Immature IT and the IT Horror Story

Jim Hannan (@HoBHannan), Principal Architect

I have been in the IT industry for about 20 years. As many of you can relate, when you talk with non-IT family members and friends, they first ask you what you do. You answer and often they nod in confusion or boredom. Once you get past the awkward 15 second description (I keep it short), the conversation goes one of two ways, “I am having a problem with my PC…” or they tell you an IT horror story about a failed implementation or poorly performing application.

For me, the IT horror story is sincerely an engaging conversation. I like to hear the users perspective and their frustrations related to a failed IT implementation or a poorly running application. As a consultant, it helps give me insights into our (IT) customer, or end user’s perspective.

We have all had our bumps and bruises; it is part of growing up in the IT world, with its short deadlines, unrealistic expectations and restrictive budgets. In this blog, I want to talk about how to avoid those failed implementations and poorly running applications. It may surprise you what I recommend.

Avoid the Victim Trap

I think it is easy for IT departments to fall into the trap of being the victim. Often management and end users don’t understand what is involved in supporting the technology. IT can become frustrated and complacent as a result of this dialog. IT departments must stay clear of this trap by focusing on clear communication. Clear communication with the business is vital to running a successful IT department.

Clear Communication is Vital

As a consultant, I have observed the following help to ensure clear communication:

  • Embrace SLAs – If the business does not have them, IT should establish their own. They will help the business understand what is critical for availability and performance.
  • Red Lines – Establish governance on performance and provisioning. Users may not understand the specific metrics, but having red lines will help to clarify when performance is degrading.
  • Defend Against Over Allocating – This can be done by establishing capacity standards and red lines as mentioned above.
  • Be Vocal about Risks – Especially during an implementation, the expectations that IT projects need to run perfectly is unrealistic. A good project manager will want to know and understand the risks so they can assist with removing obstacles and roadblocks.
  • Put in Place Showback for IT Costs – The business needs to understand the cost of running an application. It easy to think the application cost is only the purchase cost. So it is important to demonstrate the daily cost of running the application and supporting it.


Focus on Relevant Data

As you can see, all the suggestions are related, and information is king. But, not all data will help management and end users understand what IT needs. So it is important to report, or communicate, only the relevant data to the business. A good example of this is monitoring. I have seen many organizations over report on alerts and monitoring, causing warnings and alerts to be ignored. The same goes with communicating with your business. Focus on providing concise data, and only report on data critical to the success of the business. Hopefully, with clear communication you can avoid most of those IT horror stories.

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