one of those companies. We help organizations manage IT, and welcome a discussion, if you are considering your next steps for IT management in your organization.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small 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.